The Daily Courier
PRESCOTT - Mountain biking may have been the primary focus of a Friday presentation by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), but the turnout in the room showed that the interest in Prescott's trails goes much deeper than any one sport.
Horseback riders, hikers, county and city officials, the U.S. Forest Service, the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, alternative-transportation advocates, and volunteer trail builders all were represented in the group that turned out at Prescott City Hall Friday afternoon.
Despite the snowy conditions, about 45 people in all gathered to hear IMBA's trail-care crewmembers Lori Reed and Jesse Livingston talk about the benefits of a healthy trail system.
And as the audience members introduced themselves, it was obvious that the diverse group had a number of things in common.
Many said they would like to see better trail connectivity, fewer user conflicts on the trails, and simply, more trails.
Livingston and Reed said afterwards that they do not always find such widespread and enthusiastic support for trails on their travels around the country.
"It's always easier when we hit a community that is recreation-oriented," Reed said.
The two mountain bike enthusiasts travel year-around from state to state, touting the benefits of trails and cycling.
Their presentation touched on everything from the economic benefits of having a good trail system, to the health benefits of exercise, to methods for making a community a national destination for mountain biking.
Noting that they check out the trails wherever they go, Livingston rated the system around Prescott as "on the upper end."
Although noting that area trails are "not necessarily world class," Livingston said: "You guys are one of the more progressive communities we've talked you."
In fact, the mountain biking atmosphere was enough to entice IMBA's Southwest Region Director Patrick Kell to make his home in Prescott. Kell said after the meeting that he has lived in Prescott for the past year.
"It is centrally located, and there is great mountain biking here," he said.
Several of the long-time residents in the audience say the variety and condition of the trails have improved dramatically in recent years.
Michael Taylor of the Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance, for instance, said during the two decades he has lived in the area, "The trails have grown exponentially."
IMBA, which is based in Boulder, Colo., and been in existence since 1988, and originally formed to help preserve mountain bikers' access to trails, Livingston said.
Reed emphasized the popularity of mountain biking around the country. "More than one in five Americans 16 and over mountain bike," she said.
And, while there are "one-and-a-half times more mountain bikers than golfers," Reed pointed out that golf courses are substantially more expensive to develop and maintain.
IMBA's demographic information indicates that bicycling adds about $82 billion to the national economy. The average IMBA member is a 43-year male who earns about $106,000 per year, the crewmembers added.
About 80 percent of those cyclists take at least one mountain-biking trip each year, they said. When choosing their destinations, mountain bikers are looking for a number of qualities:
Variety of terrain.
A large number of trail miles.
A good reputation.
Livingston said Prescott is well on its way in each of the categories. "You guys have it going on here," he told the group.
Along with its "Better Living Through Trails" presentation Friday, the IMBA crew planned to present a trail-building workshop on Saturday morning, and a trail-building exercise in the afternoon (depending on the weather).