Steve Noyes: Mountain bike racing in the Foothills would benefit Boise

GUEST OPINION: CYCLING

February 22, 2014 

Boise is missing out on a boom in the mountain bike travel industry, and Ridge to Rivers is standing in the trail to success. The policies created by this multi-agency partnership have prevented the sort of mountain bike races that other cities use to pump millions of dollars into their communities — revenue streams that reap better trail systems, and so much more. And there’s this:

Mountain bikers here are treated like the dirty stepchildren of outdoor recreation.

Fact: No user does more for Boise trails and receives less. We build trails. We spend more time maintaining the trails than any other volunteer group. We’re required to yield to every other user we encounter. Required to dodge weaving, unleashed dogs looking for a spot to leave their lunch. But if we want to hold a race event in the lower Foothills, we’re required to do our business out of town. Take a gas-burning drive up a twisty mountain road, 16 miles away from bigger crowds, sponsors, restaurants, hotels, bike shops and other retailers. Now that’s Bogus.

Only two races a year are allowed by the Ridge to Rivers Race Committee. And if you jump through all the bureaucratic hoops, you’re limited to specific trails near a hibernating ski area that isn’t even in Boise. Bring outhouses while you’re at it. We’re not dogs, after all.

There’s more: Each race is restricted to 150 riders on trails that, in Ridge to Rivers’ own words, are “enjoyed on a daily basis by thousands.”

Fair policy or roadblock?

Bend, Ore., gets it. The Visit Bend website boasts of a two-year contract to host the USA Mountain Bike Marathon National Championships, and five other major cycling events.

Oakridge, Ore., gets it. Over 350 miles of singletrack and one of the best mountain bike festivals of 2013, says Outside Magazine. Proceeds went towards resurfacing the school track and school supplies for homeless kids.

The state of Oregon takes $400 million from out-of-state cyclists every year. That’s just Oregon. Don’t get me started on Utah.

Boise doesn’t get it. Yet, the city opens its arms to marathons, triathlons, road bike races and more. These events litter streets, trample city parks, and displace traffic, but bring profits, wages, tips, and tax revenues.

So why not mountain bike races? Why not trail designs that beckon tourist dollars?

Look, Boise’s mismanaged lower Foothills trail system is a sustainable resource. And the mountain biking community has earned the right to carefully exploit it like so many other groups that use city resources. This could be the catalyst that finally brings user-specific trails, one-way trails. More trails. A trail system designed to eliminate conflicts. A return on investment.

Readers, there’s a petition that respectfully asks Mayor Dave Bieter to get involved in the racing part of this problem. Please paste the following URL into your browser and sign it: www.change.org/petitions/mayor-david-bieter-allow-mountain-bike-racing-in-the-boise-foothills.

The Foothills Mountain Bike Racing Policy needs to be rewritten if Boise is going to play catch-up in mountain bike tourism. I ask the mayor to help us get Ridge to Rivers on the trail to success or let us by. Let’s invite the world here and let them buy.

Steve Noyes founded the Big Rocks Mountain Bike Group about 20 years ago. He organizes about 35 group rides per year for a mailing list of more than 160 men and women. He has also coordinated mountain bike trips to Utah, Oregon and Idaho destinations.

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