This ambitious project, called “Connected Communities,” will oversee the planning and completion of these trails. Its main goal, aside from laying down a world-class singletrack network for mountain bikers to enjoy, is to bring economic and cultural revitalization to the small mountain communities throughout the region.
The new 300-mile trail network, known as the Lost Sierra route, will connect 15 towns in Plumas, Lassen, and Sierra counties, with trailheads running straight into the main street of each town. From there, trail users will be able to fill out a “passport” by visiting different businesses in town, where they’ll receive a unique stamp for their passport and some kind of special offer—encouraging visitors to patronize the towns throughout the trail network. These towns that have struggled with economic hardship since the hey-day of the mining industry (and to some extent the logging industry) came to an end.
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy’s Resilient Communities Grant Program will fund the Connected Communities project.
The Downieville Classic, a mountain bike festival and race series, has already put the same-named town back on the map as a premier riding destination. (Proceeds from the event go towards the SBTS, too.) Now, the SBTS wants to spread that vibrancy throughout the region.
Henry O’Donnell won the first Downieville Classic men’s downhill race in the sport category in 2000 and went on to turn pro with a Santa Cruz sponsorship. He’s now the trail boss for SBTS. Hailing from Downieville, his family is rooted in the area’s mining past. “All the trails that were built in the Downieville area were built mainly to get to the mines,” O’Donnell says in SBTS’s film about Connected Communities. “But the majority of the trails here still are the original routes from when they were built, you know, in the mid- to late-1800’s.”
The SBTS is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit based in Quincy, California, dedicated to building and maintaining trails. Since its inception in 2003, the organization has built over 100 miles of new trail and maintained over 1,200 miles in the region—a feat that has taken a small crew of full-time and seasonal employees and an incredible 100,000 volunteer hours.
Though it has a heavy mountain biking influence, the SBTS manages trails for a wide variety of trail users, including equestrians, hunters, and motorcycle riders. And that’s a key aspect of the Connected Communities project that the organization highlights—because revitalizing these mountain towns will take all lovers of outdoor recreation, not just cyclists.
On its website, the SBTS cites that outdoor recreation is a $887 billion industry—one of the biggest areas of consumer spending in the country—with “trail sports” specifically making up $201 billion of that.
The first phase of the Connected Communities project began last year. The SBTS is currently asking for input, to help prioritize the needs of trail users and local residents.
Mining might be a thing of the past, no longer the community supporter that it once was. Instead, SBTS hopes to revive local economies by tapping into the other natural resources that the Lost Sierra has in abundance: soaring elevation, scenic vistas, and hero dirt."
To see the original article in Bicycling, CLICK HERE.