Mountain bikers formulating vision for bike trail system in Sanpete
By Suzanne Dean
MANTI—A new grassroots association has its sights set on developing a 4.6-mile mountain bike racing loop west of the Gunnison Reservoir. But that would be just the start.
“Our goal is to get a race,” said Andy Adamson, president of the Manti Trailbuilders Association.
The race would be sponsored by the Utah Mountain Bike Association, which Adamson said is the largest and fastest growing league in the National Interscholastic Cycling Association. The target date for staging a statewide race in Sanpete County is August, 2020, he said.
Speaking before the Manti City Council earlier this month, Adamson added, “Our goal is not just to build a race course. We want to build a trail system.”
“In order to make your trail system a destination, you need at least 20 miles,” explained Dallas Cox of Manti, a board member of the trails association.
In fact, the association has mapped out about 20 miles of prospective trails in the same area as the 4.6 mile loop.
The group has labeled the plan as a whole as “Phase I.” Most of the trail mileage would be on about 900 acres of Bureau of Land Management land around the reservoir. The BLM has expressed support for the plan. But because the land is federal, the association needs an environmental assessment to proceed.
Jones and Demille Engineering of Manti has offered to do the assessment for $10,000. The trailbuilders association is seeking help from Manti City and Ephraim City to cover the cost. Both cities have offered tentative support.
The trail association is an outgrowth of the Manti Mountain Bike Association, which is a member group in the Utah Mountain Bike Association. The Manti group has 60 riders, all in seventh through 12th grades, and 20 coaches, mostly parents of the participating youth.
The Manti group competes in five Utah association races each year and has been amazed at the thousands of kids and family members who show up.
“We want our bike team members to have places to ride that are safe and fun,” Cox said. “We’d like to bring people to the area. Now that the pageant’s gone, it might be an economic benefit to the area.”
Over the past year, the volunteer organization has completed 2 miles of the 4.6-mile race course. That segment runs along the crest of a hill near the north end of the Gunnison Reservoir.
The Gunnison Irrigation Co. gave the association permission to build on irrigation company land. Because the land isn’t federal, the trail builders didn’t need an environmental assessment for that part of the trail.
Some sections of the trail go over rock, Adamson said. Some are native dirt that has been cleared. “Any area where we felt the trail would turn into power dust [with use], we’ve put down road base.”
Once an environmental assessment is complete, the trails association would like to get city support, donations or grants to hire several teenagers or young adults, and a supervisor, to work alongside volunteers to complete the remaining 2.6 miles of the race course, Cox said.
But to sponsor a state race, the Manti trails group needs to do more than complete the trail. Plans call clearing a 15-acre parking area at the south end of the race course near what is now a boat ramp.
Next to the parking lot, the group would clear a “pit zone” where teams could set up food preparation tents and where participants could wait when they aren’t racing.
Inside the racing loop at the south end would be an infield and staging area. That’s were the starting and finish lines would be, where officials would be stationed and where a timing booth would be located.
When a race wasn’t being held, which would be most of the time, the track could be used for bike riding, hiking and possibly horseback riding. But not for ATVs, Cox said. All of the trails in the Phase I complex will be marked “non-motorized” and “we’ll try to keep it that way.”
Since the first 2 miles have been completed, “we’ve seen people out there from all over the county” even though the trail “hasn’t been publicized yet,” Cox said.
Cox and Adamson said Sevier County’s experience with trail development should point the way for Sanpete County.
A volunteer trails association put in a race course near Glenwood. The local mountain bike club hosted a Utah Mountain Bike Association pre-ride on a Friday and a race on Saturday, Adamson said. The local groups estimated the race brought $140,000 in economic benefit to the area.
“It got Sevier really excited,” Cox said. The trails association got grants for more than $100,000, hired youth and supervisors, and is currently putting in about 30 miles of trials west of I-70 outside Richfield.
“They have a trail system all over a hillside west of the freeway,” Cox said. “Their county’s on fire because they’ve seen some real benefit with the races down there.
“If Sevier has a really neat trail system and Sanpete has a really neat trail system, that should get people coming down U.S. 89.”