IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) will hold the group’s International Summit in Arkansas in 2016, according to Jesse Livingston and Herman Owens, IMBA staff members. The two were in Mount Ida last week and spoke with members of the Montgomery County Health Advisory Committee.
Livingston and Owens told the Health Advisory Committee last week they expect more than 800 people representing 40 states and hailing from a dozen countries to attend the November 10-12, 2016 summit, which will be held in Bentonville.
Because the summit will be held in Northwest Arkansas, IMBA will be working to improve the five Epic trails located in the state.
Currently, Arkansas has the most Epic trails of any state except Colorado. Three of the state’s five Epic trails are located in Montgomery County the two said.
IMBA has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the Walton Family Foundation to assess what is needed to bring all five of the trails to the best condition possible and then actually do the upgrades with both paid staff and volunteer work.
The grant is for a minimum of one year, according to Livingston, “But, we hope to get funding for five years’ work in the state.”
Livingston and Owens spent two days in Montgomery County last week riding part of each of the three Epic trails in the county. They returned to the area this week to actually complete their assessment of trail conditions and develop a work plan for needed maintenance and improvements to the trails.
Livingston, who lives in Missouri, noted that it was nice to be working so close to home. He told the group he has worked for IMBA for three years and has built or worked on trails in 46 states
Epic trails are single-track mountain bike trails that cover a variety of terrain and encompass natural beauty. The three trails located in Montgomery County are the Womble, Ouachita and LOViT trails. The two additional trails are the Syllamo Trail, located outside of Mountain View and the Upper Buffalo Trail, located further north in the Ouachita National Forest.
Since the local trails are primarily located on U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Corps of Engineers lands, the pair will meet with representatives of those programs as they prepare their work plan. Both organizations have worked closely with local trail builders and volunteers from organizations such as Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT) and Lake Ouachita Vista Trail (LOViT) Traildogs, so they are familiar with and have been supporters of recreation trails in the area..
While talking with the local health advisory board, the two were highly complementary of the construction and maintenance done by local volunteers on the LOViT. “We are super impressed with the construction and upkeep of the local trails,” Owens said.
“The assessment scheduled for this week and the maintenance work later this spring should ensure a positive experience to those riders who come to the state for the scheduled IMBA World Summit,” according to Al Gathright, a volunteer member of the LOViT Traildogs.
Robert Cavanaugh, another volunteer who also works with the sponsoring organization that promotes and operates the Ouachita Challenge and Ouachita Tour, “should bring more attention to the local area.”
The Ouachita Challenge and Tour already bring 500 riders to the area for the 60-mile endurance race each year.
Locally, the Challenge has a major economic impact. “Most of those riders bring family and team members to participate. All of these visitors spend money while in the local area,” Cavanaugh said.
IMBA’s Livingston told the group he first became familiar with Montgomery County trails as a participant in the Ouachita Challenge. “It is going to be a fun project as we work to improve mountain biking opportunities for more participants during the coming months,” he concluded.