KIMBERLY, Idaho -- For years mountain biking enthusiasts have flocked to a system of bike trails south of Kimberly known as the Indian Spring trails. Members of bike clubs and casual mountain bikers alike use the popular trails along with hikers, runners and people on motor bikes and ATVs.
Now the Bureau of Land Management and the International Mountain Biking Association are working to officially authorize the trails.
"What we have out there is a network of about 40 miles of user-created trails," said Mike Courtney, field manager at the BLM's Burley office.
Since the trails were never authorized by the BLM, Courtney is unable to approve applications for organized events such as races on the trails.
"I can't authorize them on a system of trails that's not legitimate," he said.
IMBA and its local affiliate, the Southern Idaho Mountain Biking Association, approached the BLM to find out how to make the trails official, and improve them in the process.
"They assessed the current network of trails and made recommendations about which trails are sustainable in the current conditions and which to eliminate or reroute," Courtney said. "They went a little further and said here's an opportunity to develop 20 more miles of trails."
Authorizing the trails will also help them stay in better shape for riders.
"Once it's official, then we'll be able to maintain the trails," said Mike Goudy of the Spoke and Wheel Bike Shop in Twin Falls.
This can be anything from keeping brush off the trails to keeping stream crossings safe for riders, he said.
Representatives from IMBA are scheduled to begin flagging the trails, both new and established, this week, Goudy said.
"We've got to do clearance work. The International Mountain Biking Association will flag those routes that they looked at last year and potential new routes," Courtney said.
Once the trails are marked, Courtney's staff of scientists will spend the next year trekking the trails on foot, looking for issues that could clash with a heavily used bike trail.
"They're looking for resource conflicts," Courtney said. "They'll look for sensitive plants and the same with wildlife."
Nesting birds or other conflicts could cause changes to the planned trails.
"If bike trails are proposed to go through sage grouse areas, we might want to think about mitigation on that trail," he said.
An archeologist, a botanist and a wildlife biologist will physically walk all the trails throughout the next year, a task that must fit in between their regular duties.
"That's a lot of walking," Courtney said.
Once the trails have all been walked, the team will write an environmental assessment which will analyze the impact authorizing the trails could have on the surrounding environment.
"Out of that document will come a decision," Courtney said.
More Room to Ride
If everything goes as planned, Nathan Fuller, the president of the local SIMBA group hopes to be out helping to build trails next spring.
"We'll have 20-plus miles more to ride and it won't just be mountain bikes," he said. "It's a big benefit for the recreation crowd in the area."
Along with more miles of trails, the plans include adding bathrooms and smaller tracks for beginners and children.
"It'll be a huge benefit for families," Fuller said. "It'll appeal to a wide range of people."
The reroutes will undoubtedly make the trails more popular, Goudy said. Along with constructing easier trails, some will be made more difficult for advanced riders, he added.