Katie KlingspornTelluride Daily Planet

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March 21, 2013
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ADVENTURE: Telluride group pushes for bike trail system to rival Fruita

Scattered across the San Juan Mountains is a vast network of trails - double-tracks leftover from the mining days, skinny paths that spider over rocky passes, wide trails well-traveled by feet and bikes.Despite the high number of trails, many are rocky, steep and technically difficult for mountain bikes, and Telluride is not a must-ride mountain bike destination like neighbor Crested Butte."We're off the back as far as mountain biking is concerned," said Telluride mountain biker Gordon Reichard.Reichard and a group of bikers want to change that, and have launched a movement to create a regional trails system that would link up existing trails and create a bike-friendly trail system that would increase Telluride's appeal for the two-wheeled crowd.Reichard, who is spearheading the movement, said the ideal outcome would be to create a system of interconnected trails that encompasses Ouray, Ridgway, Silverton, Ophir and Norwood - with Telluride as the hub. The system could even include hut-to-hut options."We've got the perfect terrain for it," he said. "It's just amazing all the connections that can be made in a really small community ... for something that could be a potentially massive economic impact."If the region builds itself as a biking destination, he added, it could reap some of the vast economic benefits that regional communities like Fruita or Moab see.Reichard and others organized a meeting in late February to introduce the idea to the community and gauge interest. People from the San Miguel Bike Alliance and Telluride Mountain Club showed up, and Reichard said participants were supportive of pursuing the plan.It's still very early in the process, and a lot of work remains to put it in motion, but the group agreed on a road map of sorts. Members decided to hammer out the scope of work they want to do, then hire a professional to work with the agencies and stakeholders involved and put together a proposal. They could then use the proposal to seek funding and implementation.The first step of the process, Reichard said, is mapping and inventorying existing trails. Future actions include promoting the trails that Telluride has, and approaching private landowners such as the ski area about options for trail building and expanding."Part of my strategy and thinking is that if we can get as many user groups, businesses and so forth behind this, when we go to the [entities] ... you're going to see this stuff move through much faster because there's so much community support behind it," Reichard said.The local plan was inspired in part by a regional trails plan in Ridgway that has been working toward implementation for years. Reichard, who has been involved in that plan, invited Telluride cyclist and bike mechanic Travis Young to a meeting in Ridgway where the plan was unveiled to the public, and Young was highly impressed with the professionalism and organization that went into it."We started talking afterward about, you know, that's what we need to do here and how incredible it would be for the local economy if we did the same thing here," Reichard said.The group's next meeting is scheduled for March 25 at the Telluride library. Anyone interesting in getting involved can email Reichard at greichard@tellmed.org.Klingsporn is the editor of the Telluride Daily Planet. This article was originally published by the Planet on Sunday, March 17. To read more Planet news, visit www.telluridenews.com.

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