Happy 2021 to everyone in the mountain biking and trails community! As we watch the past year fade into the rearview mirror, we can all agree that it was challenging and memorable for everyone. 2020 was defined by the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, extended social and political unrest, one of the worst and most sudden economic downturns we will see in in our lifetimes, and the most contentious presidential election in history. Simply put, 2020 sucked…
2020 was also a hard year for SDMB. COVID hit us hard, as it did so many nonprofits across the country. Social distancing and pandemic safety requirements meant that we were unable to run the social events, fundraisers, and community outreach events that support our core mission. Many of the larger events that SDMB has relied on for ongoing funding were postponed or cancelled, including the McKenzie Frenzy and the Mt. Lemmon Gravel Grinder. We had to significantly scale back our volunteer trail building and maintenance events, including temporarily halting construction at 100-Acre Wood Bike Park. And in the face of funding cuts and the ongoing economic downturn the SDMB board elected to terminate the contract of our only paid staff person, Executive Director Evan Pilling. As of September 2020, SDMB returned to being a 100% volunteer-driven organization.
In spite of the challenges of the past year, SDMB saw some significant successes thanks to the hard work of our board and volunteers. Even a pandemic can’t stop our mission to Build, Ride, and Protect trails in Tucson and Southern Arizona! We want to give a huge thanks to all of the volunteers, donors, and business supporters who have made all of our 2020 successes possible. Read on to learn more about SDMB’s accomplishments in 2020…
SDMB 2020 YEAR IN REVIEW
National Civilian Community Corps Team
In late 2019 and early 2020, SDMB hosted our third team of AmeriCorps volunteers from the National Civilian Community Corp. For this team we did things a little differently and worked with some of our partners to help the team work on trail projects throughout the area. The NCCC team worked with Pima County NRPR on construction of Painted Hills Trails Park, maintained trails on Mt. Lemmon with TORCA and the Arizona Trail Association, and finished their stay by assisting with cleanup and trail building at 100-Acre Wood Bike Park.
24 Hours in the Old Pueblo
SDMB hosted another successful trail maintenance weekend to help get the course in shape for the big race. And a small army of volunteers manned the beer garden and served many cases of tasty Huss Brewing company beer to thirsty racers. Huge thanks Epic Rides for letting us be a part of the event, and we’ll see you in 2022!
Fantasy Island Trails Park
Fantasy Island is saved! SDMB, along with TORCA and SAMBA, worked with the City of Tucson over the last several years to negotiate permanent preservation of the northern part of the trail system as outlined in the 2006 Master Plan. That means that Lone Cactus, Burro Pit, Bo’s, and Christmas Tree loops will be part of the City-managed Fantasy Island Trails Park. In August 2020 SDMB and the City of Tucson finalized a development agreement that allows SDMB and our volunteers to oversee long-term maintenance and improvement of the trail system. In June and July, a crew of hardy volunteers braved the heat and spent several hundred hours pruning and brushing Burro Pit and Bo’s loops and started the process of laying out comprehensive signage for the entire system. To gather more data to support ongoing efforts at Fantasy Island, SDMB deployed a trail counter for a year and conducted a user survey. We recorded nearly 19,000 bikes over a 12-month period and had 583 riders respond to the survey. In addition to collecting valuable information about rider demographics and use patterns we learned that the majority of Fantasy Island users support construction of improvements like berms, jumps, and technical features. Signage and system improvements coming in 2021!
Starr Pass Trails
110-degree plus temps? No problem! In August and September SDMB volunteers built the new .3-mile Mockingbird Trail at Starr Pass in Tucson Mountain Park. Mockingbird connects Rock Wren and the old Starr Pass trail, bypassing the Wall and keeping the trails on County-owned land. Mockingbird also includes 135 feet of armored tread, which required thousands of pounds of rock to be moved by hand. And in November/December 2020 SDMB volunteers helped Pima County lay out a new connector from the Starr Pass Marriott to the 5-way intersection and a reroute of the Yetman trail that bypasses the wash near the Stone House. 4 more miles of new trail to come in 2021!
100-Acre Wood Bike Park
We started off 2020 strong at the bike park, with the Americorps NCCC crew and dozens of volunteers helping with continued site cleanup and building/finishing the Green XC Trail and the Green Flow Trail. More berms and tabletops! COVID meant that SDMB couldn’t run large volunteer events so bike park construction had to take a pause for the rest of the year. In December, after more than a year of negotiations, the City of Tucson finally approved the Sponsorship and Advertising policy so we can start accepting sponsors! SDMB is actively looking for folks to step into leadership roles for the bike park. Go here to fill out the interest form: https://bit.ly/bikeparkleadership
Mt. Graham/Coronado National Forest Safford District
Mt. Graham is in the Pinaleno Mountains outside of Safford, a Sky Islands range that rises to more than 10,000 feet from the desert floor. It’s home to more than 75 miles of trails, incredible views, and huge riding potential. In November SDMB finalized a volunteer agreement with the Safford District of Coronado National Forest to help re-open the trails on the mountain after fires in 2004 and 2017 left them neglected and fading into obscurity. We’re starting with the Arcadia National Recreation Trail, a hidden gem that descends 2,500 feet over 5 miles. In November and December, SDMB volunteers spent two weekends brushing out Arcadia to re-open the corridor and the trail should be rideable by the end of February 2021. By the end of 2021 we hope to have re-opened another 10 miles of trail on the mountain, with many more to follow.
Be Cool Trail Etiquette Campaign
Be Cool is a campaign to educate riders, and all trail users, about etiquette on multi-use trail to help folks get along on crowded trails. In April 2020 SDMB was awarded a $7,500 Safety and Environmental Education (SEE) grant from Arizona Parks and Trails to expand our Be Cool efforts. In November SDMB volunteers ran five Be Cool outreach events in the Tucson Mountains, engaging and educating trail users of all types. Look for Be Cool ambassadors at trailheads near you in 2021!
Statewide Advocacy Efforts
Did you know that SDMB supports trail advocacy efforts across the state? SDMB board member Evan Pilling sits on the Arizona State Committee on Trails (ASCOT) and is a founding steering committee member of the Network for Arizona’s Trails. And board member Kirk Astroth sits on the Network steering committee and is leading the charge for statewide legislation to support and fund trails and outdoor recreation and eventually establish a state Office of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. On the local level, we continue to work towards permanent preservation of the Honeybee Canyon Trails, and were thrilled to take the Oro Valley mayor and several town council members on a ride to check out the trails.
So many exciting plans for 2021! With all of the recent changes, the board is in the process of designing SDMB 2.0. We have lots of exiting projects in the works and are actively recruiting new leadership to help move things forward. The COVID pandemic is still in full swing and we need to ensure the safety of volunteers and event participants and do our part to stop the spread, so unfortunately large volunteer events and social events will be on hold for the foreseeable future. The board is confident that we can keep folks safe while still continuing to build trails and expand riding opportunities.
In 2021, SDMB is focusing on:
HOW YOU CAN HELP
There are so many ways to support SDMB in our mission to Build, Ride, and Protect the trails we all ride and love. Please consider supporting us in any way you can.
© 2018 - Sonoran Desert Mountain Bicyclists - SDMB - is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization
PO Box 65075, Tucson AZ 85718