Mountain biking’s future in Plumas County
A group of mountain bikers prepare to take off on a ride along the South Park Trail outside of Quincy last weekend. A plan to combine the trail with other pre-existing trails and roads to form a trail system connecting Taylorsville and Quincy via Mount Hough is currently under review by the Forest Service. The trail system would include both motorized and non-motorized use. Photos by James Wilson
“Plumas County has some of the best untouched and undiscovered terrain for mountain biking in the world.”
This was Quincy’s The Bike Shop owner Paul Mundorff’s description of the current state of mountain biking in the county. Trails abound that allow mountain bike riders to quickly escape from town and ride out into the wilderness.
No matter which community in Plumas County one lives in, there is a plethora of different trails one can use to form new adventures.
“There are various ridge run roads and downhill trails to ride. It’s really endless,” continued Mundorff.
Along with the several trails that start and end in Quincy, Bucks Lake has multiple trail systems that cover a very vast area. Any skill level can hop on a bike and find a suitable trail to ride.
For more advanced riders, there are several loops with a bit of difficulty involved located around Greenville. Trails start all along the base of Indian Valley and take riders up into the mountains overlooking the valley.
The Lake Almanor Basin offers many trails to different lakes in Plumas and Lassen’s forests. Bodfish Bicycles and Quiet Mountain Sports out of Chester have several artistic maps detailing the available routes.
In Eastern Plumas County, the Lakes Basin Recreation Area also offers countless trails to choose from. Riders can enjoy scenic views of towering mountains and alpine lakes along the routes.
The Mills Peak Trail is currently open, without snow, and is enjoyed by bikers from around the area and elsewhere. In 2011 the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship took on the project of transforming the Mills Peak Trail into a suitable route for mountain biking.
“Everyone I’ve talked to that has ridden Mills Peak thinks it’s a phenomenal trail,” commented Phil Kaznowski, owner of Howling Dog Bike and Ski out of Graeagle. “It’s a very positive improvement to the area.”
The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship is currently in the beginning stages of extending the Mills Peak trail by six miles of single track to allow bikers even more access to the beauty of Plumas County. Right now the Stewardship is working on raising $5,000 to complete the required documentation under the National Environmental Policy Act. The proposed extension is viewable at sierratrails.com.
In addition to the Mills Peak trail, the stewardship is awaiting approval by the Forest Service to start work on the Mount Hough/South Park trail system.
The Forest Service opened the proposal for public comment during the month of March and is reviewing all comments. The proposed trail system would include both motorized and non-motorized trails.
|Mason Werner is all smiles as he merrily rides his mountain bike. The South Park Trail is just one of countless trails in Plumas County that people ride regularly.|
The trails will all be built to sustain erosion and made to last. Several pre-exiting trails will be utilized to speed up the construction process. The completed trail system will provide a key backcountry link between Quincy and Taylorsville.
Though Plumas County offers some of the most amazing mountain biking experiences, many in the area believe the trail systems have a long way to go to reach full potential.
“Some of the best mountain biking in the world is here, but I believe it is very under-utilized,” said Kaznowski. “A lot of our trails are extremely underdeveloped. It’s a recreational resource that isn’t being tapped.”
Mundorff agrees with Kaznowski, and has high hopes for Plumas County’s intertwined future with mountain biking.
“In the future, hopefully we can put more trails in. We could have the mountain bike Mecca of North America here in Plumas County. The trails could sustain for many years as well, since the impact that mountain bikes have on the environment is really minute.”
Most the trails currently used by mountain bikers are not true system trails. Many of them are old logging trails. The downfall is that the trails don’t attract as many tourists, because they are nearly impossible to find. Proper trail heads and sustainable trails would help to improve that.
Many mountain bike riders in the county believe that projects like the Mount Hough/South Park trail system can truly boost the county’s economy.
The Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship seasonally employs 15 full time employees; mostly local residents. The benefits that could extend to the rest the county are numerous as well.
“Outdoor recreation is sustainable and can benefit everyone who lives in the area,” said Greg Williams, the stewardship’s executive director. “We can have thriving businesses and a quality life based off of recreation, but we just need to turn the corner. It won’t affect our rural way of life. It’ll enhance it.”
In 2012, the Outdoor Industry Association made a full report on how outdoor recreational tourism affected the nation’s economy. The results showed that mountain biking, in specific, was a strong component to the economies of rural communities.
Mountain bike tourism provided more than six million Americans with jobs last year. Nationally, tourists spent $646 billion in outdoor recreation in 2012 with $39.9 billion as federal tax revenue.
A similar study was conducted by Scott Reid on the town of Breckenridge, Colo., a town with similar demographics to Quincy. The town has a small community of 4,540 people and is tucked away in the mountains. Since the creation of several trail systems, the town has seen a boom in its economy.
One of the main goals of Breckenridge’s community was to connect downtown with backcountry trails and hold several events. In 2012 the town made more than $700,000 in race event related revenue and more than $2 million in bike related sales. The visitor and lodging impact was substantial as well.
Williams urges residents of Plumas County to voice their support during the Forest Service’s public comment periods if they really want outdoor recreation to be part of the community’s economy.
“If people can write letters of support we can really get things accomplished,” said Williams. “The county needs to make money and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen on increased property value.”