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The Mountain Bike Gang that Could | Features

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If anybody can deal with an uphill climb, TOMMBA can.
By Eric Cox | Aug. 29, 2020

Standing round speaking after a 2012 trip, Boyne Metropolis bike owner Steve Schnell and a few of his associates lamented Northern Michigan’s lack of mountain bike trails. Whereas mountain biking facilities had been rising steadily downstate, there appeared to be little advocacy for path improvement within the state’s northern reaches.

Schnell and firm resolved to repair that, they usually set about organizing the Prime of Michigan Mountain Bike Affiliation (TOMMBA), a spirited group of loyal volunteers who just lately got here a step nearer to reaching a long-range aim: constructing 20 miles of Northern Michigan mountain bike trails by 2020’s finish.

That’s an bold aim inside an eight-year window, however that hasn’t stopped TOMMBA, which, in cooperation with Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC), just lately opened six miles of forested new path at LTC’s Tanton Household Working Forest Protect, seven miles east of Petoskey.

TOMMBA may test one other field upon completion of the Tanton Trails. The most recent facility represents the group’s most important northward growth.

However, that’s simply the newest main transfer by this small however potent group, which started as an area chapter of the Worldwide Mountain Bike Affiliation (IMBA).

Schnell mentioned at the moment, eight years in the past, IMBA was actively encouraging native chapter progress throughout the nation. For a price, the growth chapters loved nonprofit standing beneath IMBA’s umbrella. However, IMBA then misplaced its major sponsor, Subaru, and that led to confusion, prompting TOMMBA’s departure from IMBA in 2016.

As an alternative of giving up, nevertheless, Schnell and others sought a grant from the Charlevoix County Neighborhood Basis to assist them set up their very own nonprofit. It labored. With steerage, the group cemented the free-standing TOMMBA group. That meant, amongst different issues, that each one TOMMBA dues and donations might stay within the group, immediately serving native initiatives.

All through the method of growing TOMMBA, Schnell mentioned he and others acquired glorious cooperation from each IMBA and the Traverse Metropolis-based Northern Michigan Mountain Bike Affiliation (NMMBA).

“At first, [Northern Michigan] was beneath NMMBA’s umbrella. We had been of their area” Schnell, a founding member of TOMMBA and former president of each TOMMBA and MMBA, mentioned. “We didn’t know a lot about them, however we knew they had been very Traverse Metropolis-oriented. Collectively we labored out how the area was divided up, and everybody was happy,” Schnell continued. “Nobody was territorial. Everybody was inspired to develop their very own chapters, and it was only a terrific course of to undergo.”

With their tax-exempt standing licensed and their geographic area outlined, volunteers flocked to TOMMBA, not simply with their cash, however with enthusiasm, sweat, thirst for information and a willingness to work onerous and keep it up.

Guided by professional path builders equipped by IMBA, native volunteers first launched into an enterprising two-pronged plan: 1) Construct seven miles of path at Avalanche Nature Protect on Boyne Metropolis’s south aspect; and a couple of) concurrently assemble 7.5 miles of path at Boyne College Forest, one other piece of metropolis property.

“The IMBA Path Care Crews actually bought our volunteers excited,” Schnell mentioned, referring to coaching groups that offered native volunteers with sustainable path constructing recommendation. “For the primary time, they may see a transparent path ahead to constructing their very own path programs.”

All through building of the Avalanche and Boyne College Forest, in addition to TOMMBA trails at Brown’s Creek close to East Jordan, Schnell mentioned volunteers kicked in 1000’s of labor hours and cash to match. He estimates TOMMBA’s helpers have logged almost 8,000 unpaid hours – and that’s simply time spent truly constructing trails.

“We’ve got about 100 volunteers who assist us,” mentioned Schnell. “However, now we have a core group of a couple of dozen or so who volunteer virtually full-time.”

TOMMBA’s assist base was by no means extra evident than throughout a current fundraiser for a significant path growth close to Boyne College Forest. Schnell mentioned TOMMBA raised over $200,000 in lower than a 12 months.

“That features a $10,000 grant,” Schnell mentioned. “However the superb factor is what number of smaller donations we had. 200 folks pitched in, donating between $5 and $5,000 every. That made the typical donation like $100. That actually illustrates the influence of a broad base of assist. Each time we’ve reached out to the general public, the response has been overwhelming.”

The group continues to thrive and attempt for its long-range aim of increasing TOMMBA trails into the tip of the mitt. The brand new Tanton Protect Trails close to Petoskey characterize a partial success of that imaginative and prescient, coveted by Schnell and so many others within the northern decrease peninsula.

One other venture underway includes a partnership with the Walloon Lake Belief and Conservancy, which late final 12 months bought 40 acres adjoining Boyne College Forest the place further trails will likely be developed.

Like nearly all the pieces else concerning TOMMBA, it’s all understanding very well. Trails are increasing northward with every passing 12 months, realizing a plan dreamed up eight years in the past.

“{Our relationships} within the Petoskey and Harbor Springs areas are blossoming,” he mentioned. “There’s a whole lot of curiosity, and we’re attempting to ascertain a crew of path constructing volunteers within the space.”

Increasing TOMMBA trails into extra northern areas is occurring proper earlier than everybody’s eyes. However, TOMMBA’s final aim is to proceed constructing new trails programs in several areas, then join these programs, forming one massive trails matrix.

To study extra about TOMMBA and its trails and volunteer alternatives, go to www.tommba.org.


Experience Proper Now
Three TOOMBA trails are prepared for riders
AVALANCHE – Avalanche Mountain Protect, 1129 Wilson St., Boyne Metropolis, rests on 300 acres of rolling woodland on the group’s south aspect. These cross-country trails, 9 masking eight miles, supply a variety of experiences for all ranges of mountain bike expertise. Hikers and path runners share these paths and skilled riders say it’s higher to trip these trails clockwise. As soon as the you’ve reached the Lake Charlevoix viewing platform on the prime, merely retrace your route, treating the path as an out-and-back, slightly than a loop. Engaging for superior mountain bikers, Avalanche has some extra difficult downhill sections. Its latest section, Strolling within the Steep, provides solely probably the most skilled riders some very difficult one-way downhill. Groomed every winter for fats biking, these trails and their generally steep, generally rooty sections can problem freshmen. Lithe, flowy downhill sections make all that climbing definitely worth the effort, nevertheless. Those that get bored biking or end their rides early can keep busy with a close-by archery vary and disc golf course. 

BOYNE SCHOOL FOREST – Hog Wild is a well-liked part of TOMMBA’s Boyne College Forest trails, positioned between Boyne Metropolis and Walloon Lake (1998-1948 Erickson Rd., Boyne Metropolis). That part bought its identify after an area farmer’s escaped animals invaded the paths for just a few hours in the future, alarming and amusing mountain bikers. One other set of trails providing a variety of experiences, Boyne College Forest, which incorporates 4 trails in six miles, is fashionable with locals due to its location and high quality. A collection of connecting loops for straightforward navigation, the paths will be ridden clockwise or counter-clockwise and supply three varieties: newbie, intermediate and superior. A car parking zone of Erickson Highway provides nice, centrally-located entry. These trails additionally get pleasure from winter grooming for all ability ranges of fat-tire biking. Those that don’t really feel the Boyne College Forest vibes have an possibility: Avalanche trails are solely 4.4 miles away.

TANTON PRESERVE – TOMMBA’s latest trails supply respite to these looking for mountain bike adventures within the Petoskey/Harbor Springs space. Simply seven miles east of Petoskey at 1447 Maxwell Highway are trails that had been born of the collaboration between TOMMBA and Harbor Springs-based Little Traverse Conservancy (LTC). Tanton’s multi-use, six-mile path system was inbuilt June, July, and August by Rock Stable Path Contracting out of Marquette. The 2 nonprofit entities raised over $200,000 for this path system, which opened to the general public on Aug. 29. Newbie, intermediate and superior trails wind up the aspect of what was previously referred to as Christmas Mountain, now LTC-owned Tanton Household Working Forest Reserve. Plenty of climbing awaits mountain bikers who will get pleasure from these flowy, sandy trails punctuated by switchbacks and hearty berms. A big car parking zone greets guests who can select their routes on massive, posted maps on the path system’s entrance.


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