I wasn’t able to attend the Ramble on September 29th but at about 9 pm, I got this email from Northfielder Ben Witt, proprietor of Milltown Cycles in Faribault and a big supporter of RBNC:
Griff, it is my pleasure to represent River Bend and inform you that you’ve won the River Bend Raffle, claiming a $2000 prize! Taxes will be withheld from that amount, and Barbara will inform you of the specifics. Congrats sir, and thanks for supporting River Bend!
Cool. Playing bingo at DJJD is about the extent of my gambling habit and I think I won $15 at it once.
By the time I picked up my check yesterday from RBNC Executive Director Barbara Caldwell, I’d already purchased a pump/jump park bike with my winnings. I then promptly went downtown Faribault to Milltown Cycles to purchase some wool socks for mountain biking. Local bike shops are likely to see a little more of the winnings circulating through their stores but the bulk of it is going towards a little home improvement project that Robbie has been eager to finish.
Barbara set a positive tone to the meeting right from the start, saying that they were genuinely eager to learn more about mountain biking, given the increase in riders that they’ve seen recently. She said that while they had no desire to become a mountain bike park ("We’re a nature center"), they are multi-use and see mountain biking as another way to engage the public in their mission.
Garrett showed a special map he’d created of all the trails in the park, both authorized and unauthorized. (I’ve obscured the map in the photo above.)
Ben Witt expressed his appreciation for the willingness of RNBC staff to even have the meeting, seeing it as a huge opportunity. He explained how many sections of the authorized trails are not only bad for the park because of erosion, they’re also not the new style of mountain bike trails (eg, switchbacks for up-hills) that help to make the sport so enjoyable.
The rest of the meeting was open discussion. I urged RNBC to see mountain biking not as something to do to accommodate to a group of users but rather as a strategy to protect the park. By putting in new-style mountain bike ‘flow’ trails that are fun and challenging for a range of skill levels, they’ll create a powerful incentive for riders to only ride on those trails, thereby protecting the rest of the park.
John Ebling made the point that local ‘ownership’ of these trails by local mountain bikers who work to create and maintain them eventually can create a culture of responsible use by the wider mountain biking community.
The plan now is to create a local task force or working group to figure out next steps. Contact Barbara or Ben (see right sidebar of his Milltown Cycles blog) if you’d like to be involved.
And above all, become a RNBC member. Our voices as mountain bikers will be far more influential if we show we care enough about RBNC to support them financially. Their online membership signup form makes it fast and easy.
Back in January, I blogged about mountain biking at the River Bend Nature Center (RBNC) in Faribault. I subsequently learned that there are officials trails and unofficial trails, making for a delicate situation. As I wrote in a comment, the RBNC website doesn’t mention mountain biking specifically but #18 on their rules and regulations page says:
it shall be unlawful to… Operate a bicycle except on official trails and in designated areas;
Next week, there’s going to be a meeting to discuss mountain biking. On the RBNC website:
Calling All Mountain Bikers
On Thursday, April 19, from 7 to 8 pm, River Bend Nature Center will be hosting an informational meeting regarding the trails that are being used for mountain biking. The meeting will take place in the Interpretative Center. Snacks and beverages will be provided!
Thanks to Curtis Ness at Milltown Cycles in Faribault for alerting me to this meeting. I’ll be there. Anyone else going?
Last week I went for a night ride from downtown Faribault to the nearby River Bend Nature Center (RBNC). Earlier this year I rode a few of the trails at RBNC but mainly the wide, well-traveled ones. I didn’t really see it as a good place for mountain biking. But I was wrong. I rode a single track trail to get to RBNC that was very fun, even though I only had a weak handlebar light. And once there, I discovered many other fun single tracks that I had no idea existed.
So I went back this week in the daylight to get a better idea of what I’d just experienced. (My apologies for the semi-lousy photos. I took them with my smartphone.)
The best mountain bike trail from downtown to RBNC begins at the eastern edge of Teepee Tonka Park, underneath the Hwy 60 viaduct that crosses over the Straight River at the southeast corner of downtown Faribault. There’s another route, the recreational trail that begins at the southern edge of the park on the west side of the river but if you take that, you’ll miss the fun stuff. See this City of Faribault Parks and Trails map (PDF) for more detail.
Right photo above: within a few yards, you have the option of taking the lower trail that goes along the river (intermediate difficulty) or the upper trail along the bluff (advanced/expert).
The lower trail has several well-constructed bridges over the creek beds.
The lower trail has the potential for lots of technical areas, with many logs and rocky creek beds. I say ‘potential’ because with a few exceptions, the technical stuff is in ‘raw’ form, ie, not constructed to make it rideable or interesting for most riders.
The upper trail has some fun ups and downs, and is solidly constructed with rocks and logs along the steeper parts to prevent erosion. While not too difficult technically, the trail is narrow in many places, along some steep drop-offs and thus would be a little freaky for an intermediate rider.
There are some fun tunnels to explore.
Next time out, I’ll try to find more of the single-track trails in the heart of the park. But I’m thrilled to find out how much RBNC has to offer, as it’s only 15 minutes from my house in Northfield.