A new IMBA-backed trail network in rural Nevada could open to mountain bikers as soon as 2016 if Patrick Kell wins over the right wallets.
Kell is IMBA's southwest regional director, and he's been tirelessly promoting the project outside Caliente, Nevada-a town of fewer than 1,200 people located about two hours northeast of Las Vegas.
So far his diligence has paid off. He's already secured $40,000 from the BLM, the Lincoln County Development Committee and the city of Caliente's lodging tax to start design work.
Using that funding, IMBA's trail designers have spent the past month scouring the ridges, canyons and forests outside of Caliente, ultimately mapping and flagging 40 miles of potential future trails to be carved into blank canvas of nearly 4 million acres of BLM-owned land.
The initial plan is to start building beginner trails that can be accessed directly from town's Kershaw-Ryan State Park, which sits at 4,400 feet in elevation, and eventually progress all the way to the ridges that tower above Caliente at 9,400 feet, Kell said.
The trails will be a combination of machine-built 'flow' tracks and hand-built singletrack winding through pinion and juniper deserts, ponderosa forests and rugged rock canyons. Kell also aspires to create a race loop close to town for use by the Nevada High School Cycling League. Plans also call for the development of a 16-site backcountry campground, accessible via a dirt road, that would sit at the base of the 'TeePee' rocks, a landmark formation of jagged rocks. Similar to the 18 Road area in Fruita, mountain bikers could set up camp and ride trails directly from their site.
If the project sounds ambitious, that's because it is: Kell estimates the total costs will be at least $2 million. But he's also ambitious about the possibility of finding the money for the project. Both the BLM and the city of Caliente have applied for large grants through the Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act, which appropriates money earned from previous BLM land sales to casinos and resorts to recreation, trail and wildlife conservation projects. The process is competitive, but Kell thinks their applications have a strong chance.
"What we've been told by everyone is that this project is a high priority because there isn't anything else of this scale going on in Nevada," he said. "I'm pretty confident by this time next year, fall 2015, we'll have all the permits and approvals and I'm pretty confident we'll have money from somewhere. I've been squawking about it so much, everyone knows about it, next I'm going to the political level. I don't know where the money will come from but pretty confident by this time next year we'll be building trails.
In the mean time, design work on the trails should be wrapped up by early November, followed by the BLM's permitting and public comment process next spring. At that time, the BLM will also do its archeological and biology surveys to make sure trails aren't encroaching on any sensitive areas.
If Kell's timeline stays on track, trails could be built and open in early 2016.
Although Caliente is just two hours from the bright lights and chaos of Las Vegas, its wild-west atmosphere and mysterious vibe place it much further away than the 150 miles separating the two.
Joey Klein, the lead trail designer on the project, sent this message from the jobsite:
"We are just over the range from the Extraterrestrial Highway, with Area 51 not far away. The nearby mining ghost town of Pioche had a worse reputation than Tombstone or Dodge City, with 72 murders before the cemetery (Boot Hill) was even placed. Wild mustangs are seen almost every day…they are the ghosts of this desert. Strange, fast aircraft in the sky, rumbling trains loaded with tanks and hummers were today’s distraction…just before we crawled into another secret valley filled with TeePee Rocks. Caliente sweats adventure."