FORT KENT, Maine — With miles of top-notch mountain bike trails already established at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle and at the Four Seasons Lodge in Madawaska, folks at the Maine Winter Sports Center are now turning their planning eyes to the available land around the 10th Mountain Center.
Next month a representative from the International Mountain Biking Association, or IMBA, will be in Fort Kent for a four-day intensive “train the trainer” workshop.
“We are pretty excited about this,” said Mike Smith, Aroostook County director of MWSC’s Healthy Hometowns Program. “At the 10th Mountain they’ve already mapped out 10 kilometers of potential mountain bike trails.”
Healthy Hometowns has partnered with Maine Winter Sports Center to sponsor the IMBA workshop.
Soderberg Construction of Caribou is sponsoring two days of training that involve trail-building techniques with a small excavator.
Participants in the workshop have been drawn from around Aroostook County.
“These workshops are by invitation only,” Smith said. “But the idea is for these folks to then go out and share that knowledge.”
In addition, all volunteers will be welcome back later this summer when those trail-building lessons are put into practice to develop the 10th Mountain bike trails.
The first two days of training, Smith said, cover trail construction using hand tools. On day two the big guns come out with the excavator demonstration.
Smith credits a few10th Mountain volunteers for the genesis of the mountain bike trails.
“Laura Audibert really made the snowshoe trails system happen there,” Smith said. “Then other volunteers like Jeff and Sherry Dubis started to get excited about mountain biking and saw the need for those trails up at 10th Mountain.”
Those snowshoe trails, Smith said, are not necessary good for mountain bike traffic.
“It really comes down to erosion control,” he said. “You can snowshoe or ski over a frozen swampy area but you can’t ride your bike through it in the warmer months.”
The IMBA workshop, Smith said, is going to help expedite trail construction at 10th Mountain “while putting a lot more knowledge base on the people involved in trail development.”
Smith said that over the past six years mountain bike trail usage has exploded at the Nordic Heritage Center and at the Four Seasons.
“These days you see as many cars in the parking lot (at the Nordic Heritage Center) in the summer as you do in the winter,” Smith said. “Some days even more.”
The IMBA representative coming to Fort Kent is part of the association’s “Trail Solutions” program.
Looking down the road, Smith envisions a trail network at 10th Mountain connecting the facility directly to Lonesome Pine Trails ski hill and the entire Fort Kent downtown area.
The Maine Winter Sports facilities in Presque Isle and Madawaska already hold successful annual mountain bike races, and Smith said there is no reason Fort Kent could not do so too.
“Will those races ever be at the level of the World Cup Biathlon?” he said. “The sky really is the limit.”
But Smith was quick to add, “First things first, we need to get the trails in.”
The IMBA training is expected to begin on or around July 5. Smith encouraged all interested volunteers to keep an eye out for information on trail-building efforts following that training on the center’s website at www.mainewsc.org/about_healthy.html.