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Land to preserve trails purchased by bicycle group

Cycling Organization Becomes the First in the Country to Buy Land for Open Space Protection and Recreation.

From the New England Mountain Bike Association

photo: Vietnam riding area in Upper Charles River Headwaters open space
Vietnam riding area in Upper Charles River Headwaters open space

The New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) announced today that they have taken title to 47 acres of open space in Milford, Massachusetts in an area known as the Upper Charles River Headwaters. This campaign marks the first time that a mountain bike advocacy organization will purchase, own, and manage its own trail system, and the project marks the largest single investment undertaken by mountain bikers to preserve open space.

NEMBA successfully raised the $210,000 needed to purchase the popular riding area two months before the option that was purchased in the fall of 2002 would run out.

"We are thrilled to have raised the money ahead of schedule," says Executive Director Philip Keyes. "When this historic project started a year ago, we had no idea of the ground swelling of support that we'd receive from mountain bikers and the cycling industry.

"We believe that outdoors organizations should not only help public efforts to conserve open space, but that they should also undertake private measures to protect our landscapes from development and provide more outdoor recreational opportunities. The notion that a relatively small group such as NEMBA has the ability to preserve land has captured the imagination of individuals who would not normally donate to a land conservation project."

The land acquisition is part of a complex partnership between numerous organizations trying to protect a patchwork of privately-owned open space totaling over 500 acres in the Upper Charles Headwaters area of Milford and Holliston. Some of the organizations that have been involved are The Trustees of Reservations, the towns of Holliston and Milford, Executive Office of Environmental Affairs, the Upper Charles Conservation Inc., and the Department of Environmental Management (now the Department of Conservation and Recreation).

In addition to protecting the open space from development, there are plans to develop a rail trail near to the property. "I congratulate NEMBA on successfully raising the funds to protect key open space in Milford, Massachusetts," says Ellen Roy Herzfelder, Secretary of Environmental Affairs of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. "This project is a great example of how non-governmental organizations can play an important role in preserving Massachusetts landscapes for the benefit of the public and the environment."

While the majority of donations came from New England mountain bikers, individuals from all around the country contributed: Arizona, California, Colorado, Washington DC, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming.

The International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) challenged mountain bikers from around the country to support the cause by issuing a match for all individual donors outside of New England. IMBA's Executive Director, Tim Blumenthal, said, "By raising a quarter million dollars to buy and preserve an important piece of land for our sport, NEMBA has again raised the bar for other mountain bike advocacy groups."

The cycling industry also played a significant role. Local bicycle dealers --such as Wheelworks, Landry's, Cycle Loft, Bicycle Alley and Gear Works-- not only donated to the cause, but also worked with their suppliers and manufacturers to generate total donations of over $50,000. Clint Paige, president of Wheelworks, worked closely with the group to garner industry support. "I am very grateful to the key dealers in eastern Massachusetts and numerous regional and national suppliers that have helped us reach our $50K industry goal for this project," says Paige, "but none of this could have happened without the incredible commitment of NEMBA and its tireless leadership."

NEMBA met its goal two months ahead of schedule; last year the organization purchased an option on the land for $15,000, an option that gave the organization until the end of this year to raise the money. Now that the deed is transferred, NEMBA plans to place a conservation restriction on the land to protect it from development and will implement its trail management plan to allow all non-motorized users free access to this popular area.

NEMBA hopes that the site will become a model for the an environmentally sound trail system, a laboratory for trail building techniques, and an inspiration to other non-profit groups to preserve open space for conservation and recreation and to build their own trail systems. NEMBA will install a bronze plaque on the property to acknowledge the support of major individual and industry supporters, to be unveiled next spring.

The New England Mountain Bike Association is the largest regional non-profit advocacy organization in the US, with over 4300 members and 17 chapters throughout the New England states. For more information, visit www.nemba.org.

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