IMBA Trail Labs: Training to Spur Trail Development

Is your community the next great mountain biking community? What does it mean to embrace bicycles on natural-surface trails and how do community leaders and land managers get started?

by Katherine Fuller, Marketing and Communications Director, International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA)

The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is working to spread its three decades of trail and community-building expertise. To do this, it has launched a series of programs and initiatives designed to accelerate the pace of new trail construction over the next five years and to catalyze mountain bike communities, nationwide.

IMBA is reaching out across the country to land managers, tourism and recreation professionals and community officials to help them learn about, embrace, create, fund, and implement mountain bike trail projects big and small.

A significant step toward achieving this goal is IMBA’s new Trails For All initiative, which is all about “bringing the riding to the people.” In 2018 alone, the program is set to impact 101 communities with nearly $1 million in investment and planning.

IMBA will offer accelerator grants to help jump start trail planning, host professional workshops to provide the tools needed to make trail communities happen, issue a national state-of-mountain-biking survey to better understand the needs of the rider community, and continue to recognize and promote the world’s best backcountry rides (IMBA EPICS) and mountain bike trail communities (IMBA Ride Centers).

“We believe mountain biking changes lives and improves communities. It’s a powerful answer to so much of our societal challenges, from obesity to digital addictions to loss of connection with nature,” said Andy Williamson, IMBA’s Trails For All administrator. “IMBA is leaving no stone unturned in its quest to catalyze a greater number of vibrant mountain bike communities across the U.S. We want to help ensure everyone has access to ride where they live.”

Ready to create a great place to ride? IMBA invites you to learn everything it knows about developing mountain biking opportunities. For 2018, IMBA partnered with the Walton Family Foundation and Visit Bentonville to host three IMBA Trail Labs— intensive workshops during which IMBA’s professional trail development staff plus local experts will lead participants through a proven recipe for developing model community trail systems.

The inaugural IMBA Trail Labs takes place June 20-22 in Bentonville, AR, during IMBA’s Dirty 30— a celebration of 30 years of mountain biking and the people who make it happen. Bentonville Trail Labs will offer attendees a firsthand look at the intentional elements of an innovative and diverse mountain bike trails community. Bentonville earned an IMBA Ride Center designation because it embraced (and celebrates) the integration of mountain bike trail systems, paved paths, bike parks, and other amenities into its community to benefit residents and visitors alike.

“Northwest Arkansas is witnessing the transformative power of trail building— from developing active neighborhoods to increasing tourism and strengthening the local economy,” said Tom Walton, Walton Family Foundation Home Region Committee chair. “Our cities can serve as trail labs of what’s possible for communities in the American Heartland.”

IMBA Trail Labs topics include community planning and activation, developing the desired experience, risk management issues, funding avenues, construction contracting, programming and promotion, trail facility evaluation, volunteer tracking, and much more. The two days of hands-on work sessions will be capped by facility tours, optional group rides, and opportunities to network with the experts.

In addition to providing attendees with the knowledge they need to get started making great trails happen locally,
IMBA will help them identify the specific next steps needed to bring more trails to their own backyards. Attendees will leave with a draft plan for turning their trail dreams into a reality.

Beyond Trail Labs, IMBA also partnered with the Walton Family Foundation to offer 26 trail accelerator grants worth approximately $500,000 in 2018. These competitive grants are designed to help communities without trails get on their way toward building better places to ride that are close to where people live and work. Awardees will receive professional planning services and funding to help launch their trail development efforts. Some grants will be reserved for project proposals that support diversity, equity and inclusion in mountain biking.

For more information

To learn more about the IMBA Trails For All initiative and register for the upcoming IMBA Trail Labs, visit IMBA.com/trails-for-allor contact [email protected]

For more training opportunities, visit the American Trails Training Calendar

About the Author


The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) is a 501 (c) 3 non-profit educational association whose mission is to create, enhance and preserve great mountain biking experiences.

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