When Michael McCormack moved his family to the small town of Eagle, Colorado, just two years ago, he was immediately impressed by the trail system. Sure, there were options—the usual suspects for mountain bikers, hikers, and trail runners in this small town of 6,508 residents spread out across 2.4 square miles. But what really caught his eye was a 13-mile-long paved path for everyone from cyclists to inline skaters, punctuated by dirt spurs that are sometimes as short as 50 feet.
McCormack's kids liked the path well enough, but they found love on the intentional detours. Because The Road Not Taken ain’t just for poets.
"They ripped each 50-foot section—first on their Striders, and then on their mountain bikes," said McCormack.
Although the McCormack family home is only three blocks from the school, the path is practically Portland. Each morning, hundreds of kids pedal to and from school. Seeing all this traffic planted a bug in McCormack's brain, and he asked himself a few questions. Three questions, to be exact:
What if there were singletrack trails directly adjacent to the existing rec path?
What if our kids had five minutes of pure frickin' Zen between home and school each day?
What if we could get them involved in the design-and-build process?
Nearly two years ago, McCormack shared this idea with some fellow parents, local trail-builders, town-government staffers, and almost three dozen kids. Even in its infancy, the concept impressed the mayor, Yuri Kostick.
"I thought it was an amazing plan," says Kostick. "It was one of those moments where you think to yourself, 'How could something be so cool and bring together so many of my favorite things—kids, playing in the dirt, education, bikes, jumps, and berms, to name a few—and still be such a simple concept [that] will end up costing the town zero dollars to build an amazing project that will last for many, many years, if not forever?'"
Together the loose coalition mapped a pilot phase of a citizen-sourced proposal dubbed "Singletrack Sidewalks: The flow-to-school program."
On Nov. 12, Eagle's town council unanimously approved the plan.
The build process begins next spring and it's practically a communal barn-raising. The town is providing the land. Local professional trail-builders Momentum Trail Concepts are donating their expertise and supervising the build by area kids and parents, who will join local mountain bike advocacy group Hardscrabble Trails Coalition, which is headed by county planner Adam Palmer.
If all goes according to plan, Eagle's seven neighborhoods, two schools, and outlying trailheads will be connected in about five years.
And the trail is already taking people like the mayor on a pedal down memory lane and helping them link it with the future.
"When I was growing up, we knew every jump in town and would travel to our friends’ neighborhoods just to see if we had what it took to hang with them. For example, when Matt Blue and Matt Kraus showed me the jump over the curb into the grass swale at their neighborhood church parking lot in Fox Point, I was gripped! It was a huge 2-foot drop (at least) for me on my orange Huffy BMX bike," said Kostick.
"But then we sessioned it for at least an hour and then moved on to the next. Singletrack Sidewalks is all about that spirit and creates a mini trail network that kids get to ride every day. How fun is that?"
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