Jordan Explores Mountain Biking Ecotourism
Mountain biking emerged a fringe sport in the 1970s, when adrenaline-fueled California cyclists began modifying their rides with fatter, knobby tires and suspension systems to absorb the jarring impact of rough terrain. It has spread to communities worldwide and become a recreational outlet embraced by cyclists of various ages and skill levels.
Marquette’s trails have received recognition from Bike magazine and USA Today, among others. Scott Jordan (Health and Human Performance, pictured) is an avid participant in the sport. He recently completed a grant-funded study of the social capital—community relationships—that led to the development and maintenance of the area’s mountain biking ecotourism industry. Full Story
“The bottom line is that if you develop these community relationships and have the natural environment to sustain whatever ecotourism project you have, in a period of time it’s possible to develop an economy out of that,” he said. “Marquette has created a defining model that other communities in Michigan can use.”
Several entities contributed to mountain biking’s success in the central Upper Peninsula. Jordan said the Noquemanon Trail Network (NTN) had already established cross-country ski trails that mountain bikers began to use and expanded its mission toward a year-round, non-motorized, interconnected trail and water network. It also grooms trails for snow biking. The NTN approached the International Mountain Biking Association to designate Marquette’s trail network. The IMBA rated it a bronze-level system. Jordan said it is the only one of the 25 IMBA-rated trails worldwide that connects to a town.
“Some of the local restaurants and bike retailers have seen the benefits of this close proximity to the network and are investing financially or with resources in trail development and sponsoring related events,” he added. “The trails have been mapped and marketed through Travel Marquette’s recreational specialist. Even hotels are being educated on the best ways to cater to mountain bikers, such as with bike-cleaning stations. The focus in trail development is often on ecology, but this one is sustainable economically as well as environmentally. The money is staying in the community.”
Gary Fisher, whom Jordan said is considered the “father of mountain biking” in California, gave the keynote presentation at the Great Lakes and Midwest IMBA regional symposium held June 11-14 at the Superior Dome. When asked to name one of the greatest technologies in the sport over the years, Fisher’s response was the trails.
“That’s what Marquette has focused on,” Jordan said. “From my experience riding other systems, the trails here are outstanding. There’s such diverse terrain. The South Trails have a lot of mechanically made and hand-built trails, so there’s that variety. They also accommodate both cycle and pedestrian use. It was great biking with Gary Fisher while he was in town.”
Jordan’s study was sponsored by an $8,000 grant from the Michigan State University Center for Community and Economic Development. His next goal is to gather quantifiable data on the monetary impact of the trails on the regional economy.