2015 is shaping up to be a great year for NMTA and for the mountain biking and trail running communities. I want to take this opportunity to recap with you some of the exciting things NMTA has been working on for the past year and how that will translate into achieving some of our most significant goals in the new year.
As you may know, NMTA was incorporated in the state of Mississippi as a non-profit corporation in 2014. This enabled NMTA to apply for recognition as a 501(c)(3) Non-profit entity which was granted by the IRS last year. NMTA successfully formed two business partnerships with Full Motion Running and Cycling as well as with Peddler Bike Shop giving NMTA the financial resources and social contacts necessary to achieve many of our organizations goals. NMTA also entered into contractual agreements with the United States Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Olive Branch to establish a cooperative basis for developing new natural surface trails in north Mississippi. NMTA has been an active participant in regional recreational planning groups to further our trail development agenda. Most recently NMTA participated in the DeSoto County Greenways and Parks Advisory Committee meeting. This type of forum allows NMTA to help shape the recreational goals our civic leaders will support in our community.
So, 2014 was a good start, but the best is yet to come. 2015 is shaping up to be the best yet; here are some of the initiatives we have planned for the new year.
NMTA is well on the way to becoming an IMBA chapter. All submittals have been made to IMBA and a formal announcement is expected to take place during the Southern Mountain Bike Summit in March 2015. The NMTA region will encompass the northern part of the state including the following counties: DeSoto, Marshall, Benton, Tippah, Alcorn, Prentiss, Tishomingo, Itawamba, Lee, Union, Pontotoc, Lafayette, Panola, Tate, Quitman, Coahoma, and Tunica. With the backing of IMBA’s national resources, NMTA will become a stronger advocate for new trail development in the region.
The NMTA team has been working hard to build on our excellent working relationship with the Army Corps of Engineers. The Bayou point trail has been the cornerstone of our efforts at Arkabutla, but we plan to expand on that with a new trail at Hernando Point. Although we don’t have formal approval yet, we are confident we will get the go ahead from the Corp to develop up to 30 miles of trails on the approximately 1,000 acres encompassing the Hernando Point tract. Flagging has begun on the initial development phase comprised of eleven miles of beginner level trail. The flagging phase is part of the USACE’s overall review and approval process so they can assess any adverse impact the trail may create. So approval is not certain, but assuming all goes well, trail construction will begin in the spring of this year.
The City of Olive Branch entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with NMTA to develop a short beginner level trail in the City Park. The new trail will be nearly one mile in length through the wooded portion of the park on the west side and will tie in to the existing two mile paved path, creating a three mile loop. Flagging is complete and trail work will begin soon. Although this new trail may not appeal to experienced riders, it will be a great community resource giving new riders an opportunity to experience mountain biking for the first time – riders that may become future NMTA members. Additionally, it gives NMTA an opportunity to build good community relations that will enhance our ability to take on new projects in the future that will cater to a broader range of user skill levels.
In addition to trail development efforts, NMTA is committed to hosting running and cycling events within the region. We are working hard to create a mountain bike event at Bayou Point this year and expect to make an announcement soon. Not only will this provide a race venue for area riders, but it will also create a revenue stream for NMTA to help us to achieve our further trail development goals.
Our primary stated goal is to develop new natural surface trails suitable for mountain bikes and running within the north Mississippi region. That goal is going to entail trail construction. To that end we have made application to host IMBA’s highly respected Trail Care Crew. If our application is successful – and there is a high likelihood it will – we can expect to participate in a one-day Trail Building School, during which the crew teaches sustainable trail building, which means building lasting trails that require minimal maintenance. This will be a great opportunity for NMTA and other regional trail building organizations that was made possible by the close relationship NMTA has established with IMBA.
NMTA has been in existence for less than one year. The groundwork NMTA prepared in 2014 has created the exciting opportunities I’ve outlined for 2015. Thanks to all of our members for helping us to get off to such a strong start this year – we’re expecting great things for NMTA and all north Mississippi trail users. And one last thought, your support in the coming year is essential to our success as an organization. Our goals for trail development and construction and for hosting competitive events will only be as successful as our members and supporters allow us to be. Please keep that in mind as we move forward into the new year, thanks for your support and please be confident that we will continue to work hard to ensure your volunteer and financial commitments are focused towards achieving our mutual goals. And please become part of the team by becoming an IMBA-NMTA member.
President, North Mississippi Trail Alliance