River Bend Nature Center and mountain biking: exciting possibilities

As I mentioned last week, I first blogged about mountain biking at the River Bend Nature Center (RBNC) in Faribault back in January and shortly thereafter, learned about the problems with it.

Mountain bike meeting at River Bend Nature Center Mountain bike meeting at River Bend Nature Center
So I was really pleased that RNBC staff hosted a meeting with about 25 local mountain bikers last night at the RBNC Interpretative Center.

Barbara Caldwell, RBNC Executive Director Garrett Genereux, Naturalist Educator; Barbara Caldwell, RBNC Executive Director Ben Witt, owner, Milltown Cycles 
After everyone introduced themselves, RBNC Executive Director Barbara Caldwell, RBNC Naturalist Educator Garrett Genereux, and Ben Witt, owner of Milltown Cycles in Faribault, each made brief presentations about the status of mountain biking trails in the park.

Barbara set a positive tone to the meeting right from the start, saying that they were genuinely eager to learn more about mountain biking, given the increase in riders that they’ve seen recently. She said that while they had no desire to become a mountain bike park ("We’re a nature center"), they are multi-use and see mountain biking as another way to engage the public in their mission.

Garrett showed a special map he’d created of all the trails in the park, both authorized and unauthorized. (I’ve obscured the map in the photo above.)

Ben Witt expressed his appreciation for the willingness of RNBC staff to even have the meeting, seeing it as a huge opportunity.  He explained how many sections of the authorized trails are not only bad for the park because of erosion, they’re also not the new style of mountain bike trails (eg, switchbacks for up-hills) that help to make the sport so enjoyable.

 John Ebling Glenn Holman DSC08829
The rest of the meeting was open discussion. I urged RNBC to see mountain biking not as something to do to accommodate to a group of users but rather as a strategy to protect the park. By putting in new-style mountain bike ‘flow’ trails that are fun and challenging for a range of skill levels, they’ll create a powerful incentive for riders to only ride on those trails, thereby protecting the rest of the park.

John Ebling made the point that local ‘ownership’ of these trails by local mountain bikers who work to create and maintain them eventually can create a culture of responsible use by the wider mountain biking community.

DSC08831 DSC08824 DSC08835
The plan now is to create a local task force or working group to figure out next steps. Contact Barbara or Ben (see right sidebar of his Milltown Cycles blog) if you’d like to be involved. 

RBNC Membership page

And above all, become a RNBC member.  Our voices as mountain bikers will be far more influential if we show we care enough about RBNC to support them financially.  Their online membership signup form makes it fast and easy.


  1. Carl Arnold said:

    A big thank you to RBNC for hosting off-road cycling/multi-use forum last evening (4/19/2012)! I attended and really thought it was a positive event. My family and I enjoy RBNC for walking, biking and just observing and experiencing nature! Importantly, I was so impressed with the meeting that the first thing I did this morning was to join as a new member of RBNC. As a business owner, I decided to do a business membership which I understand comes with one (at the basic business level contribution) family membership. I’d encourage other bikers to support RNBC by becoming members! If you want to support local biking and a great local organization (RBNC), this is an easy way to do it. Carl Arnold

    April 20, 2012
  2. Griff Wigley said:

    I’ve removed this from the blog post above and deliberately obscured the map photo:

    The dark green lines indicate the most used unauthorized trails. (My photo of the map on the screen above isn’t great; I’ll see if I can get a PDF of it.)

    April 20, 2012
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Glad you were there, Carl… as were several other Northfielders. Props for your membership. I joined, too.

    April 20, 2012
  4. Andy said:

    Are the “authorized” trails just the regular trails as marked on standard maps? I’ve been on other trails on the south side of RBNC before, but I had no idea if they were authorized or not. They were certainly well used.

    April 22, 2012
  5. Griff Wigley said:

    Andy, yeah, the authorized trails are mainly the double-track trails marked on the RNBC maps, like this 2006 RNBC map (PDF).

    On that map, there are double track trails south of the river that you can ride on. But essentially, any singletrack you see is technically unauthorized.

    Also, I found out last week that bikers (not just mountain bikers) should NOT be riding on the paved paths.

    April 23, 2012
  6. Andy said:

    Really? You can’t ride on paved trails? How odd.

    Thanks for the info!

    April 23, 2012
  7. Clay Haglund said:

    This is great news Griff. As you know, we over here in Mankato are trying to advance our own agenda towards expansion in an existing park. There has been resistance in the past, but it seems the attitude towards mountain biking is turning more accepting and even positive; I’m sure in large part to the success that MORC has had with so many well managed trails in the metro area. I’ll eagerly await further news of RBNC hopefully opening up to mountain bikers. If for no other reason than Faribault being a shorter drive for a different ride than going all the way to the metro from Mankato.

    April 24, 2012
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    It’s not marked anywhere that I’ve seen, Andy, but evidently it’s because they have so many walkers on the paved trails near the Interpretive Ctr.

    April 24, 2012
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Clay, yeah, I’ve been following your efforts with 7 Mile Creek Park in the MORC/Mankato Area Trails forum. Good luck with your May 23rd meeting with the County Board.

    Nice to see the Mankato Area Mountain Bikers (MAMB) website and your WordPress-based MAMB blog. I’ve done a lot of WordPress sites so if you get stuck on anything technical with it, let me know and I’ll try to help.

    April 24, 2012
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    In case nothing happens with the River Bend Nature Center, there’s an opportunity for future planning input for the Rice County Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan which is now in final draft form at:

    There’s a public hearing this week, Thursday, June 7 at 7 p.m. at the Rice County Planning Commission meeting at the Rice County Government Services building in Faribault. See the Faribault Daily News article:

    Rice County’s open space plan sets course for future:

    There’s very little in the way of specifics in the plan related to mountain biking so it would help to have folks show up Thursday to comment.

    June 3, 2012

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