by Kelly Tolbert, Recreation Services Coordinator, Prescott Parks and Recreation
As local parks and recreation professionals, it is the responsibility of our department to maintain industry standards while providing quality recreation opportunities to our community. This also comes with providing a variety of other public services. This can be quite a challenging process as it involves determining, planning and maintaining valued amenities that continuously evolve to meet the supply and demand in proportion to the increasing population.
Perhaps our best example of how this is done is through our multiuse trail system. Featuring over 100 miles of trails within the City of Prescott, this nonmotorized system is also referred to as the Mile High Trail System and is open to equestrians, bicyclists and hikers essentially year-round due to our mild, sunny climate.
Tourism & Trails
Another function of the department is to support tourism efforts, which ultimately assist in generating funding for the entire city. The trail system is a huge attraction for drawing vital visitors, new residents and special events that all contribute to the local economy. According to a recent visitor’s survey conducted by Northern Arizona University (NAU), 40 percent of visitors cited their motivation for traveling to Prescott as trail use. Local real estate professionals also quote trail availability as a top appeal for prospective clientele.
It seems adventure seekers have discovered our spectacularly diverse mountain community that combines history and outdoor recreation, drawing an increasing number of mountain bikers annually. Mountain bike popularity has increased exponentially in the past several decades. Morphing from traditional road cycling, the first mountain bike is traced back to the mid-1970s, and the activity has only been officially recognized as a worldwide outdoor sport since the Olympics welcomed it at the 1996 Atlanta Games.
Fast forward to current day mountain biking, which appeals not only to competitive athletes, but also to people of all ages and physical conditions. Delving a bit deeper into the benefits of exploring trails on two wheels, one may ask: “Why not?”
Benefits of Mountain Biking
Combining an element of risk with a childlike curiosity for discovery of natural history, hitting the trails on a mountain bike offers immeasurable benefits. There is, however, a measurable relationship between physical activity, obesity, and supply and demand regarding recreation opportunities. Scientific evidence shows a positive correlation between adults facing cardiac issues or concerns about cancer risk and significant reductions of these health problems through consistent activity including mountain biking.
Regular exercise reduces “free radicals” by signaling the body to adapt to the stress of exercise, ultimately producing antioxidants while also protecting against the natural symptoms of aging. The result is the strengthening of the heart itself, as the heart functions much like any other muscle, reducing the risk for cardiac arrest.
Regular exercise has also shown to reduce visceral fat, located around the belly and consequently surrounding the organs associated with heart disease. Avid mountain bikers will attest to an increased feeling of overall happiness likely related to the increases in endorphins and dopamine in the brain, as well as a sense of self confidence and belonging to a community of like-minded enthusiasts.
Bike Groups & Bike Shops
Locally, there are several groups that welcome new riders, experienced riders and essentially anyone interested in riding with a group. Prescott Mountain Bike Alliance (PMBA) offers a popular ride called 8-80, which as the name infers appeals to anyone within that age group.
PMBA involves itself with trail-work days, fundraisers and festivals throughout the year, positioning the group as a valuable asset to our community. PMBA also sponsors the skills track (or “pump track”) at Granite Creek Park that includes features allowing users to practice technical skills. Local businesses and bicycle gear shops are helpful places for information on getting started on the trails, upgrading or servicing your bike, renting a bike, or essentially shopping for any gear you may need be remain safe and healthy while on the trails. More information can be found at https://prescottmtb.com.
A personal recommendation for beginners is the Peavine National Recreation Trail, which features a wide, relatively flat, former railroad bed, allowing a new rider to acclimate to the trail terrain. For something more moderate, Prescott National Forest Trail No. 396 meanders along the pine forest surrounding Goldwater Lake and White Spar Campground. Highly technical trails are found within the Granite Dells and are not for the inexperienced; just follow the white dots! Please visit prescotttrails.com for more information and maps of the area trails.