Montgomery County trails among IMBA Hot Springs Ride Center route

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    DERWOOD BRETT
    The Hot Springs area has been designated as a Ride Center by the IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association,) according to Robert Cavanaugh. To be designated a ride center, an area must have a variety of mountain biking trails within a 50 miles radius.
    “More than just having good trails,” Cavanaugh noted, “to be designated a Ride Center, an area is required to have a number of other attractions. The area should have good motel/hotel accommodations, campground opportunities, dining and other interesting things to attract cyclist to the area.”
    After an area is designated as a Ride Center, it has to go through a review every four years to see that nothing has changed to make the area less desirable.
    In addition, a portion of the Ouachita Trail has been designated an Epic Trail by IMBA. The new Epic begins at the Oklahoma border near Queen Wilhelmina State Park in Polk County and will end approximately 12 miles north of Hot Springs on Highway 7 for a total of 114 miles. The trail will stretch from mile marker 46.4 to mile marker 160.4. Riders should plan to take three to five  days to complete the trail ride, depending on the ability of the rider.
    Much of the ride will be in remote areas of the Ouachita Mountains and will traverse areas that will tax the ability of most riders, but will reward riders with spectacular views of mountains and valleys and will involve a number of stream crossings, most of which are not crossed via bridges.
    Riders will be able to take advantage of wilderness shelters spaced approximately every 10 miles apart on much of the trail. There are plans to construct additional shelters as funds become available.
    To secure designation as a Ride Center, an application has to be made by a sponsoring organization by filing a request and gathering information for IMBA, Cavanaugh added.
    In making the application, Cavanaugh said there were already many attractions that make the Hot Springs area a first class tourist destination. He noted that the area already attracts thousands of people each year who take advantage of thermal baths, horse racing, gaming, lakes, golf courses and other attractions.
    Couple those attractions with the rapid growth of mountain biking, and the Hot Springs area becomes a natural for IMBA recognition, he said.
    Currently there are three IMBA designated Epic trails within 50 miles of Hot Springs, two of which are located in Montgomery County, which makes the area a natural as a ride center, according to Cavanaugh.
    “Yet another factor that was considered in the selection of this area as a ride center was the existence of several well-known trail building and trail maintenance organizations include the LOViT Traildogs, the Central Arkansas Trail Alliance, and Friends of the Ouachita Trail (FoOT). These groups ensure the trails remain in great shape,” he said.
    “We hope designation of this area as a ride center will further develop use of trails in the area and will spur tourism locally,” Cavanaugh concluded.