It has spent 27 years building and keeping up a rich array of local trails. Now the Northern Indiana Mountain Bike Association is shifting its focus from more dirt to more people.
A series of changes are at play for Indiana’s oldest mountain bike group, including its departure from an international advocacy group.
NIMBA had built the area’s first mountain bike trail at Rum Village Park in South Bend in 1995 when the sport faced lethargic support from officials across Indiana. Today it maintains six local trails.
President Jim Hary, who took the helm early this year, says NIMBA needs you now. Join the occasional skills clinics or work days, posted on its Facebook page. Join the weekly group trail rides for any skill (no one’s left behind) at 6:30 p.m. Mondays at Bonneyville Mill, Tuesdays at Potato Creek and Thursdays at Bendix Woods.
Or come to a meeting. Riders already have, sounding off about a need for better trimming along trails. Hary responds that the group is seeking a more effective way to keep up with trimming along its 45 miles of trails, noting, “That’s very hard for a small organization to do.”
NIMBA is considering a role that he unofficially calls “trail champions.” Each of these ambassadors would claim a certain trail and coordinate fellow volunteers to respond to trail damage and fallen trees and also to lead trail tours and answer visitors’ questions.
NIMBA needs help ranging from hands-on trail labor to board positions.
“We want to see more participation on the trails,” Hary says. “That’s going to come more organically if we do more skills clinics and if we put more features on the trails.”
Hear for yourself what the group is doing and lend your ideas and feedback at NIMBA’s public board meetings, held every other month. The next one will be from 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 10 in a lower-level room at The Bucket, 1212 S. Ironwood Dr., South Bend. Socialize and get food at 6 p.m. The actual meeting starts at 6:30 p.m.
“We represent what the biking community wants to see for these trails,” Hary says.
Input from these meetings already have turned into possible projects, like upgraded trail features and better trail drainage. There are ideas for improving the mountain bike trailhead at Bonneyville Mill County Park in Bristol with bike racks and an area for family members of bikers to gather. And, Hary says, NIMBA is in the early stages of exploring a professionally-built skills park at one of its trails to suit kids, beginners and skilled riders.
Like training wheels, NIMBA soon expects to drop its long-held membership in the International Mountain Bicycling Association. IMBA has collected member fees for the group, but it also provides technical support in building new trails, statistics to bolster the case for new trails and referrals to grants and discounts on biking apparel.
“We have all of the resources to do those things on our own,” Hary says.
Out of the average $45 that members donate to belong to NIMBA (there isn’t a set fee), it will be able to keep about $15 that IMBA had been drawing. But Hary still urges bikers to donate to IMBA since the advocacy at the national and international levels, he says, “is still critically important.”
NIMBA’s new website this year, nimbamtb.org, is growing deliberately as volunteers are able to update it. A calendar, membership portal and other features are yet to come.
∎ Which are NIMBA trails? It currently maintains trails at Rum Village Park in South Bend, Bendix Woods County Park in New Carlisle, Potato Creek State Park in North Liberty, Bonneyville Mill County Park near Bristol, Soldiers Memorial Park in LaPorte and Dr. T.K. Lawless County Park in Vandalia.
∎ 16 Trail Summer Challenge: Now through Sept. 21, NIMBA poses this quest to see how many mountain bike trails you can ride within an hour’s drive. There are 16 on the list, from Imagination Glen Park in Portage, Ind., to Meyer Broadway Park in Three Rivers, Mich. Cost is at least $20 per person (add $5 for a T-shirt) or $65 per family (with one T-shirt). Register at nimbamtb.org.
Both of these trails in the Summer Challenge are outside of NIMBA’s care:
∎ Winona Lake Trails: The nonprofit Kosciusko County Velo has started a multi-phase project to build a bike park and to add on to its 10.2 miles of trail in Winona Lake, near Warsaw. In its first phase, it is now raising a goal of $315,000 to pay for 16 additional acres that it recently acquired near its eastern border and to pay for planning and design costs.
Greg Demopoulos, KCV co-founder and vice president, says the land would become the Winona Lake Trails Bike Park at Hauth Trailhead, eventually with a pump track, kids bike playground, trailhead with parking and restrooms and more space for events like races. In a later phase, the project would also provide room to expand the trails to the town’s Heritage Trail Greenway.
Much of the land is wide-open grass at 900 Pierceton Road, Winona Lake, that, for now, provides parking for races and youth skills clinics; KCV added a gravel entrance, information kiosk and picnic table there. But Demopoulos says the land includes about five acres of woods where the group could add trails around the bike park, using the elevation to feed new jump lines and skills lines.
Early this year, he says, KCV added two new sections to its existing trails to prepare for the bike park. There’s a small jump line and minor rerouting, which provides a connection for trail users to bike or walk to the new land.
∎ The Trails at Mill Pond: I wrote in June 2021 about this new trail that volunteers had created south of Plymouth, a trail that jump-started the Marshall County parks department. Since then, the county has paved an entrance drive and parking lot (no longer just grass). A sign is posted at the entrance along Rose Road.
And, trail committee member Jeff Houin says, volunteers have added a nearly 1.5-mile trail on the other side of the parking lot, providing longer downhill sections and jumps, plus a short option with a berm and rollers that you can pump along and a “skinny” cut log for you to test your balanced riding skills. All of the challenges have an option to ride around them.
Houin says volunteers plan to build a trail to connect the new section and the existing trail. There’s now a total of 4.4 miles of trail, all well marked, but Houin says a map will eventually be added to the trailhead kiosk.
The trail is at 12511 Rose Road, Plymouth. From South Bend, take U.S. 31 just south of Plymouth. Turn west on 13th Road. After 6.4 miles, turn right on Rose Road. Just past a campground, follow a left turn and look for the trail sign and drive on the right.