Mountain bike trail group in the Forest of Dean fears after funding cut
A volunteer group which looks after mountain bike trails in the Forest of Dean fears the attraction could be "left behind" due to lack of funding.
For almost four years Alan Grist, head of the Dean Trail Volunteers (DTV), has looked after several bike trails in the Sallow Vallets enclosure with his team of enthusiasts.
But with almost 100,000 bikers riding the trails each year, Alan and his team are hard pushed to keep on top of maintaining the trail.
And there is a need to create new trails through the woods and valleys to keep biking in the Forest up to speed with its competitors, such as Cwmcarn in Wales.
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Top priority for the volunteers is to extend the existing red run (a cross-country route just one grade below a black run, the most difficult) from its current three miles up to 10 miles.
It's something which would cement the Forest's growing identity as one of the top mountain biking locations in the country but the project is too big for the group of volunteers.
The Forestry Commission, which owns the land, provides around £50,000 a year to maintenance of bike trails in the Dean, some of which comes from the £3 day parking charge at places like the Pedalbikeaway centre in Cannop.
But after 25 per cent funding cuts and many job losses at the Commission, regional recreation head Phil Morton said they simply could not afford to spend more on mountain biking.
And he emphasised that the broad appeal of mountain biking in the Dean – to families as well as downhill riders – made major projects like the extension of the red route unfeasible.
Mr Grist, 48 and from Cinderford, has been a mountain biker for 30 years and has lived in the Dean for 17 years. He is also appealing to local businesses to come forward and supply funding, in return for sponsorship of the highly popular bike trails.
He said: "For the sheer amount of business mountain biking brings to this area – we get people from all over the country who stay in local B&Bs, have lunch in the pubs – the amount of support we get is really minimal.
"To extend the red route would be brilliant but we don't have the manpower, the money or the machines that we need to get it done.
"If a local company – preferably one on the Forestry Commission's books – could help us out with construction and sponsorship, then that would be great.
"The danger is that if we don't keep improving – never mind just maintaining what we already have – then we get left behind and bikers start going elsewhere.
"Mountain biking's a growing sport in this country and we want to be at the forefront of it."
Mr Morton said: "We have a budget and a full management and design plan for the area but we have had to make cuts and there's only so much money we can spend.
"Most of the people who ride the trails in the Forest are families, with children, and the way we spend what funding we do have has to reflect that.
"The Dean Trail Volunteers do a fantastic job and I'd love to be able to double the amount of funding support we can give them but we just don't have the money.
"We are working with them to put together a sponsorship agreement similar to what we have done in Leigh Woods, in Bristol."