Single-track bike group casts million-dollar vision for Great Bear trail

Recreation opportunities at Great Bear could expand soon with the addition of 5 miles of single-track bike trail.

Falls Area Single Track and Great Bear Recreation Park announced today that the concept and design phases for new single-track construction are complete, and they are hoping to raise $1 million to build more than 10 miles of trails.

The first phase of “The Great Trail Build. Destination: Bear” will include 5 miles of single track, integrated into the existing 6 miles of trail. It will begin off the rear of the parking lot.

In 2022, FAST was one of 10 organizations awarded a Trail Accelerator grant through the International Mountain Biking Association for match funding to bring more trails to the Sioux Falls area, according to a news release. The goal was to develop a concept plan and bring a destination ride center to the region.

“For too long, the question has been why doesn’t Great Bear have mountain biking trails,” said FAST president Ben Blomberg. “Now, the question is when will they be finished? With the community’s support, the answer is soon.”

The trails plans are still being finalized, said Reva Graves, communications director for FAST.

“Our vision includes a diverse range of trails designed for all users, including mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners,” Graves said. “We aim to create adaptive trails for differently abled riders; gravity trails featuring berms, jumps and technical elements; and traditional natural surface trails that cater to everyone. By leveraging the park’s varied topography, we hope to offer numerous opportunities for trail users to explore and appreciate the outdoors at Great Bear.”

The project’s anticipated completion is 2025 to cap off FAST’s “25 by 25” initiative, which seeks to have 25 miles of trail in Sioux Falls by 2025. There are currently more than 15 miles of single track.

“Our trail systems are currently in nine Sioux Falls park systems throughout the city,” Graves said. “FAST has been instrumental in developing and maintaining these trails, ensuring they are safe and enjoyable for all users. The existing trails are heavily utilized by mountain bikers, hikers and trail runners, reflecting the community’s strong interest in outdoor activities and trail use. As the popularity of these trails continues to rise, the demand for more single-track options has become evident.”

Dan Grider, general manager for Great Bear, said there has been demand for bike trails at the park for a long time. Recent surveys have shown that the No. 1 thing people are looking for is more outdoor activity, he said.

Mayor Paul Ten Haken praised the work of FAST in a statement. “The volunteers at FAST who give back in order to provide single-track opportunities have infused new life into several of our parks, including Leaders Park, Tuthill Park and Legacy Park,” he said. “The partnership between FAST and the Sioux Falls Parks & Recreation Department has provided widespread benefits to our growing community.”

Grider said FAST has built a reputation for doing great work in the community.

“FAST has been in the community for a while, and they are hooked up with a great firm that designs and builds trails,” Grider said. “We are excited to see more use at Great Bear. FAST is good people, who have a love for the park. They know what they are doing and have a lot of experience.”

Alexa Jerstad, director of communications and human resources for Great Bear, said FAST will be stewards of the property. “They will help enhance existing trails and keep an eye on preservation, not just on the bike trails, but for the whole park.”

Graves praised the location with its diverse terrain, elevation changes and scenic views. The location and size of the park are also great, along with the eventual extension of the city’s multiuse trail to the park, calling it “a convenient and attractive destination for outdoor enthusiasts in Sioux Falls and the surrounding area.”

“The chance to contribute more sustainable trails to the park has been something FAST is eager to be a part of,” Graves said. “By expanding the trail network, we aim to provide even more recreational options for the community and expand upon the outdoor activities that Great Bear already has to offer. This collaboration underscores our commitment to creating trail experiences that benefit both residents and visitors, enriching the overall outdoor recreation scene in Sioux Falls.”

Grider said the new trails will have some intersections with current hiking trails, but they are mindful of managing shared use and new trails. The new trails will be open to hikers and trail runners as well as mountain bikers. Graves said they hope the trails are used by everyone – including hikers and trail runners. “Our goal is to make the trails inclusive and welcoming,” she said.

“FAST is so great about signage and education and how to use it. That gives us confidence in supporting the project out here that everyone is being thought of,” Jerstad said.

“For this to get accomplished, we will need the support of the community. There’s a lot that needs to be fundraised, but we are confident the community will continue to show its support,” Jerstad said.

FAST commits hours of volunteer time as well as helping fundraise.

“The trails at Great Bear, like our other single-track trails, will be maintained by a dedicated community of FAST volunteers,” Graves said. “All of our trail systems come at no cost to local taxpayers. Our organization is funded by local biking and running communities, area businesses, organizations and our members. This means the city will benefit from having high-quality trails without bearing the costs of the upkeep.”

Grider said growth at the park is good for everyone.

“We have plans for additional ski runs. We would love a new chalet. The visibility Great Bear is getting through this particular project helps everyone. Hopefully soon, we can announce some plans within the parks master development plan,” Grider said. “If Great Bear grows, everyone wins.”

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