This post originally appeared on shenandoahbicycle.com/western-slope
How can we preserve a vital partnership?
The Massnautten Western Slope is taking its annual hibernation nap, not a full sleep all winter but a rest during most daylight hours. The resting of the trails might depress some but I challenge you to use these two months as a time of opportunity. Use this break as a chance to get out of your comfort zone and explore other forests and trails in our area. Let’s use this time to focus on the future of the Western Slope.
Take a trip to our beautiful National Forest or visit other local trail systems like Blue Ridge School, Douthat State Park, or Hillandale Park. The Western Slope is only the tip of the iceberg for our local and regional trails. Consisting of a thousand acres, the Western Slope could fit inside one of the scores of hollows that make up our public playground, the George Washington National Forest. Also, use this break from the Western Slope as a time of reflection, a chance to increase your appreciation for what is a truly symbiotic relationship between Massanutten Resort and our community.
Formerly Locals Only
It seems like a lifetime ago, when riding the Western Slope had a sneaky edge, that feeling of constantly looking over your shoulder waiting for a security guard to jump out and bust you. For years, those living outside the resort and who rode the Western Slope wanted to keep the trails a secret. This selfishness was not due to keeping great trails to yourself (the trails were not that great) but due to the fear that if too many folks were seen on the trails, the Resort would beef up security and close them to the locals. Times have changed for the Western Slope, and now our community has the opportunity to access the hundreds of acres and the maze of trails tucked within. The incredible opportunity to access this playground does not come without responsibility, the responsibility of being a good steward of the land and a responsible partner.
This multi-decade-old relationship is incredibly unique, and like any long-lasting relationship, it takes work, compromise, and a lot of giving. The marriages and partnerships that are around for generations sometimes need the help of others to guide and counsel them through busy times. Well, this is a busy time for the Western Slope; it has seen more user growth in the last four years than any time in its 40+ year history. COVID, more beginner-friendly trails, easier access to trail information, shuttles, and e-bikes have all contributed to the growth of visitors. All of these reasons listed are part of the change, some you may or may not like, but change is always happening. Now it is our time to guide and give this change direction. Thus, the partnership is seeking counseling from professional trails planners, Applied Trails Research.
As the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition (SVBC) and Massanutten Resort are going through counseling, we are asking for our family’s (you, the community) help and participation. We want you to ask yourself a few questions: “What do I want to see with the Western Slope over the next 5, 10, 20 years?” “How do I use the trails?” “What do I like or don’t like about the Western Slope?” “What do I know about this partnership?” Use your honest feelings, thoughts, reflections, and crystal ball to guide you through the Western Slope survey. The vital partnership that opens the Western Slope access is asking for your help so we can create something for everyone and help preserve something magical.
There will be a lot of “I want,” which is great; exactly what SVBC and Massanutten are asking for you to communicate. Do you want more beginner trails? Do you want better trail signage? Do you want more jump lines? Do you want a downhill-only trail? Do you want an easy trail to access the ridge? Do you want more places to walk? Do you want more backcountry trails for solitude? The question I want is not just for the current trail users but also for those who may not have used the trail in the past, so please share the survey with anyone.
What’s the Future of the Western Slope?
There is so much to gain in the future, but we need to plan, or the current visitor wave will crash on us. We have the ability to create an incredible resource that is rarely seen in any trails community. But we also have so much to lose, which I think most of us take for granted, ACCESS. Let’s not go back to the fear of looking over our shoulders.
Can we take a bunch of “I” and spell “we”?
Can we be patient?
Can we compromise?
Can we give a little?
I believe WE can!