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COTA helping adaptive riders ‘return to the outdoors’ with mountain bike trail assessments

(Update: adding video, comments from volunteers)

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Central Oregon is home to nearly 600 mountain biking trails.

It's a reason why a lot of people come here.

However, not all of them are accessible by riders with disabilities.

The team working to fix that said the change will not be drastic, but will go a long way.

The Central Oregon Trail Alliance (COTA), in partnership with Oregon Adaptive Sports and Dove Tail Trails, is going over 100 miles of mountain bike trails in Bend. 

Abbie Wilkiemeyer, the volunteer project manager with COTA, said the current trail maps may not be accurate in their description and difficulties for adaptive riders. 

“Trails that are considered green, if you look at the Bend trails map, aren’t necessarily green for an adaptive athlete and their rider. Because even though it's an easy trail and smooth terrain, the trees can be way too close for somebody to get through and not have a ride around,” Wilkiemeyer said. 

The goal is to make them wide enough for adaptive riders to fit their bikes through, but not take away from the natural features.

Trail consultant Quinn Brett, who was a professional rock climber before suffering a spinal cord injury, said most adaptive riders are still looking for fun and difficult trails.

“I guess the stigma is for adaptive riders that we’re 'dumbing down the trail' and we’re making it paved or just a mellow gravel road. That's not the case at all,” Brett said. “We’re very capable of doing what two-wheel bikers would consider to be black diamonds.”

She said updating the trails will expand the opportunities for adaptive riders, but should have no negative impact on two wheeled riders.

Tom Lomax is a COTA volunteer and helps with trail renovation. 

“Well, I’m on my bike, so it's all good,” Lomax said while examining the trails. “I’m excited any day I can get up and get on my bike.”

He thinks updating the trails is a win-win.

“So there might be some really small things that we could do that would allow these guys to access trails that they couldn’t otherwise, and it may be something that doesn’t even affect everybody else’s uses of the trail,” Lomax said. “So I think it's a pretty cool program.”

Brett said most adaptive riders just want a chance to get outside and push themselves, and COTA is ready to make that an option for everyone.

“Returning to the outdoors is where I would rather be and spend my time, and it's good for my heart and my mental space,” Brett said. “So of course I’m trying to advocate that. I would like to return, and my community would like to return to the outdoors.”

The project has a community day on Saturday at Loge Camp Bend.

They will continue assessing trails next week.

Article Topic Follows: Sports

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Noah Chast

Noah Chast is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Noah here.


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