Film showing will benefit Owasippe trails

tagged as Blog,Fundraising,Owasippe

BLUE LAKE TWP. — A portion of Owasippe’s bike trails is set to open to the public May 1.

An upcoming “bikeumentary” showing to raise money for the trail should help get cyclists in the riding mood.

“Pedal Driven,” a film about shared stewardship of trail areas, will be shown at the Wealthy Theatre on Thursday in Grand Rapids. The film’s theme is strikingly similar to what’s been happening at the Owasippe Scout Reservation, where the West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance is refurbishing trails on the land that is owned by the Chicago Area Council of Boy Scouts of America.

The film focuses on a group of extreme mountain bikers called freeriders in Leavenworth, Wash., who have a series of secret trails on federal lands. The so-called “skate punks of the forest” are unwelcome and are constantly on the lookout for U.S. Forest Service rangers.

The film takes explores the opposing perspectives of the freeriders and the rangers who are dedicated to protecting public lands. It also offers solutions to unite both factions who are dedicated to wilderness areas.

Such a solution was forged between mountain bikers, who found themselves banned from Owasippe’s maze of trails in 2010. The bikers were blamed for trail erosion in the 4,800-acre Scout camping area in Blue Lake Township.

But last year, the WMMBA was invited to help refurbish the trails and the alliance brought in renowned trail developer Alex Stewart who found it was trail design rather than cyclists that was causing erosion problems. 

After months of work to reroute problematic portions of trail, about 10 miles of it will reopen to the public May 1, said Randy Knapp, Owasippe trails coordinator for the WMMBA. A grand opening celebration is planned for May 18.

Rather than be charged a user fee for the trails, mountain bikers will pay a $10 per vehicle fee to park in the Owasippe administration building lot from which the trail departs. The parking fee gets around liability issues that had concerned the Boy Scouts council, Knapp said. Season parking passes will be sold for $60.

The WMMBA hopes to eventually open up to 50 miles of Owasippe trails, but that will cost money. Proceeds from the showing of “Pedal Driven” in Grand Rapids will be split between the WMMBA’s trail development efforts and the Van Andel Institute’s research into Parkinson’s disease.

The WMMBA has launched a “50 in 5” initiative to develop 50 miles of mountain bike trails in five years. Knapp said “Owasippe could be a big portion of that 50 miles.”

Owasippe trail efforts have already been the recipient of a $5,000 grant from the manufacturer of Specialized bikes, which will be used for new signage on the Owasippe trails, Knapp said. Alcoa also contributed a $3,000 grant.

“It’s going to be an ongoing process and may take three years,” Knapp said of the Owasippe trail refurbishing. “Once we get it opened and people see what we’re doing out there, it could snowball and funding could open up for us.”


• “Pedal Driven” a documentary film about the clash between mountain bikers and the U.S. Forest Service, will be shown at 7:15 p.m. Thursday in the Wealthy Theatre, 1130 Wealthy SE in Grand Rapids. Cost is $25.  To preorder tickets, go to

• To contribute to the Owasippe trail redevelopment,visit the WMMBA website,, or that of the Owasippe Outdoor Educaton Center,