Biking and hiking trails in Gateway and Marion Sansom parks will remain open although local volunteers won’t be able to work on the trails after losing their insurance coverage.
The Fort Worth Mountain Bikers’ Association, a nonprofit group that builds and maintains the trails, lost its insurance Saturday because the International Mountain Bicycling Association could not come to terms on a master policy for the association and its affiliated clubs.
Bikers, hikers and others who use the trails can continue to do so, said Sandra Youngblood, assistant director of the parks and community services department for Fort Worth, but all trail maintenance and construction will halt until the association has insurance again, per its adopt-a-park agreement.
“There are a lot things that are out of our control right now,” said Larry Colvin, president of the biker’s association. “The insurance industry — they look at it as a bunch of volunteers going out and building trails — and they would rather see professional trail-builders doing this, but the cost of that is just prohibitive.”
The local association normally pays about $900 a year in insurance premiums, Colvin said. But he said those costs could rise to $5,000 to $7,000 a year if they are insured on their own.
Work day canceled
The group of volunteers designs and builds the trails on their own, using hand tools like rakes and trimmers. They have put in over 12,500 volunteers hours. The club was forced to cancel a work day planned for Saturday in Gateway Park to continue building new trails.
“The timing of all this couldn’t be worse for all the clubs across the country. We are getting into spring, and our club is right in the middle of the trail-building season,” Colvin said.
“We are just beat down,” he said.
Colvin said the group has constructed just under 11 miles of trails at Marion Sansom Park since they started in 2006 and just over 10 miles at Gateway Park. The trails at Gateway Park are incomplete.
Youngblood said the city would be responsible for maintenance of the trails while the club is uninsured, but did not know if the city could help with insurance premiums.
A great partnership
Richard Zavala, director of parks and community services, said they appreciate the organization notifying them of their lapse in insurance and said that when they are able to show proof of insurance again, the agreement will go back into effect.
“It has been a great partnership over the last couple of years. They have done a lot of trial development and take it very seriously,” Zavala said.
“I would fully expect them to address it [the insurance problem] in the near future, because they have such a commitment to the whole project and the appropriate stewardship of the trails,” Zavala said.
The email notifying the city was also uploaded to the association’s forum to notify club members and residents of the canceled work day and other club activities.