Tourism is a major factor in the economy of Lincoln County. An important positive element in the future of tourism here just might be the new non-motorized mountain bike and hiking trail system being planned for Caliente by the International Mountain Bicycling Association in association with the BLM Caliente Field Office. Another public meeting was held this week on the subject at City Hall in Caliente.

Jon Prescott, Research Associate and BLM Caliente office mountain bike trails project manager, led the discussion among those who attended the meeting, which also included BLM Caliente field manager Chris Carlton, assistant manager Shirley Johnson, and IMBA Southwest regional director Patrick Kell.

Carlton said right now they are in the environmental analysis stage covering the planned 40-mile system. “We have a consensual plan for the trails and we need to analyze for any kind of resource conflicts.”

The meeting with the public at city hall was also to be a scoping meeting and taking of public comment.

BLM officials are strongly seeking more public involvement in developing the plans and the trail system itself, including recruiting additional volunteers.

Public comments, either written or oral, are being taken in a 30-day input period that ends Aug. 20.

Prescott said all interested persons may send their comments to the BLM Caliente Field Office in Caliente at P.O. Box 237, 89008, Attention: 2015 Trails Project. Or send a text to 775-726-8111, or an email to blm_nv_eydo_lctrails@blm.gov.

The trails, when completed, will be in and around the mountains of Caliente, and connect with the Kershaw-Ryan State Park and Barnes Canyon areas.

Kell said he thought groundbreaking might be in the fall of 2016 and possible opening of some trails in 2017.

Funding for the project is expected to come from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act. Carlton said BLM has put in a request to SNPLMA for $2 million, but will not hear officially until November, however he said he is quite confident. Other funding sources are also being pursued.

Discussion was also held on the fact that the system might have to be built in sections, primarily depending on the number of people who could help. Kell said it would likely depend a lot on how much has to be machine built and how much hand built.

What areas to focus on first, and what to prioritize is something BLM is looking for in the public comments.

Caliente City Mayor Stana Hurlburt said one trailhead will be at the Kershaw-Ryan Park, and the main one in Caliente will be at Super Park where the Little League field and community swimming pool are located. There are picnicking and restrooms facilities at both places, and she hopes a bike park can also be built at Super Park.

“This is a unique project,” Prescott said, “quite unprecedented in having the city, county, state parks and BLM all playing an active role in planning, deciding and building from the ground up. It’s a first.”

Kell suggested when the trails are completed, be it in stages, or all at once, it might be a fun idea to have the local school children name the trails, based on whatever criteria might be decided upon.

He also spoke some about the economic impact the trail system will likely have on the community as well as the County overall.

“Bikers,” he said, “are usually an affluent group. Their bikes may cost up to $7,000 apiece. A person on a day visit, spends on average, about $97. Overnight visitors, including food and lodging, on average spend about $227.”

Thus, local businesses will have to think about what they will need to do to increase their back stock of supplies, when necessary.

Kell estimated, at full completion of the system, it is possible Caliente could be hosting up to 30,000 visitors each year. He noted some other areas, smaller than this, already are doing that.

Others at the meeting, while in favor the trail bike system, expressed concern about the importance of maintaining the rural, small town feeling and atmosphere which Caliente has, and a continual influx of visitors might damage that.

Caliente City Councilman Victor Jones, said just such a question is so very important as to why more local input is needed.

Further public meetings will be announced later by the BLM as the process continues.