New mountain biking trails under construction in southern Utah

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HURRICANE, Utah -- Tourism directors in southern Utah say more people are taking up mountain biking and the construction of new trails is just one way cities are tapping into the year-round industry.

The parking lots at the Quail Creek Trailhead can typically be seen filled with cars. Even on a weekday people are mountain biking through the miles of trail surrounding Hurricane.

The St George Tourism office estimates 350 single- and double-track trails wind through Washington County. It’s a growing sport in the area and can bring in thousands of people.

“As a mountain biking destination, this area is now one of the best,” said Kevin Lewis, director of sports marketing for the St. George Area Tourism Office. “Our unique landscape and desert climate are perfect for year-round riding.”

To add to the mountain biking buzz, Hurricane City is sponsoring a project to improve the trails around Quail Creek reservoir. Project supervisor Quentin Morrisete said the improvements will help make the trial network more accessible.

“[The work will ensure] It doesn’t get washed out. It doesn’t get rutted out,” Morrisette said. “You’re not seeing the water taking the trail away, digging a big deep trench so it’s not a visible scar from far away.”

The work is being done by a group of 11 AmeriCorps volunteers. The young men and women have come from all over the country to lend their hands. The majority of the work is clearing rocks and widening the path, making it more sustainable. The group is also using engineering to make sure there is proper drainage and smooth riding.

“We’re building these to help preserve the land -- to help keep the land from being developed,” said AmeriCorps volunteer Kevin Beebe.

If the city were to do this work themselves, it could cost hundreds of dollars per mile. This way they get it done for free, and they get the added benefit of improving the trails for a growing recreation.

Morisette is also owner of Over the Edge bike shop in Hurricane. He said he’s seen the growth in mountain biking as a recreational sport firsthand, and it’s exciting to see people come to southern Utah over more popular spots like Moab.

“To see more shops, more bike shops coming in to southern Utah, and more recreation opportunities in southern Utah is great,” Morrisette said.

The AmeriCorps volunteers are about three-fourths of the way through their project.