Over the past 15 years, Ellicottville has gone from a large state forests with no singletrack trails to one of the best cycling destinations in the east. Mountain biking had always been popular at Holiday Valley since the early 90s, with the fall fest race starting at the beginning of that decade. But the riding there was just on dirt roads and downhill ski trails. While scenic, it was not very challenging (except for the vertical!) and didn't extend into the 6,000 acres of adjacent state forest.
In 1997, WNYMBA called up the Region 9 State Forester and asked if we could build some singletrack in the state forest and was promptly told “no”. Back in the 90's trail cyclists were seen as irresponsible outlaws who had no place in the forest. WNYMBA knew better and set out to prove that cycling could work in the state forests.
Our first step was to bring the IMBA trail crew to Western NY. 1997 was the inaugural year of the IMBA TCC, with Mike and Jan Riter kicking off this highly successful program. The TCC came to WNYMBA's Raccoon Rally that year to spread IMBA's message. Despite the fact that running the rally was the most taxing effort the club undertook each year, with us wanting to do nothing other than veg out by the end of the weekend, we scheduled a meeting with the State Foresters on the post-Rally Monday. That was a good idea!
The TCC presented the science and techniques behind sustainable trail construction to the DEC on a walk through some existing trails in the forest (the white trail, then closed to bicycles). The DEC was willing to listen us, if not yet actually build trails.
After some well attended attended trail maintenance events, and then later some “trial runs” at tucked-away state forests (Golden Hill and Nine Mile Creek), the DEC finally decided to give us a chance to prove ourselves in the forests behind Holiday Valley. The first trail, now known as Big Merlin, was constructed in 1999 and proved very popular, and after a few learning-curve fixes, showed that bicycling could be supported sustainably on state forest trails.
Following the success of Big Merlin, WNYMBA submitted more proposals each year for new trails. Each new trail route had to be vetted by the state forest prior to construction and inspected once constructed and subsequently used. Through this process, the trail system grew, eventually adding popular routes such as Mutton Hollow Trail, Porcupine, Yukon's Lunch, and Rim.
After demonstrating our commitment to sustainable trail construction and maintenance, the DEC opened the white trail for bicycles, one of the few locations in the state where this is allowed.
The TCC visited the state forests a total of four times in 1997, 1998, 2000, and with the IMBA epic weekend of 2002 when the Pale Ales were constructed. Recent additions include the spectacular Eagle Trail, and Rocky's Run.