BOONE, NC (BRAIN)—When Specialized approved a Dealer Grant application supporting a Boone, North Carolina mountain bike park, the review board had no hint of the scale of funding their contribution would lead to.
Much to the delight of the project’s advocates, however, the $5,000 grant was quickly leveraged to attract over a half-million dollars of public funding towards the development of Rocky Knob Park through a 131-acre parcel of land just east of town, according to a press release.
The Dealer Grant, contributed through Specialized dealer Boone Bike and Touring, was immediately matched by the Bikes Belong Foundation. The combined funds commit the Watuga County Tourism Development Authority to completing an access road, parking area and Phase 1 of trail development, which broke ground on June 2, by the end of this Summer.
“In addition to $5k from Specialized and $5k from Bikes Belong Foundation, on Friday, May 7 the State of North Carolina awarded the county $500,000 for Rocky Knob Park,” said Eric Woolridge, AICP outdoor recreation planner in a letter to Specialized.
“I attribute this success to the broad support Rocky Knob received from local government, nonprofit organizations, grant foundations, and private business. Specialized should celebrate; their contribution helped leverage significant funding for this project," he added.
The additional $500,000 grant from the North Carolina Parks and Recreation Trust Fund will assist with the acquisition and development for Rocky Knob Park into a local destination for mountain bikers who have, to date, had to travel long distances to ride on legal trails.
“When we first launched the Dealer Grant Program in November, we knew that the grants we were giving out would do great things. The application process is designed to partner Specialized dealers and cycling advocates with projects that will make the most of the opportunities we are giving them,” said Ian Dewar, Specialized advocacy and partnerships manager.
“You always hope for the best with new programs," he added. "Being the first year, we had no idea what to expect…but really, in our wildest dreams, we could never have thought $5,000 could become over $500,000. I’d say that’s a pretty good return on investment for mountain bikes in Boone. Specialized is really honored to be a part of the Rocky Knob Park project, as well as the over 65 other projects we have funded this year.”
Renowned for its natural beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities, Boone has been featured in Outside and National Geographic Adventure magazines, yet mountain biking opportunities remain sparse.
With three state parks and over 10,000 acres of National Park Service land, there are no legal mountain bike trails in the Boone community. The nearest mountain biking trails are nearly one hour away on unmarked U.S. Forest Service trails or 40 minutes away at an Army Corp managed reservoir.
The 185-acre Rocky Knob Park is located just east of Boone with access from Scenic Byway US 421. By its completion in Fall 2011, the park will contain 10-12 miles of trail for biking, hiking, and XC skiing, three shelters and multiple picnicking areas. In partnership with the WCTDA, Watauga County purchased an adjoining 45-acre tract last December to provide users easy access to the trails.
The Specialized Dealer Grant program, launched November 1, 2009, has partnered with Specialized dealers across the U.S. to infuse $150,000 to grassroots efforts targeting four silos of bicycle advocacy: Wellness on Bikes, Youth on Bikes, Access for Bikes and Bikes as Sustainable Transportation. To date, these funds have been used to help bring over $1,100,000 to local bicycle advocacy efforts across the country–a figure that increases daily.
The program is committing close to $300,000 to the Dealer Grant Program starting July, 2010 through June 2011.