Flathead Area Mountain Bikers, in conjunction with the City of Whitefish and Whitefish Legacy Partners, is working towards legitimizing the Spencer Mountain area to ensure that the trails on Spencer will stay open and will be properly maintained. FAMB’s work on the Spencer trails has been years in the making, and we’re not done yet!
You’ll start to notice some changes at Spencer in the near future. Signs will be appearing, and on-the-ground changes will start showing up. Here’s everything you wanted to know about the process and where we’re going from here:
You’ve probably noticed some changes at Spencer and more changes are yet to come! Even though the trails are officially “open” the work is far from complete! Here’s everything you wanted to know about the process and where we’re going from here:
Great news on funding this project!
We are thrilled to announce that FAMB was awarded a $25,000 grant from the 2015 Recreational Trails Program (RTP). Thanks to this funding, we will be able to fund the needed trail work, install all of the proper signage and fix the parking lot once the logging is complete. This funding was awarded through Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.
What can I do to help?
We’d love to have your help! There’s a lot of trail work to be done, and there is a substantial cost associated with this project. Even with the RTP grant in place, your financial support is critical to the project’s success, and every dollar donated is greatly appreciated.
There’s also plenty of opportunities for you to get out and get your hands dirty. The more help we have, the quicker we can get everything up and running and in great shape! Watch for trail days on FAMB’s calendar, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to find out what you can do.
Is this part of the Whitefish Trail?
The freeride trails at the north end of Spencer are separate from the Whitefish Trail, but this project is done in conjunction with Whitefish Legacy Partners (the organization behind the Whitefish Trail). In addition to FAMB's improvements on the Freeride trails, Whitefish Legacy Partners has licensed an 8 mile connector loop that circumnavigates the Spencer Mountain area and will be an extension of the Whitefish Trail. As part of that project, ¾ mile of new trail was built to complete the singletrack loop, offering great views and access. This portion of the Whitefish Trail will open late summer 2015. You can learn more about that project (and ways you can help!) at www.WhitefishLegacy.org.
Why is this happening? Why not just leave it the way it was?
The trails at Spencer were, up until very recently, unauthorized. Especially because of the jumps, drops, and other trail features, this put the DNRC in a difficult position. The DNRC recognized that these were popular trails, but there were concerns about liability and resource damage (among other concerns). The easy option for DNRC would have been to simply decommission the trails and tear down the features. Fortunately, the DNRC and FAMB, along with the City of Whitefish and Whitefish Legacy Partners were able to work past this and find a way to make sure the trails (and features) could stay. These groups have entered into a cooperative agreement, and the trails at Spencer are now licensed for public use for the next ten years (through 2024), as long as the agreed-upon requirements in the license are followed.
Additionally, the signs help make this area a bit more user friendly – maps and trail descriptions will be placed at the trailheads and at key intersections. This will also help minimize user conflicts, as non-riders will know where to expect to find bikes.
Are there going to be any new trails?
We’re trying not to count our chickens before they hatch, but we’re working on gaining approval for some additional trails. More on that to come…
Why are some trails still closed?
Some of the trails on Spencer are temporarily closed while they’re being worked on. Right now, we’re primarily waiting for logging operations to be completed before we rebuild any other features (like those on Malice).
Over time, some trails may need additional work, so from time to time, trails might be temporarily closed while that work is happening. We ask that you respect all closures while we work on the trails.
Want the trails open earlier? We need your help! Contact us at email@example.com to see what you can do. We need both financial assistance as well as help digging!
I’ve been riding and building at Spencer for years and I’d rather keep doing my own thing and building my own trails.
Please don’t. Finding a way to keep the trails at Spencer has been a long process, involving a lot of time and work from a lot of different people from a number of different organizations. While this project means that Spencer is no longer the trail building free-for-all that it once was, this is the only way to make sure that Spencer will continue to exist in the future. People that continue to do their own thing jeopardize the whole project and risk having everything at Spencer torn down.
We recognize that a lot of people have put in lots of time building and maintaining the trails at Spencer over the years – these people made Spencer what it is. If you want to make sure the trails are built and maintained the way you like, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to make it happen.
What’s going to happen to the jumps / drops / features?
The short answer: the features are staying.
The long answer: we’ve adopted a set of guidelines, and in the future, all features will need to comply with those guidelines. As of right now, all features on the open trails are in compliance. Many of the features on the trails that are still closed will be rebuilt after logging operations are completed.
What about ______, which is my favorite trail / jump / drop / feature?
Have some particular part of Spencer that you want to make sure stays awesome? Let us know! Email us at email@example.com and tell us what you want to see stay the same, or what you want to be different. We’ll do what we can to keep everyone happy!
Does this mean that all of the trails are going to be really easy (or really hard)?
No. For the time being, the plan is to keep the difficulty level of each trail the same as it is right now. So Malice will still have large features. Maple Syrup will still be mostly natural without any big jumps. And Otter Pop will still be a flow trail with easy ride-arounds. The rest of the trails will be similar; each trail will have a rating (green, blue, black, double black), and features on each trail will be built and maintained in accordance with those ratings.
What’s the deal with the logging that’s happening?
In case you hadn’t already noticed, Spencer is getting logged. Spencer is a portion of State Trust lands that is specifically designated for long-term timber management. As of Summer, 2015, logging operations are mostly completed on the southern portion of Spencer. Logging will continue on the northern portion of Spencer (near the twin bridges trailhead) over the next winter. Some of the trails are partially (or wholly) outside of the area being logged, so not everything will be impacted. For the trails that do fall within the areas being logged, we have worked with the DNRC to minimize impacts on the trails (however impacts will inevitably happen). Once the logging is completed, we will assess the situation and start making repairs as needed.
Who owns the land?
Spencer Mountain is owned by the State of Montana, held in trust for the benefit of specific schools and institutions (Montana School for the Deaf and Blind and Montana Tech). The Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) is the agency that manages these lands for the benefit of the trusts. DNRC’s goal is to manage the state of Montana’s trust land resources to produce revenue for the trust beneficiaries while considering environmental factors and protecting the future income generating capacity of the land.
Do I need a Montana State Land Recreation Use Permit at Spencer?
Not if you are recreating on the trails specifically authorized for public use. Part of the Licensing fee for Spencer includes a public access permit for those trails. As long as you are on the designated Spencer freeride trails or within the Whitefish Trail system (including Lion Mtn., Beaver area, etc.), you do not need an individual permit. If you leave these system trail corridors to go explore, you are outside of the licensed area and therefore need a permit. If you need a permit, we recommend going to Sportsman’s Ski Haus in either Whitefish or Kalispell.
What’s the deal with the parking lot?
Portions of the old parking lot by the lake needed to be blocked off to protect the ecological buffer around the stream and Spencer Lake. There is now ample parking in the new upper parking lot by the kiosk. Please nose-in your vehicle while parking instead of parallel parking to maximize the number of vehicles that can fit in the parking lot.
Why were some trails decommissioned and destroyed?
There were a few small segments of trail that were decommissioned and closed permanently. The most noticeable of these is probably the short skidder trail that went straight up from the Twin Bridges trailhead. There’s a variety of reasons for these closures, including limitation of ecological harm, safety issues, and limiting access to unauthorized vehicles. Our hope is that these closures ultimately will have a minimal impact on Spencer.
Why are there horses at Spencer? Isn’t it just for bikes?
Mountain bikes aren’t the only user group at Spencer – Spencer is State land and everyone has an equal right to be out there. When you’re out at Spencer, expect to come across hikers, dogs and horses. When you do, be polite! When encountering a horse, talk to the rider and yield to the horse. Horses spook easily so it is best to dismount your bike on the downhill side of the trail. When in doubt, ask the rider of the horse. *Please note: Spencer is closed to motorized use.*
Preserving and advancing mountain bike activities in the Flathead Valley.