Stay tuned for our 2019 Dedication Announcement! We will raise a pint on Saturday, October 12th at 6:45p on the Main Stage.
2018 Dedication Tim Scott – OG MTB in the Oz
The inaugural Oz Trails Off-Road is dedicated to Tim Scott, a 38-year veteran of Arkansas State Parks and co-founder of the Ozark Mountain Bike Festival, recently celebrating its 30th anniversary in April. Scott has been instrumental in bringing the sport of mountain biking to Arkansas, starting in the late 1980s when most land managers weren’t sure what to think about this new form of recreation.
There’s been a lot of national press in the last five years about the incredible growth of mountain bike trails and culture in Northwest Arkansas, but most people don’t realize that, thanks to Scott’s support as a land manager, The Natural State was one of the early adopters of mountain biking when the sport was still in its infancy.
Employed by Arkansas State Parks since 1980, today Scott is Assistant Superintendent for Devil’s Den State Park, located 50 miles south of Bentonville. Devil’s Den was the first of 52 parks in the state park network to build trails specifically for mountain bikes, and Scott served a critical role in welcoming the new sport into public lands management at a time when other parts of the country were banning mountain bikes.
“In 1986 we started seeing mountain bikes popping up in our park, and my boss at the time thought the hilly, rocky topography of Devil’s Den would be perfect for mountain biking, so he put me in charge of doing research,” said Scott.
Scott recalls reading articles by Mountain Bike Hall of Fame journalist and founder of Mountain Bike Magazine, Hank Barlow, who focused a lot of his writing on environmental advocacy, responsible trail use and the challenges land managers faced with this new form of recreation.
“Through our own research and reading what Hank wrote, we discovered the biggest problem we might face was user conflict between hikers, bikers and equestrians,” said Scott. “We figured this was a problem that could be easily overcome, so we started pursuing mountain bike use within Devil’s Den.”
Another part of Scott’s research involved getting himself a Schwinn Sierra mountain bike to ride, as well as attending the 1988 Fat Tire Bike Week in Crested Butte, Colorado with his boss at the time and colleague in promoting mountain biking, Wally Scherrey.
“State Parks didn’t have much funding back then, but we got permission to attend the event in Crested Butte,” said Scott. “We drove a State Parks van and received just enough money for gas and camping. It was an incredible week that gave us so many ideas for our own mountain bike festival in Arkansas.”
The inaugural Ozark Mountain Bike Festival was held in 1989, and through promotion of bike shops across the southeast, 120 racers showed up. The event incorporated many elements of the Crested Butte event, including guided rides, bike limbo, trials, log pull, bike toss, slow race, bunnyhop contest, bike polo, and later, a Big Splash contest, where folks would ride full speed down the hill into a creek. Today the Ozark Mountain Bike Festival still attracts hundreds of riders, focused on bringing beginner mountain bikers into the sport.
The success of the event and the open-mindedness of welcoming a new trail user into public lands resulted in Devil’s Den becoming the success case for other Arkansas State Parks to build and promote multi-use mountain bike trails. By the late 1990s, the sport expanded thanks to the creation of advocacy groups like Ozark Off-Road Cyclists and Friends of Arkansas Singletrack. And once the Slaughter Pen trails came into existence shortly thereafter, followed by the enormous financial support of the Walton Family Foundation, mountain biking in Northwest Arkansas took off in ways nobody could have imagined.
“I’m just fortunate enough to have worked for an agency that wanted to promote mountain biking,” said Scott.
“I haven’t been riding as much as I’d like to, so I better start practicing and get ready!”
Raise a pint to Tim Scott Saturday, October 6th at 6:45p on the Main Stage.