As COVID-19 swept the globe, mountain bikers in Fredericton and other local areas were looking for trails a little closer to home that would quench their desire to ride. Then, they stumbled upon something hidden away in Minto, New Brunswick.
In 2012, Sean Morrissy – a doctor practicing out of Minto – started searching for land to build a singletrack mountain biking trail. He worked in Minto for 20 years and decided that he wanted to build some trails to ride on the way home from work. He discovered that, like a lot of central New Brunswick, the land behind his practice had been mined for coal, much of it using a dragline.
“…this bizarre landscape of long ridges of overburden that were removed by the dragline to expose the seam of coal underneath was inadvertently the perfect terrain for singletrack mountain biking,” said Morrissy. “I built four kilometres of trail that was supposed to be just for myself, but it was so good that I had to tell my friends about it.”
The following year in 2013, he summoned more of his friends for help, and they expanded the trail another four kilometres, having no idea what would come in the future. It was simply an idea to create singletrack mountain bike trails to ride on. But this original idea grew into something much bigger.
Two years after the private four-kilometre trail had been built, Mountain Bike Minto was created and became a non-profit organization.
“I love having the opportunity to use the trails cost-free,” said Alex Livingston, a UNB student and Minto native. “The trails are amazing and the cuts and trees give a beautiful backdrop. Definitely a great spot for cardio enthusiasts and nature-lovers alike.”
Currently, Morrissy and Mountain Bike Minto are undergoing their tenth year of operation, now with 42 kilometres of trail. Morrissy has held events such as mountain bike races, winter races, and the newest installation being a campground for bikers located at the trailhead.
“What we do and what we hope to do continues to evolve. People thought we were crazy when we said this could be one of the best places to go mountain biking in the Maritimes. And here we are. And it’s only getting better,” said Morrissy.
When asked about the effect the trails have had on the small and quiet community of Minto, Morrissy feels the easily accessible, positive, and healthy activity is something that the Village of Minto can be proud of.
“People now have access to an activity where you get great exercise but you’re so busy trying not to get killed that you don’t even realize you’re getting exercise. Or you can hike [the trails] and not feel so much in danger,” said Morrissy.
“I think places like this should be promoted more often for sure. A lot of people suffer in this country from lack of physical activity. I would like to see a lot of other places follow this, at least for kids because being physically active is key for a healthy life,” said Livingston. Minto isn’t more than an hour’s drive from Fredericton, making the trails very accessible and appealing to adventurous and outdoor-oriented UNB and STU students.
When asked about any future endeavours, Morrissy said the evolution of Mountain Bike Minto is important – noting the small but steady uptake of younger bikers. He hopes to create a future program with the local Minto Elementary and Middle Schools that would enable young, less fortunate students to get on a bike and ride.