Mammoth Cave National Park Finalizes Rule To Designate Trails For Mountain Bikes

Four trails in Mammoth Cave National Park will officially be open to mountain bikers beginning October 12, barring a reversal by regional National Park Service officials.

That decision, roughly four years in coming, will allow mountain bikes on a new Connector Trail in the vicinity of Maple Springs, a new Big Hollow Trail in the hilly country of the park north of the Green River, the Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike & Hike Trail, and the White Oak Trail.

Nearly 3,000 comments were received on the park's plan, and just one opposed mountain biking in the park, according to Mammoth Cave officials.

However, concerns were raised over allowing mountain bikes in an area of the park that had been considered for wilderness designation back in 1974; that while the Park Service is charged with providing for the public's "enjoyment" of the parks, "the NPS Organic Act does not authorize any and all forms of outdoor recreation under the rubric of 'enjoyment.' Mountain bicycling on single-track trails in park backcountry is a highly suspect form of 'enjoyment' which may not be consistent with the purpose of national parks and of Mammoth Cave," and; that the Park Service should spend money maintaining its current trail system in the park before building new trails.

At the same time, many comments in favor of mountain biking in Mammoth Cave and elsewhere in the National Park System were also received.

"Significant health benefits can be derived from bicycling and trail users at the park would benefit from enhanced outdoor recreational opportunities and access. Bicycling is a low impact, healthy, safe activity which should be encouraged in our parks," read one comment. "Biking fights obesity and nature deficit disorder, providing additional opportunities to exercise and better quality of life. The First Lady's 'Let's Move!' campaign specifically addresses these problems and biking is a significant part of the solution. Bicycle routes create another method of exercise and opportunity to enjoy the park, create high quality recreational experiences, and add significant value to park resources."

Mammoth Cave officials say the final rule, which can be found at this website, puts in place "portions of the park's Comprehensive Trail Management Plan and satisfies National Park Service general regulations that require a special regulation be promulgated to allow off-road bicycle use on routes outside of developed areas."

Comments

I just spent last weekend in Mammoth Cave. The trails there are already a disgrace. They could be wonderful if they weren't so beaten to death. The park allows horses, and then doesn't do any maintenence so the horse trails turn into mud bogs. I can only imagine allowing bicycles will only deepen the ruts and make a scarred situation worse.

There are plenty of government lands in the region which are not National Parks. Any of these would have made a much better choice rather than worsening an already bad situation.

Why not let ATV's and off road motorized dirt bikes into the park while you're at it? Mountain bikes are more like motocross dirt bikes than just "bicycles". They do more damage because once they get their foot in the door, mountain bikers abuse the trails as much as an ATVer, or motorized dirt biker will do. The decision to include mountain bikes is careless and irresponsible! It is completely ignorant decision making for such a valuable park that was created for protection.

Shame on you! Your job is to protect the natural world, not subject it to extreme sports like mountain biking!

Bicycles should not be allowed in any natural area. They are inanimate objects and have no rights. There is also no right to mountain bike. That was settled in federal court in 1994: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtb10.htm . It's dishonest of mountain bikers to say that they don't have access to trails closed to bikes. They have EXACTLY the same access as everyone else -- ON FOOT! Why isn't that good enough for mountain bikers? They are all capable of walking....

A favorite myth of mountain bikers is that mountain biking is no more harmful to wildlife, people, and the environment than hiking, and that science supports that view. Of course, it's not true. To settle the matter once and for all, I read all of the research they cited, and wrote a review of the research on mountain biking impacts (see http://mjvande.nfshost.com/scb7.htm ). I found that of the seven studies they cited, (1) all were written by mountain bikers, and (2) in every case, the authors misinterpreted their own data, in order to come to the conclusion that they favored. They also studiously avoided mentioning another scientific study (Wisdom et al) which did not favor mountain biking, and came to the opposite conclusions.

Those were all experimental studies. Two other studies (by White et al and by Jeff Marion) used a survey design, which is inherently incapable of answering that question (comparing hiking with mountain biking). I only mention them because mountain bikers often cite them, but scientifically, they are worthless.

Mountain biking accelerates erosion, creates V-shaped ruts, kills small animals and plants on and next to the trail, drives wildlife and other trail users out of the area, and, worst of all, teaches kids that the rough treatment of nature is okay (it's NOT!). What's good about THAT?

To see exactly what harm mountain biking does to the land, watch this 5-minute video: http://vimeo.com/48784297.

For more information: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtbfaq.htm .

If a bicycle is like an ATV, then that'd make a horse akin to a full size SUV in terms of impact. Lumping bicycles (a human powered activity, unlike horse riding) with ATVs is a silly comment, usually made by people who can't think of better reasons to oppose cycling.

What will actually happen is that MTBers will come in and repair the trails that haven't beem getting the maintenance they need from the self-entitled environmental lobby.

Mike,

The arguments you present in your MTB FAQ are so poorly constructed that I cannot tell if it is serious or in jest. Judging by the lengths you go to bash mountain biking and mountain bikers (big difference there) I suppose you are earnest in your writing. Let's break this down.

You begin by attacking the types of experiences that you assume mountain bikers seek, and their differences with your own experiences. Your analysis reeks of a whiny child who refuses to share a toy with a schoolmate. Perhaps you should step outside your own value system and respect that others seek experiences in the wilderness that are different, albeit no less valid, than those you seek yourself. At any rate, prefacing your argument against mountain biking with this petty and childish nonsense immediately calls into question the validity of any subsequent claims you make, regardless of their veracity.

You do make some valid points about the potential of erosion caused by biking on poorly designed trails and after heavy rains. ANY trail that is not built sustainably has the potential for accelerated erosion, regardless of method of travel. Also, mountain bikers in general are quite sensative to the real damage that can be done to trails immediately following precipitation. As such, we tend to avoid riding in those conditions. Naturally there are those who do not share this respect and/or are unaware of the consequences of their actions, but the same can be said of backcountry travelers on foot as well. Human ignorance is consistent whether wearing hiking boots or rolling on knobby tires. Also, I find it confounding that you attack mountain bikes so ferociously yet ignore the equivalent, and generally more intense impacts of equestrian travel on trails, especially after heavy precipitation.

To say that mountain biking causes more damage to plants and animals than other trail uses is also a stretch. I and any of the hundreds of bikers that I have ridden with would get off their bikes to avoid running over a snake or any other creature. An you neglect that not all hikers may share your high and mighty respect for our slithering friends. A human on foot is just as capable of killing a snake (they are pretty threatening to some folks) as a human on two wheels. The plant life along most trails in the eastern hardwood forests I ride in consists mainly of invasive species from years of human travel by horse, bike and yes FOOT. The fact is that the bare earth and change in microclimate and radiation balance caused by most trails serve to increase the likelihood of introducing invasive species whose seeds or spores may travel with you on your clothes, dog, horse, pack, etc. So really, we all have the potential for negative impacts to plant communities in the areas we travel to. Maybe we should ban hikers too.

Mike, to be honest you seem to dedicate great amounts of time and energy towards eliminating mountain bike use on public lands when you and I both know that that will never happen. Maybe you have some personal vendetta against mountain bikers. Maybe your wife left you for one...I dunno, but your campagin seems very spiteful.

Perhaps it would be more constructive to partner with reposnsible off road cyclists to advocate for common interests such as sustainable trail development, education about when, where and how to ride that seeks the least environmental damage, and greater public awareness about the need to preserve and protect our public lands from interests much more degrading than mountain biking (energy exploration, logging, etc). We all share a love of natural areas, we just choose to experience them in different ways. Why can't we all just get along?

DJ

Louisville, KY