Rocky Mountain National Park Seeking Input On Proposal To Open Short Trail To Mountain Bikes

Public input is being sought on an environmental assessment that examines a proposal to open a 2-mile-long trail at Rocky Mountain National Park to mountain bikes.

Talk of opening a short section of hiking and equestrian trail known as the East Shore Trail on the west side of the park to mountain bikes has been kicked around since 2006. In August 2011, the Grand County (Colorado) commissioners wrote to the director of the National Park Service's Intermountain Region asking that a two-mile section of the East Shore Trail be approved for mountain bike use.

The East Shore Trail runs roughly parallel to the east shore of Shadow Mountain Lake, which is located near the town of Grand Lake, Colorado.

Two public hearings on the draft EA have been scheduled: The first on February 11, at 7 p.m., at the Grand Lake Fire Station located at 201 West Portal Road in Grand Lake. The second meeting will be held on Monday, February 24, at 7:15 p.m. at the Alfalfa's Market Community Room located at 1651 Broadway in Boulder. Parking is available at the Boulder Public Library across the street.

Two alternatives are analyzed in the EA:

Alternative A – No Action / Continue Current Management: The Park Service would manage the East Shore Trail as it is currently. Pedestrian use would continue to be allowed along the entire two-mile section of trail and livestock use would continue to be allowed on the East Shore Trail north of its intersection with the Ranger Meadows Trail. The use of bicycles would not be permitted anywhere on the trail within the park.

Alternative B – Allow Bicycle Use with Minor Trail Modifications: This alternative proposes minor improvements to a two-mile portion of the East Shore Trail within the national park to accommodate bicycle use and other existing trail uses. The proposed improvements include construction of a short reroute of the trail for the purposes of improving public safety, trail sustainability, and to avoid impacts to natural and cultural resources. A number of management strategies are included in this alternative to avoid conflicts among users.

Park staff welcome comments on this project. The EA is now available for public review and comment for 45 days. Comments must be received in writing by close of business on March 3.

You can find the document at this website.

Comments

Not a good mix!

Mountain/trail biking is lots of fun and great exercise. But not such a good mix with pedestrians and/or horses.

Unless the trail is flat, wide and open (boring!) you need to ride at some speed just to stay upright. So you are coming up a hill, there's a blind curve, you're going at least a moderate speed and as you come around the curve, there's a horse. Or a toddler bent over looking at a bug. Or an out-of-shape hiker who stopped to catch his breath. This is not likely to play out well.

I live near Palo Duro Canyon in Texas. Several years ago, the park opened the Lighthouse Trail to bikers. We spent our entire hike dodging bikers who came flying over hills, up out of draws, etc. And I'm not picking on them -- they were trail biking, for pete's sake, not on a sedate bike path in some city park! Needless to say, we don't hike that trail anymore.

In some places, equestrian clubs have worked with parks to develop riding trails exclusively for horses (and usually pedestrian hikers, too.) I bet bicycle clubs would be happy to do the same for specialized bike trails. That way the trail could incorporate some of the features mountain bikers like best (which are sometimes the ones hikers/riders like least!!!).

I agree with parks accomodating many different interests but sometimes they can't all happen in the exact same spot!

Since mountain bikers are all capable of walking, and since mountain bikes are very destructive of parks and wildlife, bikes should be restricted to paved roads. 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 1996: 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. In addition to all of this, it is extremely dangerous: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtb_dangerous.htm . For more information: http://mjvande.nfshost.com/mtbfaq.htm .

So, what was the outcome?

I lived in Sun Valley Idaho for a long time. I spent a lot of time around mountain biking culture, and yes, a lot of mountain bikers were very much into the outdoors. I don't disaree that they are outdoor seekers. Mountain bikers can use a majority of the trails in that region, just like most national forest and BLM lands. They were only banned from entering private land, and the Sawtooth wilderness. I wasn't much of a mountain biker, since i have a plate in my leg from a rock scrambling accident, but I still have respect and think they should have parts of the forest service lands and BLM lands open to them.

Mountain Bikers always claim that they can "see more than your average hiker". I dont' think mountain biking allows one to see more than someone walking. I actually disagree with that. A lot of people in cars would than claim to see way more than even mountain bikers. Edward Abbey's Desert Solitare very much touched on this issue. To them people claim to see more by the mileage they do, but until they get their hands down and dirty and touch the earth, and "smell the flowers", and watch the birds interact with it all you still are missing out. I actually see little wildlife when I drive around. I find the best way to see and document wildlife behavior is when you are silently sitting in the woods/deserts/mountains, and being aware of your surroundings, and watching things start to happen.

Problem I have with mountain biking in our National parks, and Wilderness areas is that it starts to overstep some critical boundaries. What these mountain biking clubs don't seem to get is that when you introduce mountain bikers these areas can be quickly overtaken, almost instantly by our technology, which goes against the wilderness act. Granted the spot they want to make a bike trail in RMNP is not part of the wilerness. To me, mountain bikes over time are like unleashing 5000 wild boars into a system and they do root up, and defoliate many spots. Many areas around the front country of our national parks have this problem with just hikers. I've been on so many trails where people have crisscrossed over switch backs, and destroyed vegetation, and denuded the environment because they want the "quickest way" to the viewpoint. Mountain Bikers do the same thing, only WORSE, and there are less of them doing it than the thousands of hikers on a popular NP trail. I've seen so many places in Sun Valley where there's 5000 different pathways leading to the same place. If only two people are doing that a year, you won't notice it, if it's 20 then it's going to have more of an impact, if it's thousands then there will be a new trail in a season..They've crushed sage brush, pretty much destroyed alpine meadow areas, and have changed habitat in many spots.

I look at a lot of terrain where bike races where permitted, and corporate sponsors like red bull, go pro etc have mountain biking races, and these areas are highly denuded areas. Our National parks and wilderness areas should not become like that... Resource management already spends a lot of time trying to protect the trails from new switchbacks, and crushing fragile soils, etc. Add mountain bikes to the mix, and it expediates the process.