Updated: Big Bend National Park Proposing To Cut Mountain Bike Trail, PEER, NPS Retirees Raise Objections

Big Bend's Lone Mountain would be circled with a hiking and biking
trail under a proposed Centennial Initiative project. Photo by Jeff
Blaylock, used with permission.

The very purpose and role of national parks is being drawn into question over a proposal by Big Bend National Park officials to cut a dual-use mountain bike trail into a hillside near Panther Junction.

In some aspects, the proposal underscores the gist of a Traveler column from last month, one in which we broached the subject of the popularity of having a national park nearby but the often-resulting opposition to many of the rules and regulations -- and even restrictions -- that come with such an entity on the landscape.

At the heart of the issue, as opponents to the mountain bike trail note, is the role national parks were created and the mandate given the National Park Service to manage them. While public enjoyment and recreation are certainly key to the parks, resource management is foremost the role of the Park Service.

Against that mandate, questions are being raised over whether Big Bend officials are holding to that mandate, or bending over to placate a special interest group that already has more than 300 miles of mountain biking opportunities in the park.

Big Bend officials are preparing an environmental assessment into a roughly 10-mile-long network of trails that would be cut into an undeveloped part of the park. Part of the project would include parking for a trailhead and a picnic area near the Panther Junction Visitor Center, and a second trailhead near Grapevine Hills Road.

While the park describes this trail as an added recreational outlet for park visitors, members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees see it as little more than a "promotion of the mountain bike industry" and a move that facilitates "the regrettable trend toward parks becoming venues for extreme sports."

This project did not arise overnight. Indeed, back in 2007 it was seen as a "centennial project" by Interior officials under the George W. Bush administration. Back then, the International Mountain Bicycling Association was a strong proponent, and had promised to come up with half of the $12,000 cost then estimated for the project.

The proposed loop trail would start near the visitor center at Panther Junction, cross the Chihuahuan desert and wrap Lone Mountain while providing sweeping views of the Chisos Mountains, the southern-most mountain range in the country.

While Big Bend officials say the trail is simply another recreational outlet for park visitors, they do note that it's part of a deal IMBA struck with the National Park Service years ago to explore more mountain biking in the park system.

The purpose of the proposed project is to provide park visitors a trail-based recreational opportunity in an area of the park where none currently exists. The proposed action is in keeping with a 2002 Memorandum of Agreement between NPS and the International Mountain Biking Association that encouraged identifying mountain biking opportunities in the national parks, including new trail construction in appropriate areas. The primary objectives of the proposal are to: 1) create new recreational opportunities for park visitors, and 2) provide a trail-based recreational opportunity in the vicinity of Panther Junction.

That arrangement with IMBA is part of the issue cited by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility in their objections.

"The project is a collaboration between the south Texas national park and a private mountain biking group, raising disturbing “pay-to-play” questions about user groups carving out park lands for special purposes," the group said in comments it filed with the Park Service.

Most of the backcountry trail would be single-track – approximately the width of a bike, with one-way traffic moving counter clockwise. Horses would be barred from the trail.

“Big Bend calls this a ‘multi-use’ trail but it is clearly designed for high-speed, high-thrill biking. Any hikers foolish enough to venture on this path risk tread marks across their backs,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting that the EA dryly concedes “some visitors might not enjoy their experience sharing the proposed trail with mountain bikers.”

“We are not anti-mountain biking," said Mr. Ruch, "but are concerned that scarce public dollars may be diverted to promote exclusionary recreation scratched out of national park backcountry.”

In their comments on the proposal, members of the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees said Big Bend officials seem to be "pursuing an agenda not supported by law, policy and common sense."

"The mountain bike trail construction proposal for Big Bend NP raises serious questions regarding the purpose of National Parks. Through law, Congress and the courts have clearly established that resource protection must always come before visitor enjoyment," Rick Smith, who chairs the coalition's executive committee, wrote to the park. "While there may often be a tug of war between those who place enjoyment first and those who place preservation first, the law clearly states which of the interests has priority.

"Further, NPS Policies articulate this legal precedence into coherent direction for the agency to place resource protection as the primary role of the agency in managing our parks," he added. "In the case of this EA we believe that single-track mountain biking may be enjoyable for the participants but we do not believe it is necessary or appropriate for experiencing the value and purposes for which national parks are set aside by Congress and construction of a single use trail certainly does not conform to the resource protection deference over public enjoyment the park must honor."

Carving this stretch of bike trail, wrote Mr. Smith, "provides no additional means of appreciating park wilderness beyond that available on existing backcountry roads, particularly on roads with very low speeds and levels of vehicular traffic."

"There is nothing about single-track mountain biking that adds a unique opportunity to appreciate the natural and cultural resources of this national park. On the contrary, the rough, rocky terrain combined with hazardous vegetation detracts from that opportunity. In addition there are hundreds of miles of single track opportunities on nearby private and state lands where mountain biking is being actively welcomed and promoted."

PEER's other concerns include:

* This would be the first trail constructed from scratch on undeveloped park land to accommodate mountain bicycles. A pending rule change, also supported by IMBA would open millions of acres of national park backcountry, including recommended wilderness, to mountain bike trails;

* Big Bend already has 200 miles of trails and roads open to mountain biking and there are another 900 miles of bike-accessible trails and roads on state and private lands surrounding Big Bend;

* This trail would be expensive to maintain and vulnerable to high erosion. Yet Big Bend, like other national parks, has a sizeable backlog of maintenance needs on existing facilities, and;

* While the proposed trail is not in designated wilderness, the project would likely preclude the land from ever being designating as wilderness.

“The plan at Big Bend is without precedent in the national park system,” added Mr. Ruch, who is urging members of the public to send comments to Big Bend National Park before the comment period on the park's Environmental Assessment runs out April 2. “This is part of the steady degradation of our parks into settings for thrill sports rather than preserves for enjoyment of natural and cultural features.”

Currently, bicycles are allowed on park roads, dirt or paved, as well as on trails in developed areas, such as the South Rim Village at the Grand Canyon. Backcountry trails are generally reserved for hikers and horseback riders. IMBA began its campaign to gain access to national parks trails in 2002.

A copy of the park's environmental assessment is attached below. To voice your opinion on this project, head to this site.

AttachmentSize
BIBE-Mountain Bike EA.pdf1.01 MB

Comments

Lee Dalton, Hope we're ok. You sound like one of the good guys.
Lots of people see things differently. Strange that we all love the same places and no doubt want to preserve them in for all to enjoy. But, it is unfortunate that we see enjoying them in different ways and cannot understand our brothers point of view. It should be so simple. I don't understand it.

Ron

Ron perfect description.

We have many multi-use trails here in Colorado and I have found most mountain bikers to be courteous and responsibile. I don't see any major problems with devoting a single trail in a major park to a quiet, non-polluting, low-impact use. Pack animals are allowed on most park trails, even in wilderness areas, and their impact is high. Statistics show that less and less young people are visiting our national parks. A marque, single-track mountain bike trail in each of our large national parks could reverse that trend.

Ron, I just stumbled on to this. I'm guessing your note was posted to the wrong page.

Your keyboard must be like mine -- the keys keep jumping around while I'm trying to type.

Yup. I'm okay and hope you are too. You're right, it's difficult not to be passionate about things we care for. I'm trying hard to keep my passion in check but don't always succeed. That, and it's been a long winter here in Utah --- even when we have the best skiing on earth.

Time to get out to some wild place and try to clear my head.

Lee,
I 'Half' envie you and understand about clearing your head. Used to make annual trip in February to Big Sky for a week. Man what a difference that made. Cleared that head right up and gave us a reason to look forward to winter (which is hard to do on the east coast). I call the obx Gods Country but you have a bunch of them out west. The obx is one half and you got the other. Lost a great friend a few years ago and lost a lot more because of that. Cecile and I keep talking about a trip out there and we will some day do just that. So many reasons to say 'not right now', maybe that won't go on for ever. Do me a favor and make a run down a hill for me if you get a chance.
Glad we could talk like this.

Ron

Ron, what the heck is an "obx?"

Oh ----- gee, Google is sure handy. Obx = Outer Banks? Sounds like something the Federal Aviation Administration dreamed up.

I don't mean to rub it in, but Beaver Mountain received 16 inches of new powder last night.
It's a small family owned ski area northeast of Logan, and one of the few that are still affordable -- at least for a retired old coot.

Let them build the trail - if we continue to limit activities that the 18-24 demographic enjoy - we continue to diminish the importance of National Parks in the future. The old guard (PEER) that perfers to create obstructions to enjoying public land are the people that need to enjoy their retirement. Its hard to imagine having a good time on a mtn bike in a area like Big Bend when your toy as a child was a hoop and a stick.

PEER demonstrates again and again that they hate mountain bikes. Their reasoning is illogical. It's the usual window dressing of the "we really don't like to share".

Zebulon,

You could erase PEER and "mountain bikes" in your post and insert IMBA and "wilderness," and your post would make as much sense.

"if we continue to limit activities that the 18-24 demographic enjoy - we continue to diminish the importance of National Parks in the future."

If we go with this line of reasoning, then the parks will be destroyed in the next hundred years. Why not provide more educational opportunities to our youth about the merits of the NPS and more outdoor education that will promote stewardship? We do not need to accomodate the up coming generations every whim, we need to educate them and get them outside away from the TV and X-Box (by the way I am not retired or over 40). Mtn biking is a great outdoor opportunity and should be available to those whose seek it. But building more trails, of any kind really, does not make sense when the parks can maintain the trails they already have.

Lee, again I feel envy. Slopes would probably be good for another old coot such as I.
By the way, to give you a contrast, on peak of Lone Mountain,as you know, you can see four states. On the OBX you can stand in the middle and throw a rock in the ocean and in the sound from the same spot and about all you can see is the OBX. But, it has it's own beauty and the kids and grandkids love it. Let me know if you get out this way.

Ron

As to the bike trail, sounds like something the kids would love and I'm for anything they can do that does not involve looking at a screen, pushing buttons or yanking on a joy stick. I have to wonder what some people did as kids. To me, trees and hills were for climbing, wether on foot or a bike. Built strong bodies and had fun at the same time. Should encourage it, not discourage it. My thoughts.

Regarding PEER's criticism, here's IMBA's perspective (I'm the communications director).
1) The proposed trail has been specifically designed to create a model for shared hike/bike use. Rather than a "high-speed roller-coaster" or whatever fear-mongering phrase PEER used, the design incorporates good lines of sight, speed-controling features for bikes and gentle grades.
2) IMBA has donated design time, build time (pending approval) and funds for the EA associated with this trail. This is a low-cost addition for Big Bend NP and will enhance the visitor experience, much to the benefit of the park and local businesses. It won't just be a model for trail design, but also for how mountain bikers can partner with national parks to introduce new resources and new visitors.
3) Dozens of NPS properties around the nation already offer singletrack mountain biking. This summer, a the New River Gorge National River, more than 1,000 IMBA-trained Boy Scouts will build more than 15 miles of shared-use trail.

Excuse me, Mark E of IMBA - can you please name the "dozens of NPS properties around the nation [that] already offer singletrack mountain biking?"

Randy Thompson's Ghost said:"Let them build the trail - if we continue to limit activities that the 18-24 demographic enjoy - we continue to diminish the importance of National Parks in the future."

However, "Big Bend already has 200 miles of trails and roads open to mountain biking and there are another 900 miles of bike-accessible trails and roads on state and private lands surrounding Big Bend." Why would this new trail be the one that makes the 18-24 year-olds suddenly come out to the parks? I think Ryan's points above are good ones.

Here's the list of NPS units with mountain biking..
http://www.imba.com/nps-trails-roads

This seems like cherry picking. Check out Yosemite, and there are too many people and cars and improperly constructed (limiting) bridges which increase flooding potential, and no one is making a stink on how that place is being impacted, which is strange, since the mtn bike tail is so tiny in comparison.

I'm not sure why the number of NPS units allowing singletrack is relevant here. I'm concerened about the precedence this trail creates for adjudicating similar proposals in the future, particularly with regard to . . .

"This would be the first trail constructed from scratch on undeveloped park land to accommodate mountain bicycles. A pending rule change, also supported by IMBA would open millions of acres of national park backcountry, including recommended wilderness, to mountain bike trails"

and

"While the proposed trail is not in designated wilderness, the project would likely preclude the land from ever being designating as wilderness."

especially given that

" Big Bend already has 200 miles of trails and roads open to mountain biking and there are another 900 miles of bike-accessible trails and roads on state and private lands surrounding Big Bend."

Big Bend national park has oodles of dirt roads open for biking, but very little in the way of singletrack and the type of riding that mountain bikers prize.
The park also features expansive amounts of wilderness. Park staff have not expressed any concern that this trail will impede plans to add additional wilderness, nor has pro-wilderness groups so far as I'm aware.
The bottom line is that IMBA is not interested in adding mountain biking to all NPS units — just the ones that express an interest in working with us. It's not a good fit for every trail, but there are places in the NPS where we believe mountain biking will be an asset. Our goal is to create successful models, working closely with park staff, to set the stage for improved opportunities for mountain biking, per IMBA's partnership agreement with the NPS.

Justin, you're not big on sharing, are you?

Maybe we should simply reallow bikes in wilderness, like they were originally intended to be (google Ted Stroll for back up data) and that would really solve all our problems.

Kurt, How about you writing an article requesting "class action" comments.

Group A: Please list all the things you would like to construct and do in some of our National Parks.

Group B: Please tell Group A why they can't.

Could probably knock out a lot of birds with one stone. Dang, I didn't mean to say that. How do you erase stuff with this machine.

Oh well you get my point.

Happy Trails to you,
Ron

You think Roy Rogers knew how close He came to not having a career. How in the heck did he get by riding Trigger that fast all over the place, Bullet running without a leash, and that Jeep, Nellie Bell. And sky King flying and Landing that plane everywhere.
I wonder where we get the notion that those things would be fun to do. And why in the hell would anyone expect to be able to do them on or over National Park property. Who ever told them that property belongs to them anyway. God knows, this is becoming a mess.

Zebulon,

I'm not sure I follow your post.

What makes you suggest I'm not "big on sharing"?

"Intended" by whom?

Mark, I'm afraid your very first sentence explained IMBA's entire motivation:

Big Bend national park has oodles of dirt roads open for biking, but very little in the way of singletrack and the type of riding that mountain bikers prize.

Is this really about enjoying/appreciating the national parks for what they were created for and which the National Park Service is mandated to manage for, or about finding more single-track terrain to "prize", for more thrills?

And that's what's potentially wrong with the Big Bend proposal. Does it really look to give folks another way to enjoy the national parks, or does it simply seek to give mountain bikers another trail for seeking thrills?

Those who oppose this sort of use of national parks aren't elistists. In my opinion, they simply seek to see these landscapes preserved for future generations and not opened for each and every recreational avenue that various groups support and lobby for...and which in the end degrade the parks.

Big Bend is the perfect example of where there are myriad opportunities for mountain biking, both within and surrounding the park, without having to cut additional trails simply to create "the type of riding that mountain bikers prize."

Indeed, are serious mountain bikers really going to seek out a mere 10-mile-long trail? I wouldn't. Too short. But if this trail goes in, how long before extensions are requested?

I have mixed feelings about mountain bikes in the park, but there are some false and misleading arguments by PEER that are repeated as fact in this article. Read the actual EA...

"Big Bend already has 200 miles of trails and roads open to mountain biking" - FALSE. Read the actual EA: "Bicycles are currently allowed only on existing paved and unpaved roads within the Park according to requirements of 36 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 4.30.There are NO trails in Big Bend open to mountain biking.

"While the proposed trail is not in designated wilderness, the project
would likely preclude the land from ever being designating as wilderness" - MISLEADING. Read the actual EA: "At Big Bend, 538,000 acres were recommended to Congress for wilderness designation in 1978.
Until congress acts upon the 1978 recommendation, in keeping with NPS Policies, the park
manages recommended wilderness as though it were designated wilderness. The project is in the southern portion of a tract of land between Park Route 11 and the Grapevine Hills Road, and south of upper Tornillo Creek that was not included in the 1978 Wilderness Recommendation." There is no designated wilderness in BBNP (unfortunately) but the area involved was not proposed as wilderness in 1978 for other reasons and long before mountain biking became an issue.

Kurt,

Your argument is interesting and is in line with what you wrote before. It's true that 10 miles of trail, in and of itself, is not much, but it sure beats nothing. Furthermore, it'll serve as a test ground to see whether it works or not. From there, the goal should be to increase that mileage to make it more interesting. A narrow single track that's well designed will definitely not hurt the landscape and will probably be much less of an eyesore than the current 200 miles of paved and unpaved roads.

I like how you try to paint mountain bikers as thrill seekers with no respect for nature. Reality is that mountain biking is a real fun outdoor activity (way more fun than hiking in my opinion), but I don't see where it says in the NPS bible that fun should be banned from the parks. It seems to me that a lot of the anti mountain biking movement has to do that these hikers can't stand the fact that somebody is out there having fun pedaling in nature instead of walking along in a state of constant contemplation.

Frankly, this is the same old same old. The PEER bike haters come out against the project with lame if not downright misleading arguments to cover the fact that they just don't want to share "their" enjoyment of a public park with other types of users. They should really be ashamed of themselves.

Kurt, you're right: "The very purpose and role of national parks is being drawn into question" by this initiative. The question is whether the national parks are going to continue to slide into national irrelevance, with a few iconic places visited by hordes in Winnebagos and the backcountry seen mainly on televisions and computer screens. That's the vision the PEER graybeards have for the national parks, and it would mean the slow death of them aside from a few Disneylandesque venues. I read part of the exhaustive 93-page Environmental Assessment, a document so elaborate that it amounts to a full Environmental Impact Statement, and it's plain that the NPS is beginning to reject the crabbed vision shared by PEER and other devotees of stasis and inevitable decline. Good for the NPS. I'll be sending the park superintendent a letter in support of Big Bend's planned alternative.

imtbke,

I think you're overstating the "irrelevance" of the backcountry. Plenty of the backcountry requires reservations to be made months in advance in order to secure a campsite. Besides, would it really still be backcountry wilderness with mountain bikes zipping through it? Especially once a precident is established for building trails in backcountry areas proposed for wilderness designation?

Like most groups the mountain bike fraternity is it's own worst enemy. In too many places single track biking is about adrenaline rushes and racing. If you question that just look at the various websites. This is not to dispute that many mountain bikers love the natural world as much as any hiker. The ATV crowd always says it is just a few bad apples that create a bad impression and the same can be said of mountain bikers. But when there is pressure to create a multitude of trails including illegal ones in parks around the country, and hikers and horsebackers are often frightened on narrow trails,there is an understandable backlash. Big Bend NP is far from the crowds near big cities, and by itself the proposed trail in undisturbed country is relatively innocuous. So much so that one of the local promoters told me it will not attract many mountain bikers. Even the draft EA says something similar. But the main question is why do it when there is so much single track available in the larger Big Bend area. And what is wrong with rough dirt roads with very little vehicular traffic? Perhaps it is because it doesn't provide the adrenaline rushes so many seek.

Justinh,

You're right, of course, that such areas exist. I don't know that plenty of such areas do. But indeed I may be, as you argue, overstating the point. Most national park units are small enough that the backcountry is accessible by the 19th century means (on foot and the backs of large mammals) that the graybeards insist on imposing on everyone else. To the extent people are still willing to use those means, they will remain at least modestly popular.

My comment, now that I reflect on it, applies better to the National Wilderness Preservation System. Through agency misinterpretations of the Wilderness Act, which have gotten to the point that staff can't use a wheelbarrow or a chainsaw to maintain a trail, the vast wilderness landholdings have become inaccessible enough that their hold on people's imagination (outside of the fervent wilderness lobby and perhaps a small cohort of over-60 Caucasians who backpacked in it circa 1970) has got to be waning. I don't think anyone can dispute that much wilderness is essentially unvisited, its trails disappearing and its appeal to all but the foregoing tiny bands rather minimal. That's not good for wilderness or today's sedentary youth. (Not that Wilderness has to be cleaned up and groomed for mass visitation, of course.)

So I think your point is well-taken, but I also think that I've fairly characterized the essential issue, which is whether the national parks are going to have a future or not. The PEER approach will lead to a dead end.

imtnbke,

Even the largest parks are accessible by foot and horseback, which is the point of backpacking through preserved wilderness. I'm not sure I follow your charaterization that hiking or horseback riding can be "imposed" on people.

The real point of disagreement seems to be over what to do with wilderness. What I hear you saying is 1) that because not enough of it is being visited, we might as well open it to mountain biking 2) and if it were open to mountain biking, its characteristics as wilderness wouldn't be especially marred by this.

I disagree with 1 and 2. But of course there may not be a right answer here (apart from legal issues)--just different values. (Incidentally, I happen to be a pretty avid mountain biker as well as a backpacker.)

Zeb,

Mark from IMBA made quite clear that mountain bikers prefer thrills. I was simply reiterating his words to get that point across. And I don't believe I wrote that mountain bikers have no respect for nature. That was your inference.

But really, if challenging single track is the "prize" mountain bikers are seeking, as Mark stated, does it matter what the landscape is? And as you make clear, this isn't about a 10-mile stretch of trail, this is about a much, much longer network threaded through the park(s).

Imtnbk, the parks will slide into irrelevance if they are overrun by any and all recreational pursuits simply for the sake of those pursuits and not for the sake of what they were intended to preserve.

P.S. -- As for the 93-page EA amounting to a full-blown EIS, ask the folks at Cape Hatteras or Grand Canyon. Their EISes on ORVs on Hatteras and overflights at Grand Canyon were well more than seven times that long.

I have one question though it may not be in the format it should...

In the original formation of the national parks what was the intended mode of transportation to allow the people to visit and see the parks?

Seeing how some of the first issues with the NPS was that it catered only to the rich who could... "A" get time off work, "B" afford to travel the great distances to get to the parks, and "C" afford the accomodations that were built there.

Kurt, let me assure you that this trail won't constitute a thrillride — that's not the intent of the design. You paint mountain biking with an awfully broad brush, as if riding singletrack is all about speed and thrills, and cycling on dirt roads is necessarily slow and cautious. Not so. The Big Bend trail will be designed so beginner and intermediate mountain bikers can enjoy it at modest speeds, with plenty of opportunity to enjoy the scenery and react to other trail users. It's true that more advanced riders may not be drawn to this trail — they'll likely take a lap on it and decide that it's too beginner-friendly for them. That's okay — they'll find plenty of opportunity to charge Big Bend's rugged dirt roads at higher speeds (though under the posted speed limits, of course).

Believe it or not, riding a bicycle on a trail can provide the same opportunities to observe and interact with the natural world that hiking does. A narrow trail brings the cyclist that much closer to the natural environment — more so that riding on a dirt road. (Do you like to hike on roads? I didn't think so.) Foot travel doesn't automatically create a contemplative experience either — we've all met hikers who seem more focused on the mileage they're covering than their surroundings. When I trail run (which I enjoy frequently) it's sometimes more of an athletic challenge than a nature-based experience. That's okay, I can take a leisurely lap of the same trail on my mountain bike afterwards and soak in the natural beauty of the trail.

The point is that adding a small amount of well-desiged, shared-use trail at Big Bend might be a good thing. I hope we get the chance to try it!

"Maybe we should simply reallow bikes in wilderness, like they were originally intended to be (google Ted Stroll for back up data) and that would really solve all our problems."

This is a tired argument and the wilderness act clearly prohibits any sort of mechanized modes of transportation in wilderness. Along these lines , the the wildness act also clearly states that managers will use the minumum tool necessary to manage wilderness, thus unless you can point to a good reason to have a wheel barrow, or a chainsaw, it is not allowed. The reason wilderness exisits is to give the American people an opportunity to get away from the overly mechanized society we live in (again, this is clearly stated in the wilderness act). However, this issue is not about wilderness.

I still am blown away about how ostracized hiking on two feet has become, when did this happen? Why is it that those that would prefer to be in a natural environment and relying on their own two feet are now the "bad guy", that is really weird to me. Matt, you make a valid point about who the parks were established for, and I am sure there were many extraneous influneces that shaped the parks. One of the first NPS directors was all about building lodges and partnering with the railroads to bring the well to do out to Wyoming. BUT, that was 100 years ago, and I am sure you will not agree with me, but many of those intial uses were contradictory to the organic act, and that if we do not make the parks exceptions to modern mechinization, we will lose them, it is happening all over the world with parks being decommissioned.

One more quick point, I still 100% disagree with the parks losing relevancy because we will not let everyone do whatever they want. Mtn bikes have their place, just like hiking, or canoeing, or horseback riding. But the use needs to be in line with the reason the parks were established. To retain relevancy with the upcoming generation, as I said above, is not about allowing them to mtn bike, or use 4-wheelers, or segways, or hover-cars...we need to shift our thinking on the subject. What is popular now, will not be in 20 years, just as what was popular 20 years ago is not poular now. That is the beauty of the parks, they can be a bastion of sameness (as much sameness as one can have in a dynmaic environment). Get environmental education in the classrooms. Tell the lawyers to let teachers take kids on field trips again...these are the things that will keep the parks relevant!!!!

Kurt- "Mark from IMBA made quite clear that mountain bikers prefer thrills." = FALSE and MISLEADING
Mark said "singletrack and the type of riding that mountain bikers prize" equating singletrack riding to "thrills"/freeriding/DH or any other label you want for the more aggressive types of mountain biking is the is the same as compareing hiking to mountaineering or rock climbing. They are totally different disciplines.
Some mountain biking is about thrills and speed. The trail design and terrain define the type of riding and this terrain and these trails are not the thrills & speed variaty. These trails are the kind that would allow my dad (63 and a biologist) to take my boys(9&7) out and teach them about the natural world but making more fun than a forced march.
I respect that you see things differently than we mountain bikers do, but please do not twist our words or try to flavor all mountain biking as Mtn. Dew.

Not sure why we're conflating wilderness with this proposal in Big Bend. Park staff, IMBA and conservation groups agree that the part of the park where this trail will be built should not be designated as wilderness.

"BUT, that was 100 years ago"

To this minute roads and trails are being cut into the national park systems to service whomever is in need. So you can remove the "was" from that statement.

"This is a tired argument and the wilderness act clearly prohibits any sort of mechanized modes of transportation in wilderness."

Please understand that this is a silly statement as there is every type of mechanized form of access available and in use by the NPS and visitors alike. So if this statement were true then I guess we can throw the book at any and all who enjoy the park.

Still looking for an answer to my previous questions and copping out with that was then is unacceptable as these laws and alegislations everyone quotes in just as old and outdated.

I am beginning to look at these issues with the National Parks from a different perspective.
We consistantly read 'You shouldn't be allowed to do this because the law says this or the original intent was that or it's environmentally this or that. With a few exceptions, If those were my motivation, I doubt I would bother to comment. What would be the point, everyone already knows that stuff from reading the articles. So what is the real reason for many of these comments. I contend that it is simply 'I don't want you to do that'. I would respect anyone that started their comment with that statement. I respect the people that tell you they are pro or con on an issue because it is the way THEY feel about it and not just give a multitude of reasons they read somewhere. All the laws, policies, intents and science associated with the parks can too often be interpreted to suit any given agenda. So, what is important to me is how do you feel about it. Thats what counts.

Ronnstral Woolf.

This is one of the biggest issues facing mountain bikers and our national parks. This confrontation will come to a head eventually, but we all need to be educated about the issues first. Here is some extra reading:
http://www.elevationoutdoors.com/blogs/master-of-none/another-round-in-the-fight-for-mtn-biking-in-boulder/
http://www.elevationoutdoors.com/current-issue/editors-letter/bike-to-be-wild/

Matt,

"Please understand that this is a silly statement as there is every type of mechanized form of access available and in use by the NPS and visitors alike. So if this statement were true then I guess we can throw the book at any and all who enjoy the park."

I was refering to wilderness, and no mechnical acces is provide for wilderness areas in the NPS, BLM, FS, USFW...and if you think different please point the way to your line of thinking so I can learn. But once again, this agrument is not about wilderness.

The point here is, do we need another intrusion into a park for one type of access (or any)? And roads are NOT being built all over the park system, and if they are built, they have to go through a lenghty, exhauastive NEPA process before a shovel ever sees dirt.

Please, PLEASE, understand that inflamatory remarks do no good. Do you know everything? I guess no. Do I, or anyone else on here know everything, no. But try and peice together some information to make an informed decison, and refrain from simple attacks on people you don't know...I'm just saying.

Wow really I guess "the Wilderness" is a different set of regulations... Please point out this specific set of regs and what defines "the Wilderness" so we may see where this is.

Disclaimer: This is not a personal attack in any way, but a simple question based on statements made that are unclear. Any harm done was unintentional and a take permit will be applied for.

Matt, simple, read the wilderness act:http://www.wilderness.net/index.cfm?fuse=NWPS&sec=legisAct

I see no problem with desginating certain trails as mountain bike friendly trails. I have never understood the the reason for preventing bikes on trails that you allow horses and pack stock on. Riding a bike on a trail disturbs the environment and wildlife about as much as hiking though the area. Responsible riders stay on the trails and follow guidelines as do responsible hikers and horseback riders. In certain parks livestock grazing is allowed but if you ride a bike through that area full of cow patties then you face a fine. The NPS is lacking common sense with mountainbiking and their policies. Hope one day they take off the blinders and realize that designating some trail, not all, for mountain biking will still allow them to protect the resource and allow for it's enjoyment for this and future generations.

Ryan,

I respectfully disagree. Mountain bikes are not outlawed by the 64 Act itself but by a reinterpretation of the Act by a federal agency. Ted Stroll did a thorough review of the subject (google it if you want) and proves the point I'm making. I understand that most wildernuts don't want to see a bike in "their" prized wilderness for whatever reason, but the law did not ban bikes.

We could go on at length on the subject, like we have before, but I would be arguing facts against emotions, and we know that it rarely gets us anywhere. :)

On a separate note, when I see that it takes 93 pages of study to open one lousy trail, I shake my head in disbelief. I would love to know how much money we're spending on these studies. No wonder our government can't get anything done without spending a ton of money.

“Big Bend calls this a ‘multi-use’ trail but it is clearly designed for high-speed, high-thrill biking. Any hikers foolish enough to venture on this path risk tread marks across their backs,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch

This remark is inflammatory and misleading, libelous even. I am a 38 year old female professional, liberal, nature-loving person who enjoys mountain biking and hiking as well as backpacking. The increase in recreational usage of nature (i.e. mountain biking) is only a good thing for preserving more of it for the future. It has far less impact to the natural environment than competing interests such as oil and gas exploration, motorized access, or even horseback riding. I stop for hikers, or give them wide berth if there is room to pass slowly, make eye contact, say hello. I am not some type of thrill seeker who would run over a person. If I ever did run into a hiker, (which I never have), I would get knocked off the bike and seriously injured as well. So aside from being socially responsible, there is self-interest to riding carefully in multi-use areas.

Mr. Ruch is not helping his cause by attempting to mislead the public with stereotypes about a diverse group of people. There are always bad apples, but you find them in any group of human beings. There are hikers who put dangerous booby traps on trails, litter, venture off trail, cut short cuts through switchbacks, or are just out there to check on their illegal pot grow. Google Mike Vandeman. However, I would never characterize ALL hikers as militants with intention to do harm, or pot growers or litterers. That would be just as illogical as Mr. Ruch's stereotype of mountain bikers.

Mountain bikers and IMBA could be a great resource that those like Mr. Ruch could be using to advance the worthy objective of securing more open land from development. His negative portrayal of mountain bikers is akin to skiers' portrayal of snowboarders in the early 90's. It is born of a conservative, snobbish attitude that doesn't adapt to the times, and shows an inability to share. The truth is that 30 lb. bikes on trails create a far lower impact than horseback riding on 2000 lb., steel shod fence post diggers, which is allowed in national parks.

“We are not anti-mountain biking," said Mr. Ruch,

lol!

"but are concerned that scarce public dollars may be diverted to promote exclusionary recreation scratched out of national park backcountry.”

The National Parks are currently promoting exclusionary recreation with my tax money by limiting them to those on foot or on horseback. Activities with impacts lower than horseback riding, such as responsbile cycling within reasonable limits, should be allowed.

IMBA has very high standards for trail construction that reduce the impact of erosion, and slow down bikers by avoiding straight paths down fall lines and using natural obstacles, and protect other trail users by improving sight lines. There is no substance to Mr. Ruch's incendiary ranting.

I keep saying this is not about wilderness but I feel the need to clear the air...
this is directly from the wilderness act:
"Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area."
I don't think it takes much interpretation to say that a bike is a form of mechanical transport. Really, I don't think that having a mtn bike or two in a wilderness area is all that big of a deal, but I feel people are warpping the law to meet there needs.
I read some of Mr. Stroll's work and he has interpreted the law through his eyes. Of course the law does not say Mtn bikes are prohibited, they did not exisit in 1964, thus the use of mechanized to be forward thinking.

You really should be careful when arguing about something you know very little about.

I have not seen one legitatmate reason for why the trail should not be created.

Unsubstatiated concern #1: We need to preserve the land
Response: Environmental scientists have studied the impact of Mountain Biking on trails and found that there is very little to no impact. Do you even know what "single-track" means? It is a trail the width of your bike tire. Hikers create wider tails than that. We're not talking about major construction or disruption of the wilderness.

Unsubstatiated concern #2: Mountain Biking is a dangerous extreme sport
Response: Mountain Biking is nothing more than hiking on wheels. You go a little faster being on wheels, but not much. After all, you are hopping over the logs and slowly climbing up steep hills (which is what makes it fun, why mountain bikers don't want to be on a road, and why it's such a healthy, strength-building activity). And mountain bikers enjoy the scenery while doing it just like hikers. Also, all existing shared-use trails have signs at the trail-heads reaffirming what we all already know and abide by: everyone else including hikers and horses have the right-of-way at all times.

Unsubstatiated concern #3: Big Bend can't handle the maintenance
Response: There isn't a whole lot that needs to be done to maintain single-track. Furthermore, IMBA and other groups typically schedule a maintenance day around spring time when unpaid volunteers come out to the trails to take care of maintenance needs.

If IMBA is paying a large portion, overseeing the entire project (and they really know what they are doing), will help with maintenance, and it won't hurt the land or bother other people then there is no reason why it shouldn't be done. Do your research before you argue and possibly take away such a great asset from innocent, nature- and bike-loving people.

Reading the posts on the mountain bike trail at Big Bend it is apparent that many are not aware of the major purpose of National Parks. Us old-timers rightly or wrongly have always thought they were special places seperate from National Forests and BLM lands. For example places where you didn't have to listen to barking dogs or encounter dogs running loose, or gunshots, or places where experiencing nature slowly and in it's natural quiet is one of a National Parks values. If they are no longer to be special places then I am glad I am old, and the young will never know what they missed.

Roger,

Nice post. Separate from National Recreation Areas, too.

Recreation area
http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online...ps/anps_5g.htm[/url]

POLICY ON THE ESTABLISHMENT AND ADMINISTRATION OF RECREATION AREAS

See the following examples from the council created by Executive order #11017, of April 27, 1962

#6 in primary criteria section... Read the last sentence again and again.

" Within National Recreation Areas, outdoor recreation shall be recognized as the dominant or primary resource management purpose. If additional natural resource utilization is carried on, such additional use shall be compatible with fulfilling the recreation mission, and none will be carried on that is significantly detrimental to it. "

Reading both the primary and secondary objective criteria I did not notice any mention about preserving anything but the ability to recreate!!!!!

Recreation area has zero to do with this argument, it is a national park, not a national recreation area...and regardless, if it is an NPS unit it still all boils down to the Organic Act which states that preservation is just, if not more, important than providing recreation...feel like I am hitting my head against a wall here...