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."