Letter to the Editor: Pickett
September 21, 2012
To the Editor:
This is in response to the National Park Service seeking public comments regarding the allowance of bicycles on the East Shore Trail between the East Shore Trailhead and Shadow Mountain Dam. Although my primary home is in Texas, I live part-time in Fraser. I frequently use the trails in Grand County and Rocky Mountain National Park for hiking, mountain biking, and snowshoeing where those activities are allowed. I consider myself to be a practical conservationist and have spent many days as a volunteer for the Continental Divide Trail Alliance building trails in Grand County and other areas of Colorado.
One consideration in use of trails by mountain bikes is the potential for damage to the environment. I believe that mountain bikes do cause some damage to trails, but in my experience the damage is no worse than damage caused by hikers. The damage I have seen is typically in locations that collect water, and the mud gets churned up by bikes. However, I have seen as extensive damage caused by hikers on trails where bikes are not allowed, and the hikers and horses make repeated paths around the mud holes trampling the nearby vegetation, etc. In my opinion, mountain bikers don’t cause any more total harm to the environment than do “low impact” hikers and horses. Good trail design can help reduce the amount of environmental damage caused by all trail users.
Many hikers and mountain bikers are from two entirely different “cultures,” with each group disliking the other group. Bridging those cultural differences is key to allowing both hiking and biking activities on the same trail. Thus, I think user conflict is the primary challenge to be overcome, and education of both groups is an important ingredient in overcoming that conflict. On occasion when hiking, I have been startled by bikers, but I’ve also been startled by large dogs who came up to sniff my butt when hikers did not have the dogs on leash. There are discourteous people in both groups of users, and education can help inform people of proper trail etiquette. Hikers need to know how to allow horses to pass, bikers need to be courteous and announce their approach in plenty of time to avoid startling hikers, etc. As a compromise, maybe the trail could be restricted to use by hikers only on certain days of the week. Good trail design with adequate sight distance and avoidance of sharp turns can also help reduce user conflict.
There is no reason for hikers and mountain bikers to be opposed to each other when they can join forces and cooperate to create a trail that causes minimal damage to the environment and is enjoyed by everyone. In conclusion, I think the East Shore Trail should be open to mountain bikers as well as hikers.
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Fraser and Tyler, Texas
Editor’s note: The public comment period for the East Shore Trail ends Sept. 30. For more information, visit parkplanning.nps.gov/romo.