August 7, 2004

Dear Board Member Wieskamp,

I am deeply troubled to learn that the East Bay Regional

Park District's Board of Directors is yielding to pressure

from the mountain biking lobby to allow bicycles on a

limited number of its trails. Here, in Marin County, where

this aggressive, destructive sport began mountain bikes

have never been allowed on hiking trails. In an effort to

be fair and accommodating, mountain cyclists were given

access to approximately 100 miles of the fire protection

roads that lace our state parks, open space district, and

water district. The consequences of that ill-fated decision

have been disastrous!

Once the bikes were allowed on the fire roads, cyclists immediately

ran amok, riding on every hiking trail and bridle path. Collisions

and near-misses among cyclists, and between cyclists and equestrians,

and cyclists and hikers were unavoidable and became commonplace.

I, myself, was struck and seriously injured by a group of mountain

bikers plunging down a steep, narrow trail. Avoiding consequences

for the act, they sped off, leaving me alone a mile and a half from the

trail head, seriously bleeding with a badly lacerated foot. Accidents

to equestrians sometimes resulted in serious injury as riders were

thrown from their mounts, and horses fleeing in panic endangered

others traveling on foot.

Once that unfortunate decision was made expectations of a pleasant

day in the quietude of the natural environment became a thing of the

past. Park visitors were obliged to enter trails in a state of anxiety,

on the lookout for the next unexpected cyclist, clad in helmet and

body armor, that might come speeding through. Heated altercations

between cyclists and other park visitors became a regular occurrence

as mountain bikers in pursuit of thrills, chills, and spills became

frustrated when other trail users were either unwilling or unable

to get out of their way.

The problem eventually exploded to mammoth proportions. Speed

limits were imposed cyclists disregarded them. Signs were

posted to mark restricted trails cyclists defaced or destroyed

them. Hikers reminded cyclists that hiking trails were closed to

mountain bikes cyclists initially responded by feigning ignorance,

eventually they simply ignored them. Rangers issued citations to

violators cyclists accepted the fines as the reasonable price of

admission for a thrilling experience, much like a ticket for a

roller coaster ride. Trees and vegetation were destroyed by cyclists

who, contemptuous of park management, built their own trails.

Park rangers trying to enforce the law were assaulted by cyclists,

one incident resulting in a squad car pursuit by local police and

the county sheriff's department through the streets of Fairfax. In

the end, land managers were forced to realize that enforcement

was impossible as thousands of cyclists descended on their parks

and overwhelmed their staff.

To this day the unhappy consequences of the decision to allow

mountain bikes into Marin's parks and open spaces, even on a

restricted basis, remain with us. Insatiable in their appetite,

mountain bike enthusiasts remain dissatisfied with the

concessions made for their benefit and militantly campaign

to gain access to every trail, no matter how narrow or steep.

I count myself among the many who, finding the parks now

to be such a hostile and unpleasant environment, no longer

come to enjoy them as often as I once had. Where I used to

hike virtually every weekend, I now hike but once or twice

a year, preferably during the foulest of weather in an effort

to avoid ugly encounters.

 

I appreciate that the mission of the East Bay Regional

Park District is to provide recreation for the people of

the East Bay, but it is important to appreciate that it

is impossible to accommodate the advocates of mountain

biking without doing so at the expense of the parks

themselves, and those others who come to enjoy them.

Mountain bikes simply are not appropriate for use on trails;

they are altogether incompatible with other park uses.

I earnestly implore you to reconsider allowing them off

pavement and onto your trails. Through bitter experience

we have learned that once out of the bottle, this ill-tempered

genie will give you nothing but trouble and you won't be

able to get him back in.

Sincerely,

Frank Lurz