From: Cerena Childress
Subject: Letter and Website
Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2002 10:19:15 -0700
Dear Responsible Trail Managers, Concerned Community Members for Safe Trails,
We at SafeTrails.net were touched by this letter received today. Please see what you think.
Before you read, we would like to invite you to visit our fledgling website, http://www.SafeTrails.net
Thank you so much for your thoughtful care and support.
Dear Forest Services folks,
I'm writing to you because I understand that currently there are talks
going on about the hiker/biker issue on our local trails here in Santa
Barbara. I want to give you my opinions because I'm not involved in those
talks, but the issue is still important to me. I'm not sure which of you is
the appropriate person to receive this, so I'm writing to all of you.
I run a popular web site on hiking in town and have had a number of
discussions with people who visit my web site on this issues, some of whom
are avid bikers. I also volunteer leading hikes for the Sierra Club. I
don't ride a mountain bike very often, but I have. Biking is a little bit
above my physical abilities so I stick to hiking. I grew up in Santa
Barbara and have lived here all my life. I've hiked our local trails ever
since I was a child.
One of the terms that I keep hearing is the idea of "Shared Use." I haven't
been able to find any official definition of that term, but I don't think
that it really can exist when some of the people on our trails are capable
of killing some of the others. Even when bikers are as polite as can be
they are ruining my ability to use the trails in a manner conducive to the
essence of my activity of choice, which is hiking. Even when there aren't
any bikers on the trail on the days that I'm using them they are still
ruining my enjoyment of hiking because their presence is evident
I like to hike the trails lost in thought. Sometimes I bring a tripod and
camera and take close-ups of flowers or other small things. I like to see
the birds and the lizards and have nice conversations with my friends. The
other day I was hiking along the West Fork of Cold Spring Trail and heard a
rushing sound. I've hiked this trail a million times, but I froze when I
heard that sound. I thought there was a mountain biker around the corner.
But it turned out to be that pipe on the trail and the sound of running
water in it. Same thing also happened on Tunnel trail the other day. I
heard a rustling sound and froze in fear, heart pounding. It turned out to
be not a biker careening around the corner but just a bird in a bush. The
bikers are making me so jumpy that I can't even enjoy the trails when they
aren't even there. In other words, bikers are now defining the experience
of our trails to such a profound extent that they need not even be present
to affect my ability to enjoy the trails.
Another thing that is really bothering me about all the bikes is all the
damage I see. I know that all our trails are very eroded because they get
so much use all the time, but some of them are starting to resemble race
tracks more than trails. It's really scary hiking trails like Tunnel and
Cold Springs because all the twists and turns are now banked like a racing
track. I end up feeling like I'm trespassing on a biker motocross track.
It takes a lot of force and speed to mold the foot bed into banked curves.
Plus now there is all this orange spray paint and places where the bikers
are cutting the switchbacks right through the middle, and there's even an
oak tree near the main Cold Springs trail where the bikers have cut some of
the branches -- some branches over 6" in diameter -- so that they can do
jumps over the tree into the trail below. On Jesusita trail we found a spot
where the bikers cut the brush so that they could cut two switchbacks
straight down. The switchbacks on lower Cold Springs are all cut as well.
It's really getting out of hand.
I have had several near hits from bikes on the trails where I had to jump
over the side of the trail. I could feel their T-shirts and the rush of
wind as they went by. I tried to tell them to watch out but they got
extremely belligerent. I was afraid they would beat me up. On one occasion
the bikers waited for me at the bottom of the trail in order to tell me
off. On another occasion, a couple of them threatened to beat up an 80+
year old man in our group! I'm a woman and don't want any trouble,
especially from violent, angry men like that. Not all bikers are so rude,
but even the polite ones seem to be artificially polite while they are
skidding to a stop in a cloud of dust right in front of you. You know we
hikers are just an obstacle in their way.
I'm afraid that the bikers are winning out and that hiking will go the way
of horseback riding. Nobody horseback rides these trails anymore. I used to
see them when I was a kid, but I can't remember when was the last time I've
seen a horse on our local trails. There was a recent letter in the Sierra
Club Condor Call newspaper from a biker who was saying that since they are
so young and strong and do so much trail work that we should welcome them.
I am wondering when being young and strong and doing a bunch of trail work
became a prerequisite of being able to use the trails? I pay for the
Adventure Pass, pay my taxes, but now do I have to prove myself deserving
enough to gain admittance to a peaceful walk in the woods by doing a bunch
of heavy labor that only the strong can do? And then what do I get? I get
to walk on a racetrack in fear for my life?
When do I get my use in this Shared Use policy? When do I get to walk lost
in thought? When do I get to set up my tripod and do some macro
photography? When do I get to do some bird-watching? Meditation? You have
no idea what hiking has meant to me, where it has taken me throughout my
life. I fear I'm losing an important part of my life to these machines and
these younger, stronger men. All I ask is that there be some place left for
somebody like me to go that is peaceful, natural and safe. When you
reevaluate your Shared Use policy and determine who can use our trails,
please make sure that there is a place for me to have my shared use.
Because sharing trails with bikes isn't Shared Use at all. It's just me
"hiking at my own risk" -- trespassing is what it feels like -- on a bike
Thank you for listening,
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Live deep, Stand tall! Now is the time!
Cerena Childress, Founder, SafeTrails.net