February 18, 2003

Board of Directors

East Bay Regional Park District

2950 Peralta Oaks Court

P.O. Box 5381

Oakland, California 94605-0381

Re: Mountain Biking in Pleasanton Ridge Regional Park -- Three Years Later


I heard that mountain bikers will be doing trail maintenance on the Sinbad Creek Trail next Saturday, just as they did three years ago. So naturally I wanted to see why this has become necessary. Last Sunday I hiked that trail again. I was pleased to see that many of the illegal trails I reported to you three years ago have been marked "closed", and are in the process of being revegetated. The signs also warn the mountain bikers that if they fail to obey the rules, mountain biking could be banned from the park. Of course, they already knew that, and have known it for a long time. But who cares about rules, when you're having fun (and no rangers are in sight)?

As you will recall from my March 27, 2000 letter, mountain bikers were crisscrossing the park with illegal trails, riding off-trail, riding during wet conditions, riding through the creeks, and creating deep U- or V-shaped grooves that make the trails difficult and dangerous to walk on. Nothing has changed! I photographed tire tracks through the grass away from the trail, through a pile of gravel you imported to "improve" the trail, and through the creeks. (It may be a while before I can send you the photos, since I am only halfway through that roll.) It had rained the previous night, and there were long skid marks in the woods near the Shady Creek Trail.

Hiker-only trails (such as the Chaparral Trail in Augustin Bernal City Park) are flat, and easy to walk on! Most of the Sinbad Creek Trail (particularly its narrow, "singletrack" section) is so badly rutted by the bikers, that it is very difficult to walk on. Not only hikers, but even bikers are forced to go off-trail. None of it is flat.

In one section I noticed that you brought in a bunch of large, exotic rocks to try to keep the bikers in the trail. They stand out like a sore thumb, since they look like no other rocks in the park. You also imbedded a plastic matrix in that section of trail in a vain attempt to keep it from being damaged, and covered it with exotic gravel. Just as I predicted, all of the gravel covering the plastic has been eroded away, and the plastic itself is starting to wear away, polluting an otherwise natural park with particles of plastic!

Also, as I predicted, few people like walking or riding on plastic, so they are starting to go around it, causing further erosion. And the plastic must be dangerously slippery, when wet! In one place, the plastic has even sunk and tilted, making it impossible to ride or walk on it.

Near that section of the trail, I met a girl walking a dog. She didn't have a map, so I gave her mine. When I mentioned all the damage done by the bikers, she said "I can't get too mad, because I like to mountain bike, too". This is typical of mountain bikers: deny, deny, deny. Never "rat" on your fellow bikers. That is called "the Code of the Streets": criminals aren't supposed to tell on each other. If mountain biking is harming the park, just look the other way. Pretend that it is not a problem. Well, this attitude seems to have taken hold among Park District personnel, as well. Instead of admitting that bicycles are incompatible with the protection of the parks' resources, they pretend that the trail just isn't built well enough!

Well, you are right! Until the trail is paved, it will continue to deteriorate and need constant repairing. That is exactly why Yosemite National Park has insisted that bikes stick to pavement. You should do the same!

Another hiker I met said that he thought that the bikers should have separate trails, since their presence on the fire roads makes it very unpleasant and scary to hike there. But that is no solution: either you have to build many new trails for the bikers, destroying a lot more wildlife habitat (and the impact of people extends far from the trail!), or you have to take some trails away from the majority (hikers) and give them to a small minority (bikers), which is not fair to the hikers. Besides, have you noticed?: mountain bikers are never satisfied, no matter how many trails they have!

When are you going to face the truth?: bicycles and other vehicles belong on paved roads, as is the rule in Yosemite National Park! How many years do we have to wait, before you admit that "education", as a way of taming mountain bikers, simply doesn't work?!


Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.