From: "info" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Philip Keyes is a liar
Date: Fri, 9 May 2003 06:08:10 -0400
Trail Runner Magazine
Re: article Trail angst, Tension grows at Boston sanctuary by Christine Matheson. (ARTICLE IN FULL BELOW)
Dear Trail Runner,
Christine Mathesonís article about growing tensions in the Middlesex Fells is an amazing clear demonstration of the lengths some mountain cyclists will go to in pursuit of continued and expanded trail access. If what Christine reports is true, then Philip Keyes - the executive director of the New England Mountain Association, is a liar.
"Keyes says NEMBA volunteers have pitched in about 20,000 man-hours of work at the Fells, even though mountain bikers only have access to one 6-mile loop"
20,000 man-hours. This is an enormous and completely fabricated lie, pure and simple. But I am not surprised. I have been hearing these grossly inflated figures about trail work in the Fells for years. Every time Mr. Keyes opens his mouth the number of man-hours increases dramatically Ė this despite the fact that NEMBA has been banned from doing trail work in the Fells for the past three years! Why is that? Because, according to park rangers who supervised NEMBA trail crews - little, if anything of value was ever accomplished during these bi-yearly events. This is understandable, considering these "events" typically involved a handful of inexperienced young people who worked for a few hours and then disappeared.
If one is familiar with the enormity of the trail erosion problem in the Fells, it is obvious that the main beneficiary of this effort was not the park, but an organization that is desperately tying to insure and even increase trail access there. If trail maintenance days are denied, there would be no way for NEMBA to claim it was a good citizen, unless it grossly exaggerated the amount of work it did in the distant past, which is likely not well documented. If it is, then I would like to see that proof.
Youíd be hard pressed to find any evidence of trail maintenance in the Fells. Iíve hiked the Fells for twenty- five years, and I have never seen even one example of successful trail maintenance by a cycling group at the Fells. The only thing I see is a park that is crisscrossed with wide roads of rock and rubble, whereas before the introduction of bikes, those roads were narrow trails bordered by low-bush blueberries, moss and wildflowers.
Regarding access by mountain bikes to only one six mile loop in the Fells Ė if one simply reads the regulations posted at the major park entrances, it is obvious that this is another, to put it kindly, pure fabrication. Rule number one of the regulations states " Mountain biking is permitted on all fire roads." And there are more than twenty-five miles of fire roads in the Fells. Granted, fire roads are not virgin single track, but to say that there is only one small, six mile loop for cyclists to ride on in a national publication is outrageous. There is more than five times that amount. Also, because of budget constraints, a shortage of manpower and weak laws, enforcement of mountain bike regulations in the park is almost impossible. As a result, trail poaching is rampant. Every trail in the Fells has become a mountain bike trail. There are plenty of places to ride and nobody around to stop you.
However the complaint of mountain bike leaders like Philip Keyes is not that there arenít enough places to ride at the Fells, but rather that those places are currently illegal, and cyclists who ride those trails anyway are giving cycling in general a bad name. Since there is no way to stop those illegal riders, the only thing left to do is to join them. NEMBA has done just that, and it is trying hard to sell public officials on the notion that environmental degradation due to cycling cannot be proven, and is probably due to other factors. When that is combined with lies about the enormous dedication cyclists have to preserving the environment as spelled out in mission statements, and lies about countless hours cyclists have spent on the trails maintaining them, then universal trail access becomes a possibility. That is their ultimate goal and it is clearly evident in this article.
The real importance of universal access is that the unpleasant issue of trail degradation would be neutralized. If universal trail access were the norm, then cyclists could no longer be blamed for the consequences of their activity. This is why Philip Keyes will go to any length to get full access at the Fells. Doing so will ultimately get cyclists off the hook. And make it far easier to gain access elsewhere.
Pete Webber of the International Mountain Bike Association and NEMBAís Philip Keyes are apparently of the same mind regarding universal access to trails, but what proof does Webber have that banning cyclists wonít prevent trail damage? To simply say so, doesnít make it true. Especially when the person saying so is part of a huge "non-profit" organization that receives enormous financial backing from a 5 to 6 billion dollar American cycling industry. The same industry that depends upon ever increasing and expanding riding opportunities for sustained growth.
Webber can say that more groups in the Fells "means more trail maintenance" and that would probably be true, but what can also be said is that if cyclists are given full legal access to the Fells it will become an enormous magnet, drawing cyclists as never before. Considering the fact that cyclists have had plenty of opportunity to demonstrate the effectiveness of their trail maintenance to day, and have nothing to prove even an ounce of success, why should anyone believe that even more trail maintenance will help anything?
The problem with the idea that increased use means more trail maintenance is that it gives one the idea that trail erosion is an easily solved problem, but it is not, especially in the Fells.
I have been thinking about this problem for years and I cannot think of any way to repair the trails in the Fells that would not involve millions of dollars of work by trained professionals. Cyclists make it sound so easy, because maintaining a trail for mountain biking is easy. Restoring a trail, on the other hand, is another matter. Cyclists never talk about trail restoration - only maintenance and building. This is yet another form of deception used by those who want trail access at any cost.
If one talks about trail maintenance as regards to mountain biking, a cyclistís riding experience is of paramount importance. If a trail becomes too eroded and covered with rocks, the rocks are pried out and removed. Often they are piled along the trail edge crushing wildflowers, ferns or mosses. This makes the trail easy to ride again but ruins it for hikers who enjoy the trail for other reasons. Trail maintenance by cyclists, as far as I can tell, does not address the ongoing problem of continual erosion. In fact, erosion of trails may be viewed as a plus by many cyclists. After all, a heavily eroded trail is a more difficult trail to ride, and it therefore offers more challenges and opportunities to improve oneís riding ability and technique. Is it any wonder that cyclists skirt the issue of erosion? If some cyclists want erosion, how can we expect them to support policies that would stop erosion from occurring? Hikers expect something completely different from trails.
I canít stand hiking on a wide road of rock and ruin. That is condition of many trails in the Fells. They got that way because the sport of cycling is a major catalyst of trail erosion in the Fells. I have no scientific proof of this - my conclusion was reached by simple observation reaffirmed thousands of times by further observation. Bikes wear down trails because cyclists travel along trails much faster than hikers do, and this speed increases the possibility that a bike will wander off the trail center. When this happens, plants are destroyed, roots dies, and rapid erosion of soil along trail edges takes place.
Although the grinding action of fast-traveling, braking or skidding bike tires is a major cause of erosion as well as the catalyst - rain and wind are also contributors. Nevertheless, cyclists in my view, get the process going. If it werenít for their lack of control on trails, and the natural tendency of a cyclist to avoid obstacles and seek smooth ground trail edges would remain intact and trails would not widen at the alarming rate that they are doing so now.
When trails widen from narrow walking paths to 20 ft wide roads of rock and rubble, then a great deal of the reason hikers walk on trails is gone.
A person hikes to get exercise and to see the natural world up close and at a relaxed pace. I used to pick quarts of blueberries along the border of many formerly narrow hiking trails in the Fells. Now that roads have replaced many of these trails, not only are the low bush blueberries gone but my ability to enjoy these "trails" as I had in the past.
Unlike Pete Webber, I donít want any more trails to be built. I simply want the trails that have already been built to be returned to a condition that everyone can enjoy. Building new trails does nothing to fix the damage done to the trails that already exist. And new trails soon become old ones, subject to the same steady decline that every trail in the Fells has undergone.
Trail maintenance by mountain bikers makes trails more enjoyable for cyclists again, but it does nothing to address the every increasing erosion of the soil and destruction of plants along those trails. Public officials need to understand this. Maintenance and restoration are completely different things. This needs to be widely understood. A trail maintained to the liking of cyclists, will probably be of very little interest to hikers.
So promises of environmental benefit with more users and more trail maintenance are in my view completely empty. If NEMBA really did 20,000 man- hours of work into the Fells, this obviously didnít make a bit of difference. And an additional 20, 000 man-hours by cyclists is going to be just as pointless. Trail maintenance claims by any mountain group should always be taken with a large grain of salt. If trails have been restored, letís see the evidence of that. If claims are made of enormous hours spent "maintaining" trails by group such as NEMBA, one shouldnít be just taking their word for it. Those numbers had to come from somewhere. If policy decisions depend on such information, documentation should be demanded. If it canít be provided, then all other information provided by such groups should also be suspect. After all, if youíre caught lying once, or using information in a deceptive manner, whoís to say you werenít doing it lots of other times as well?
What is weird about Christie Mathesonís article is that she continues to include even more dishonesty from those in the cycling community. For instance she says that " One pro-bike website (www.fellsbiker.com) asks for bikers to obey rules and chip in with trail maintenance at the Fells." While that later part of this statement may be true, the first part is definitely false. If cycling is only legally allowed on the mountain bike loop and fire roads, why then does Fellsbiker.com feature trail reviews of every other trail in the park, and include photos and a map of those trails as well? I doubt he went to all that effort to assist hikers. And if the author of that site is asking cyclists to follow rules, he certainly has a strange way of doing so. That site contains a page calls rules of the Fells, but it conveniently leaves out the ten or so rules that pertain to mountain biking. Why? Finally, claims that hikers were leaving metal objects, rocks and logs on the mountain bike loop are also suspect. I inspected photos of this "crime scene" on view at Fellbiker.com and one has to wonder how this fellow cam up with the conclusion that an apparent, late night party spot was actually a trap for unsuspecting illegal mountain cyclists.
At any rate, there certainly is a lot of angst at the Fells. And much can be revealed about those feeling the anxiety by listening carefully to what they say and donít say. If I were Philip Keyes Iíd be frantically thinking of a way to make a retraction of the 20,000 hour thing Ė maybe call it a mistake or something. That he hasnít done so can only make me believe he thinks he can get away with it and nobody will notice. Well, I did, and I noticed lots of other lies in this pitiful parade of "environmentalists." How Keyes and company managed to get an environmental merit from the EPA is beyond me. The only thing I can think of is that somebody wasnít doing their job. Environmentalist? Come on.
Tensions grow at Boston sanctuary
By Christie Matheson
Just a few minutes north of Boston is an extraordinary 2000-acre oasis of woodland trails called the Middlesex Fells, where runners, hikers, and bikers escape urban congestion and motorized traffic. What they can't escape, however, are other trail users.
The Fells is a city retreat, and it gets crowded. As with many urban trail systems in the U.S., tensions abound, especially because mountain bikes are only allowed on six of the 25 miles of trails in the park, and not all bikers stay on designated trails.
Heated discussions and inflammatory remarks between users are not uncommon -- especially in cyberspace. One pro-bike website (www.fellsbiker.com) asks for bikers to obey rules and chip in with trail maintenance at the Fells, while an anti-bike site (www.wheeled-locusts.org) charts trail damage allegedly caused by mountain bikes and features pictures of people illegally riding on trails closed to bikes. In August, a portion of the legal mountain-bike loop was reportedly littered with boulders, logs, and various metal objects in apparent retaliation for illegal riding in other parts of the park.
The Metropolitan District Commission (MDC), which manages the Fells, and a volunteer group called Friends of the Fells claim that mountain bikers are destroying trails and intruding upon hikers, runners, and walkers. Mountain-biking advocacy groups like the New England Mountain Biking Association (NEMBA) and the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) believe that it's all use, not just biking, that damages trails if they aren't properly designed and maintained.
"There's a perception that bikers are only in the sport for the thrills," says Philip Keyes, executive director of NEMBA. "But really, they just want to get away from riding on congested roads and find a bit of peace."
Keyes says anyone who uses the Fells (and other trail networks near metropolitan areas) needs to realize that what looks like serene woodland is essentially an urban park.
"It's not an isolated wilderness," he says. "The trails are going to get crowded, with everyone from people walking dogs to entire families riding bikes."
Trails will naturally experience wear and tear, especially because many Fells trails are poorly designed -- often running right along the fall line.
Ironically, allowing mountain bikers into the system might be the best solution. Keyes says NEMBA volunteers have pitched in about 20,000 man-hours of work at the Fells, even though mountain bikers only have access to one 6-mile loop. He's sure they'd be willing do more work if more trails were open to mountain bikes.
IMBA's Pete Webber believes that the bulk of trails should be multi-use -- because banning one group or another won't prevent trail damage, and because more groups means more trail maintenance and building gets done.
And that's just fine with some runners, who are becoming unnerved as various activities feel the pinch of heavy use and lack of maintenance funds. The MDC forced the cancellation of two trail-running races at the Fells.
Matthew Lyons, who runs at the Fells several days a week, says the angst toward mountain bikers is excessive.
"Bikers are extremely trail-runner friendly," he says. "Bikers let you know they are coming from behind. A friendly, 'How are you doing?' is the closest I have come to being bothered."
Webber admits that just because bikers aren't solely responsible for trail damage doesn't mean they don't contribute to it -- especially if they ride irresponsibly. All trail users should use the trail "softly" and work to keep the singletracks narrow. In addition, stay on the trail, take corners and congested areas with care, and avoid trailside plants. Being courteous goes a long way, too.
"There are a lot of similarities between trail runners and mountain bikers," Webber says. "We're all looking for longer, challenging routes, we like singletrack, and we like going fast. All trail users should become one and work together for the future of the trails."