Notice that Don blames the park management for this: because they don't provide enough opportunities for mountain biking! Where he got that "entitlement", I don't know.... In the U.S., there is no "right" to mountain bike.
Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2001 11:02:22 -0800
From: Don Weir <email@example.com>
Subject: RE: Types of travel limitations
To reinforce Gary's point this article was in Sunday's Edmonton Journal.
Below the article is the letter to the editor that I made in reply as no
member of the mountain bicycling community was contacted for comment.
Donald V. Weir
#303, 9920-90 Ave, NW
Mountain bikers damaging sensitive river valley trails
Some areas unable to sustain plant growth after abuse
Dennis Hryciuk, Journal Staff Writer
The Edmonton Journal
Mountain bikers are partly responsible for killing plant life in a section
of Edmonton's river valley known as the "Ewok forest," a reference to the
furry creatures of Star Wars fame.
The three-acre area in Forest Heights Park, near 84th Street and 104th
Avenue, has been so compacted that vegetation there has died, said city
ranger Doug Frost.
The damaged patch is one of many worn down by mountain bikers in recent
years, Frost said.
City police reported recently that someone has set up dangerous barriers on
unmarked trails to keep cyclists out. Tree branches and trunks have been
placed in spots frequented by the bikers.
The problems of environmental damage caused by mountain bikers have risen in
recent years. It's estimated that more than one-third of the 1.7 million
visits to the park system were made by bikers last year, Frost said.
Rangers recorded 102 serious incidents of cyclists causing problems in the
parks in 1999 and the number was likely higher last year, though statistics
aren't in yet, he said.
"Twenty years ago, there were no mountain bikes around. Now people are
exploring off the trails," Frost said.
"People should stay on the maintained trail system."
Police are worried a cyclist will be hurt by one of the traps set up by the
unknown vigilante. City official Lyle Brenneis said rangers try to remove
such obstacles for safety reasons.
"But those would not have gone in if the cyclists had stayed on the paths,"
said Brenneis, director of river valley forestry and environmental services.
Wildlife is disturbed by the sheer volume of the biking activity, he said.
The city maintains 150 km of trails with either paving or other materials.
There are up to 400 km of what Brenneis calls "goat trails" that have been
informally carved into the woods and fields by hikers and animals.
Those who venture off the maintained paths can disturb ground-nesting birds
in spring and cause damage to rare plants in some cases, said Glen
Semenchuk, executive director of the Federation of Alberta Naturalists.
The city needs to enforce its rules about staying on the paths, said
environmentalist Sam Gunsch, of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
"Without enforcement, public education fails," Gunsch said. "Do we have
people driving the right speeds on highways with just public education?"
Mayor of the City of Edmonton
The Edmonton Journal
The city should also set aside less environmentally sensitive areas where
mountain bikers can have free rein, he said.
But Brenneis said the city's ability to enforce regulations is limited. The
city's four full-time summer rangers only work part time in winter. The
biking activity is continuing in this winter of little snow, he said. "There
are more folks out biking because there is no cross-country skiing."
After reading the piece that Mountain bicyclists are damaging sensitive
river valley trails by Dennis Hryciuk I have become very concerned.
Although I do not condoned the establishment of undesignated trails, which
officials with the City of Edmonton disingenuously term goat trails, which
are correctly termed social trails in management literature, I must take
exception that funds be used for enforcement.
As I work as a consultant on carrying capacity for many of North America's
and over seas largest land management agencies it is clear that the City of
Edmonton has deluded itself into thinking that its current management plan
is adequate. In no other jurisdiction has enforcement been effective in the
curtailment of the establishment of social trails. In fact enforcement is
seen as a last resort.
In the current literature, the state of practice indicates a clear hierarchy
of management strategies. When social trails are established it is
indicative that the management plan in place is unworkable, as the trail
system does not meet the user preferences of the group in question.
A number of years ago I was involved with the mountain bicycling community
in lobbying for greater access, I personally became very disenchanted, as it
was clear that the City of Edmonton had no idea as to the user preferences
of the largest summer outdoor recreation group (according to the City of
Edmonton's own statistics). It is clear that this remains the case as more
social trails are being established. Of the three major user preference
studies done by the USDI-Bureau of Land Management, USDA-Forest Service and
the New Zealand Department of Conservation each would have indicated that
the management plan implemented by the City of Edmonton was doomed to
failure over a decade ago.
As there is considerable expertise in the consulting sector throughout North
America to aid the City of Edmonton in rectifying this situation I see no
excuse for the current state of affairs to continue. However it will mean a
complete inventory of all social trails, a user preference studies targeting
the various skill levels of each user group involved in trail based
recreation in the North Saskatchewan River Valley, involving each group in
management plan design and the hiring of appropriate professionals as
mandated by Provincial and Federal statutes. For instance it is illegal for
a landscape architect to do the work of a social scientist, an environmental
assessment specialist or an applied scientist.
It is also clear that a tight rein should be placed on other trail users in
the valley as I have seen all groups straying off trail, which is especially
worrisome as some of these groups have a greater impact on fauna and flora.
A case in point is recent studies indicate that field naturalists are now
considered the greatest threat, as compared to other trail based recreation,
to ecological integrity of many areas as the inherent harassing nature of
humans approaching and remaining in proximity to wildlife.
As certain sensitive communities are being damaged it is clear that the
current management plan is no longer workable and must be scraped and
Donald V. Weir