November 24, 1999
Director, Office of Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Affairs
1520 Lakeside Drive
Oakland, CA 94612
Re: Access to Joaquin Miller Park
I am very concerned about the arbitrary and discriminatory management of Oakland's parks. I like to practice bulldozer racing (also known as "bulldozer scrambling", or BS, for short). That is my way of enjoying nature. Who are you to tell me how I should enjoy nature?! Why is your way of enjoying the outdoors any better than mine?! You allow roller-bladers, equestrians, mountain bikers, and even hikers in your parks. But I am excluded, and can't enjoy the parks that I pay taxes for. You obviously like them better than me, or maybe you belong to one of those user groups, so you are biased towards them. In any case, you are discriminating against me and other bulldozer racers, and I demand that this discrimination, which violates the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, stop immediately!
I know that bulldozer racers have a bad name, but that's just because we are the new kid on the block. We are a tiny minority. I know that there have been some problems, such as some people riding recklessly, going off the designated trails, and even secretly constructing illegal trails. But those are a small minority of bulldozer riders. You shouldn't allow a small minority to give the majority of us bulldozer racers, who ride responsibly, a bad name. Why should we be punished, just because of them, and be forced to walk, just like everybody else?
I also know that some extremist tree-huggers claim that it's a violation of CEQA (the California Environmental Quality Act) to allow a new use of the park trails, and the creation of new trails, without doing an EIR (Environmental Impact Report). But you are right: mountain biking and bulldozer racing, when performed in an environmentally responsible manner, doesn't have a significant impact on the environment. In fact, it's actually beneficial to wildlife. You can tell that, by the fact that you often see deer tracks on the mountain biking trails. If the trails didn't benefit them, they wouldn't use them, now would they? Bulldozer racing doesn't drive out wildlife. That is a myth. I see lots of wildlife where I ride.
Some people say that we ride too fast to avoid killing small animals on the trail, such as snakes -- that we have to pay attention to avoid crashing, and can't also look out for wildlife. Are they that slow? What about "survival of the fittest"? If they are that slow, they aren't going to survive, anyway.
Some HOHAs ("Hateful Old Hikers", as the mountain bikers call them) claim that bulldozer racing does more harm to the environment than hiking. But a scientific study was done in New Zealand, proving that bulldozer racing does no more harm than hiking. Another scientific study showed that most erosion is caused by nature, and so any additional erosion caused by bulldozer racing is not significant, by comparison. Would you rather have the park clear-cut, or turned into another gated community for the rich? Without the support of strong environmentalists like us, that's what will inevitably happen! We are your strongest defense against development. If a park doesn't have a strong constituency of recreational users, no one will care about it, and it will inevitably be lost. (That's what those environmental extremists call "destroying it, in order to save it". But what do they know?) The HOHAs claim that vehicles make it too easy for lazy, uncaring people to get into wildlife habitat. But if nobody goes there, who will protect the park? The more people go to a park, the better it is for the wildlife!
Another claim is that we compact the soil around redwoods, killing them! Can you believe that?! In Muir Woods National Monument, they don't even let people walk next to them, making them stick to pavement or raised walkways. They must be run by an environmental extremist tree-hugger!
I know that some HOHAs claim that bulldozer racing is annoying, and destroys their experience of nature. I guess they're superior to everybody else. They are just being selfish. They just don't want to share "their" trails with anybody else! That's obvious. The older ones claim that they have given up going there, because they are afraid of being hit, or are tired of constantly having to get off the trail to let bulldozers go by. Isn't that just evolution -- survival of the fittest? Why should hikers, or anyone else, have the whole park to themselves? We pay taxes, too. We have just as much right to be there as they do. We are just as much environmentalists as they are. We love nature! That's why we want to ride there!
When you have spent as much on your equipment as we have, believe me, it is very frustrating, not to have any place to use it! We don't, of course, condone illegal trail building. However, we can understand the frustration of people whose only sin is preferring a different way of enjoying nature. They think that, because they are able to purchase a piece of equipment that lets them go off-road, the public is obligated to give them a place to use it. That's understandable -- isn't that the American way? Aren't they just like the pioneers?
We bulldozer racers ("BS-ers") belong in the parks just as much as everybody else. If the HOHAs don't want us on their trails, because we allegedly create narrow ruts, and make them difficult to walk on, then we deserve to have our own trails, which we will gladly build for free. There is plenty of space for everyone. If the wildlife don't like it, they can always move! It's just survival of the fittest. As I said, that's what evolution is all about.
We will even police our own riders, so that you won’t have any additional expenses. After all, how would you catch a renegade bulldozer racer? Your rangers would also need to drive bulldozers, increasing the wear and tear on the trails. We can do that for you. How about it? There are more and more of us every day. And we vote.
Michael J. Vandeman, Ph.D.