September 6, 2018

Board of Directors

East Bay Regional Park District


Re: Mountain Bike Damage in Crockett Hills Regional Park


To the Board of Directors:

Yesterday I hiked the Wood Rat Trail, Edwards Creek Trail, Sky Trail, Sugar City Trail, Warep Trail, Tree Frog loop, Chorus Frog Trail, and Big Valley Trail. What I saw was the most shocking damage caused by mountain biking I have ever seen in a Regional Park! Of all of the park that I saw, the most beautiful, by far, was the area traversed by the Wood Rat Trail (most of the park is quite simply a ranch, which is not a park, or maybe an animal park). A lot of that beauty is due to the prolific poison oak, in all the colors of the rainbow, especially bright red. But right through the middle of it is an ugly bicycle "freeway". Mountain bikers (you can tell from the state of the trail) have been climbing up the Edwards Creek Trail to the top of the hill, then using the Wood Rat Trail as a downhill race track. God help any hiker or animal who happens to be on the trail! They would have to suddenly jump off the trail to avoid being hit by a speeding mountain bike and rider. Your signs say that hikers have the right-of-way, but how is that possible, when trails are too narrow to accommodate both a hiker and a bicycle, and when mountain bikers force hikers to get out of their way or risk serious injury? While on a hike in Park City, Utah, a mountain biker came up behind me and kept harassing me to get out of his way so he could pass me, even though I had the right-of-way. Eventually he rode off-trail in order to pass me. Is that what you want to happen? You caused the problem, by allowing incompatible uses on trails too narrow to accommodate them. And don't widen the trails, which would destroy an unacceptable amount of habitat - the very essence of the park. It is impossible to enjoy the park, when you have to be on constant alert to listen for the faint sounds of mountain bikes (that's why I chose to visit the park during the middle of the week, to hopefully avoid encounters with mountain bikers; I still saw one on the Big Valley Trail/fire road). It's a crying shame to ruin such a beautiful park, especially for such a frivolous reason.

We know how fast that mountain bikers travel, because in the last mountain bike race held in Briones Regional Park, on September 23, 2000, the winner averaged 13 MPH over the 20 mile course (mountain bikes have become much more efficient since then). In other words, they all exceed the 15 MPH speed limit. You can also tell by looking at the trail. A trail used only by hikers will be flat and covered by leaves and fine-grained soil. The Wood Rat Trail is perfectly smooth and devoid of leaves and fine-grained soil. The momentum of the bikes has thrown all of that off the trail. There is no possible natural cause for this phenomenon. It can only have been caused by mountain biking. The trail is also split by numerous large cracks, which will turn into rivers whenever it rains. The park supervisor, Dave Kendall, said that the Bicycle Trail Council of the East Bay (BTCEB) does trail maintenance, and could fix the trail. But the only possible way to fix this trail is to ban bicycles. Then the hikers would automatically restore the trail to leaf litter and fine-grained soil, which would fill those cracks and slow down the erosion. To fix the trail manually or with a bulldozer would be extremely expensive, as you well know.

At every turn, you can see that the mountain bikers have created a banked turn, by riding up on the side of the trail, so that they don't have to slow down when going around the turn. That also testifies to their excessive speed. On level sections of the trail, where it is difficult to gain that much speed, you can see that these speed indicators are far fewer.

The purpose of the parks is to preserve our native wildlife and to provide enjoyment compatible with that preservation. You can imagine exactly how much "nature appreciation" is going on among the mountain bikers: none! Indeed, it is physically impossible to "appreciate nature" while travelling at high speed on a bicycle on a natural trail (even when riding on a straight, paved city street, you have to give 99% of your attention to the pavement ahead of your front tire). If you allow your attention to wander from the trail in front of your front tire, you will crash! Watch mountain bikers. You will see that their eyes are always directed forward. Of course.

The Sugar City and Tree Frog trails, according to Dave Kendall, were built by mountain bikers and are "bike optimized". You can see that this means that they built dozens of hills that hikers have to climb over, whose only purpose is to provide thrills for mountain bikers: the latest fashion in mountain biking is "getting air" (i.e., getting airborne). Every article or magazine about mountain biking shows someone sailing through the air. And, of course, that can only happen when you are travelling at a high rate of speed. The other thing you will notice is deep, narrow ruts that are difficult and dangerous to walk on. Hikers flatten trails, bicycle tires, on the other hand, create narrow, V-shaped ruts. This is why mountain bikers can't be trusted to work on trails used by non-mountain bikers: they build them in ways that actually harm other trail users: we have to climb over extra hills for no good reason, or we twist our ankles on the uneven surface.

The only way to preserve the beauty of the park, and maintain the trails in a condition usable by hikers and equestrians (by far the majority of trail users) is to ban bicycles - at the very least from the narrow trails, but preferably from all unpaved trails. There is no good reason to allow bicycles on trails, since all bicyclists are capable of walking (even if they are too lazy to do it). Since you have a process for changing the use of a trail, I hereby request that you use it to remove bicycles from all the narrow trails in this and other parks. Apparently, you aren't monitoring their use and condition, or you would know all this.

Here are the photos I took:

P.S. At the top of the Edwards Trail, where it meets the Wood Rat Trail, is a narrow footpath to the top of the hill to the left. Under the first large oak tree along this trail is an abandoned folding wheelchair. Near the lower end of the Sugar City Trail, west of the new metal bridge, is someone's nice, new Pulaski (trail tool). Some of the most numerous invasive non-native plants I saw during my trip were poison hemlock, wild radish, Himalaya blackberry, yellow star thistle, and curly dock. Also non-native turkeys.




Mike Vandeman