From: Cerena Childress

Subject: Letter and Website

Date: Tue, 15 Oct 2002 10:19:15 -0700

Dear Responsible Trail Managers, Concerned Community Members for Safe Trails,

We at were touched by this letter received today. Please see what you think.

Before you read, we would like to invite you to visit our fledgling website,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful care and support.

Dear Forest Services folks,

I'm writing to you because I understand that currently there are talks

going on about the hiker/biker issue on our local trails here in Santa

Barbara. I want to give you my opinions because I'm not involved in those

talks, but the issue is still important to me. I'm not sure which of you is

the appropriate person to receive this, so I'm writing to all of you.

I run a popular web site on hiking in town and have had a number of

discussions with people who visit my web site on this issues, some of whom

are avid bikers. I also volunteer leading hikes for the Sierra Club. I

don't ride a mountain bike very often, but I have. Biking is a little bit

above my physical abilities so I stick to hiking. I grew up in Santa

Barbara and have lived here all my life. I've hiked our local trails ever

since I was a child.

One of the terms that I keep hearing is the idea of "Shared Use." I haven't

been able to find any official definition of that term, but I don't think

that it really can exist when some of the people on our trails are capable

of killing some of the others. Even when bikers are as polite as can be

they are ruining my ability to use the trails in a manner conducive to the

essence of my activity of choice, which is hiking. Even when there aren't

any bikers on the trail on the days that I'm using them they are still

ruining my enjoyment of hiking because their presence is evident


I like to hike the trails lost in thought. Sometimes I bring a tripod and

camera and take close-ups of flowers or other small things. I like to see

the birds and the lizards and have nice conversations with my friends. The

other day I was hiking along the West Fork of Cold Spring Trail and heard a

rushing sound. I've hiked this trail a million times, but I froze when I

heard that sound. I thought there was a mountain biker around the corner.

But it turned out to be that pipe on the trail and the sound of running

water in it. Same thing also happened on Tunnel trail the other day. I

heard a rustling sound and froze in fear, heart pounding. It turned out to

be not a biker careening around the corner but just a bird in a bush. The

bikers are making me so jumpy that I can't even enjoy the trails when they

aren't even there. In other words, bikers are now defining the experience

of our trails to such a profound extent that they need not even be present

to affect my ability to enjoy the trails.

Another thing that is really bothering me about all the bikes is all the

damage I see. I know that all our trails are very eroded because they get

so much use all the time, but some of them are starting to resemble race

tracks more than trails. It's really scary hiking trails like Tunnel and

Cold Springs because all the twists and turns are now banked like a racing

track. I end up feeling like I'm trespassing on a biker motocross track.

It takes a lot of force and speed to mold the foot bed into banked curves.

Plus now there is all this orange spray paint and places where the bikers

are cutting the switchbacks right through the middle, and there's even an

oak tree near the main Cold Springs trail where the bikers have cut some of

the branches -- some branches over 6" in diameter -- so that they can do

jumps over the tree into the trail below. On Jesusita trail we found a spot

where the bikers cut the brush so that they could cut two switchbacks

straight down. The switchbacks on lower Cold Springs are all cut as well.

It's really getting out of hand.

I have had several near hits from bikes on the trails where I had to jump

over the side of the trail. I could feel their T-shirts and the rush of

wind as they went by. I tried to tell them to watch out but they got

extremely belligerent. I was afraid they would beat me up. On one occasion

the bikers waited for me at the bottom of the trail in order to tell me

off. On another occasion, a couple of them threatened to beat up an 80+

year old man in our group! I'm a woman and don't want any trouble,

especially from violent, angry men like that. Not all bikers are so rude,

but even the polite ones seem to be artificially polite while they are

skidding to a stop in a cloud of dust right in front of you. You know we

hikers are just an obstacle in their way.

I'm afraid that the bikers are winning out and that hiking will go the way

of horseback riding. Nobody horseback rides these trails anymore. I used to

see them when I was a kid, but I can't remember when was the last time I've

seen a horse on our local trails. There was a recent letter in the Sierra

Club Condor Call newspaper from a biker who was saying that since they are

so young and strong and do so much trail work that we should welcome them.

I am wondering when being young and strong and doing a bunch of trail work

became a prerequisite of being able to use the trails? I pay for the

Adventure Pass, pay my taxes, but now do I have to prove myself deserving

enough to gain admittance to a peaceful walk in the woods by doing a bunch

of heavy labor that only the strong can do? And then what do I get? I get

to walk on a racetrack in fear for my life?

When do I get my use in this Shared Use policy? When do I get to walk lost

in thought? When do I get to set up my tripod and do some macro

photography? When do I get to do some bird-watching? Meditation? You have

no idea what hiking has meant to me, where it has taken me throughout my

life. I fear I'm losing an important part of my life to these machines and

these younger, stronger men. All I ask is that there be some place left for

somebody like me to go that is peaceful, natural and safe. When you

reevaluate your Shared Use policy and determine who can use our trails,

please make sure that there is a place for me to have my shared use.

Because sharing trails with bikes isn't Shared Use at all. It's just me

"hiking at my own risk" -- trespassing is what it feels like -- on a bike


Thank you for listening,

Diane Soini


Live deep, Stand tall! Now is the time!

Respectfully submitted,

Cerena Childress, Founder,