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 <>

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

Edmonton, AB

T6E 2T3


Ph. 780-439-5130

Fax 780-992-1473


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?"

Bill Smith

Mayor of the City of Edmonton

The Edmonton Journal

Dear Sirs:

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