Two men have been charged and arrested “for allegedly creating and operating an illegal mountain bike trail inside Fort Harrison State Park,” Fox 59 reports.

“Michael Hufhand and Jed Kidwell, both 54, were charged with criminal mischief and trespassing after a warrant was served online,” according to Fox 59.

Photo: theindychannel.com

The investigation lasted for months. Among other things, harmful chemicals were used to clear undergrowth along the trail, and in total the illegal trail build caused a claimed $50,000 in damages.

A key portion of the investigation consisted of authorities serving a search warrant for Facebook private messages after they allegedly caught the perpetrators on game cameras last May. One of the messages from Michael Hufhand obtained via the search warrant reads, “I’m starting a little maintenance fund to spray Sedona/Flagstaff so we can ride it all summer. Should just have to spray it once, but it does need to be done covertly!”

“In with funds and help,” Kidwell replied. (Source)

Berm on one of the legal bike trails in Fort Harrison State Park. Photo: ilikebikes

Unfortunately, this isn’t an example of desperate mountain bikers creating trails in an area where no riding opportunities exist. Rather, there are in fact bike legal trails in Fort Harrison State Park that have been legally built and maintained by the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association.

It’s also not an example of hiking being allowed and mountain biking being banned. “This area is closed off to any human traffic,” said Indianapolis Department of Natural Resources Capt. William Browne, on IndyStar. “It was built for wildlife. Any time you segment property like that, you invite in invasive species and create an environment that is not the best habitat for the wildlife and vegetation protected in the area.”

Restoring the nature preserve to its former status will take 5 to 7 years, if its possible at all. The soil composition and plant life may never be fully restored.

Local Riders React on Social Media

Local riders on the Fort Harrison Mountain Bikers Facebook Page appear divided on the topic, but a vocal contingent asserts that this is political maneuvering on the part of the DNR, and that the portrayal of Hufhand and Kidwell in the media (as outlined above) is yet another example of media bias.

Susan Brosmer Barrier has been very vocal on this issue. On February 15th, she posted this to the Fort Harrison Mountain Bikers Facebook Page:

If you are concerned about the criminalization of mountain bikers and the DNR turning 50% of Fort Harrison into a nature preserve to completely eliminate recreation in the largest state park available to Hoosiers in Indianapolis, then contact Governor Holcomb’s office. Not only does this affect runners, hikers, dog walkers and mountain bikers, but it also threatens a proposed Greenway to connect Geist with the existing Greenway system. Parks are for people! Hoosiers deserve better!! They are using birds as a weapon. Here is the letter I sent:

DNR stands for Do Not Recreate. The recent heavy handed land grab at Fort Harrison State Park is appalling. Making the largest state park that is available to urban dwelling Hoosiers 50% a nature preserve – is a travesty. It’s no wonder we are fat, out of shape and rank low on city livability when we don’t value green spaces for people. And now, they are prosecuting mountain bikers. Is that a good use of resources? My purse was stolen at Fort Harrison after someone smashed my car window. DNR said they couldn’t afford cameras at trail heads, but apparently they can afford 10 cameras to catch guys riding bikes in the woods. What is going on? They’ve lost their way! Parks are for people.

HMBA Responds

Paul Arlinghaus, President of the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association (HMBA), asserts that the quotation included from Susan Brosmer Barrier above was posted by her boyfriend Michael Hufhand via her Facebook account. Barrier has denied this.

Hufhand was the original president of HMBA and helped get the original trails approved and built in Harrison State Park, but according to Arlinghaus, Hufhand was never satisfied with the amount of trails that had been approved and built in that area.

Paul Arlinghaus issued a brief statement on behalf of the Hoosier Mountain Bike Association:

“The Hoosier Mountain Bike Association is dedicated to building legal and approved trails. We have 9 miles of legal and approved trails at Fort Harrison State Park. The activity in this matter was done outside of HMBA’s knowledge and is causing issues of the mountain biking community here and public relations for mountain biking in Indiana.”

Arlinghaus also noted that some of the numbers claimed as “facts” in the social media post above, such as the 50% nature preserve number, are simply not true. Fort Harrison State Park is over 1700 acres and according to Arlinghaus, just 36% of the park is nature preserves. However, the largest nature preserve, at 232 acres, actually allows mountain biking. That means “only 386 acres are off limits for mountain biking due to nature preserves, which is 23%,” according to Arlinghaus.

HMBA is expected to release a more detailed statement on this matter later this week.

# Comments

  • Mitch Bird

    Ridiculous.. I’ve ridden this park half a dozen times and really enjoy it. It’s plumb ridiculous people are getting punished for trying to better the park, but yet the DNR are acting like they are dropping a nuclear bomb on the land it’s it’s all endangered animals and plants. State Parks are for the tax payers to enjoy, not close it off to them. $50k in damages?… Get real

  • mongwolf

    Wow, so much to consider. First, out West on Forest Service lands it once was a fine of like $300 per yard of any rut you may make with your vehicle if you go “off road”, meaning off legal dirt roads. That was 25 years ago. I agree with such a fine. RESPECT AND CHERISH what we have from the Creator (honestly). Another example. If someone cut down a decent sized juniper tree in AZ (i.e. illegal fuel wood cutting), we would have the guy on a felony … and all for good imo. Do damage of more than $400 of public land value, you have yourself a felony. So be it imo. So imo lock this guy up. He is totally rogue — once being the head of HMBA. I’m glad they caught him. So my point in principle is two-fold. First, steep punishment is good for wrong behavior, and second it will cost a lot of money to restore the damage if the land managers decide to activity repair the damage (labor, supplies, soil, soil transport, etc. etc.). Also the cost of law enforcement is or should be included in the calculation of the cost of damage. And rightfully so imo.

    Okay second main point, there is an invader species, called Asia honeysuckle, that is taking over that entire region of the Midwest. It is non-native (to the Americas), super aggressive and a threat to native plants. It is also a determent to people in that it rapidly forms thickets that are very difficult to walk through. I know that this species is taking over the understory of Ohio woodlands just next door to Indianapolis. I’m guessing it is already heavily infesting Indiana. If not, it is certainly a threat to do so. So this is probably the main concern of these officials. This species is terribly difficult to eradicate — resistant and expensive. Do a little reading if you are unaware of it. If you live in the region, all you have to do is look out your car window in the winter into the woodlots. If you see a bunch of greenery in the understory, you shouldn’t. It is the Asian honeysuckle.

    Third, yes, there is a thing called “logging” but it is not done on public lands without consideration of management objectives and a public involvement process. Logging is the activity of removing trees. There are many good reasons to log. When you put together the on the ground activity of logging with worthwhile intentionality of accomplishing certain objectives, it is called Timber Management. I’m trying to speak in laymen’s terms. If you don’t understand it, become more educated. On the other end of spectrum of lack of environmental education, this is similar to people using the term conservation synonymous with preservation — not an issue in this article or thread but I see this mistake consistently, so I’m bringing it up. Again, educate yourself just a little, and know the differences between conservation and preservation and how they are both legitimate philosophies or foundations of natural resource management. They both can also be abused in things like land grabs. All of our public land designations are founded on one or the other.

    • Surly Will

      I haven’t been our there. But according to other posts the honeysuckle is already on the property. It used to be an active army training area. Most of it us on a flood plain so the creek will certainly flood it in if its upstream.

  • mongwolf

    By the way, I agree totally with the statements like State Parks should be for the people. And I cannot speak for what is specifically happening in Indiana right now, but there is also a “place” in land management in general to create a relatively small buffer around certain large bird nesting areas. If a park is a nesting area for larger birds and if human traffic is quite high then a buffer may be necessary. If a park is a nesting area for large birds and human traffic is quite low, then no buffer is probably necessary. It is pretty simple but also fairly subjective. Again, educate yourself and also participate in the public involvement process. If you haven’t done both, then think twice before being too critical of land managers. Sometimes there are excellent processes being implemented in the decision-making and sometimes there are terrible processes. I’ve seen both by public land managers (i.e. there are good public land managers and there are bad public land managers).

  • rajflyboy

    Police should get busy arresting murderers and rapists and thieves. They don’t have time to be messing with two guys trying to enjoy the wonderful forest in which they own (being federal taxpayers)

    • mongwolf

      First off, I assume that Indiana SP are run like others across the nation and have “park rangers” which are basically park police. Their jurisdiction is limited to the State Parks, so they are not out in the community working “the streets”. So your comment is not applicable. It is applicable to police in Sanctuary Cities but I digress. =) Second, a state park is a relatively small “island” in the landscape (do a little reading on topic of landscape ecology). And we the tax payers have agreed to make it a rather highly protected area because of its unique value as a natural resource. So if you, and everyone else, is going to go out and enjoy it, then there needs to be some agreed upon ground rules. Everyone can’t just go out do whatever they want. These two guys do not “own” the park solely. We all own it. So they need to follow the ground rules. These guys clearly had no respect for those rules or for others.

    • saunded

      rajflyboy: “murderers and rapists”? “forest in which they own”?

      I have to assume you’re a anti-cycling troll because this attitude just makes it tough for real cyclists.

  • Robert Dobbs

    Wow!…..truth is stranger than fiction.
    This whole thing reads like a plot treatment for a Coen brothers movie. I just have to figure out which sap William H. Macy and Steve Buscemi will play.

    I do not condone what these guys did…….but I do understand it.

  • dennyrjohnson

    While I would very much like more trails in our Indy area…this is a bad story for mountain bikers everywhere. HUGE strides have been made by Hoosier Mountain Biking Assoc. to build on multi-use land and plan future trails in other parks! While I agree that this story may be making a bigger fuss than neccessary, I don’t like ANY negative publicity that might hinder existing and additional trails anywhere!

  • Retro_Jeff

    These poor fellows don’t need jail time. What they need is a pick, shovel and a Rake and some seed to start repairing the damage that they’ve done.
    This park doesn’t belong to them, but to every resident of the state of Indiana.
    Got a watch out for those game cameras, they will get you every time.

  • brad362

    Throughout history, when a government fails to represent the people they are supposed to serve, the people revolt, whether it’s by dumping tea into a harbor or building “illegal” trails.

  • xcmark10

    I am am avid mountain biker, and I have spent my career working for both federal and state land management agencies. I can’t tell you how many bootleg mountain bike trails I have closed. It is very hard to try to represent our community when we continue to build illegal trails. Legal, sustainable trails take a long time to go through the planning process. On federal lands, biologists, botanists, archaeologists, soil scientists, hydrologists and others must survey proposed trails to ensure sensitive species or other resources are protected. Land managers are not only recreation planners, they are STEWARDS of the land. I have had to close illegal tails built through Native American village sites that contained human burials, but the general public wold never know such a place existed. Rules are in place for a reason, please consider the fact that endangered species, water quality and historic sites just might be more important than riding your bike, especially when you have legal trails in the same location!

  • Sum Guy

    The chemicals are just Roundup, aka Glyphosate. They are making this out to be more than it is. If they hadn’t used this I am guessing it would not be a big deal. Or would it?

    Trucking in dirt is going to cause a lot more harm than the alleged harm these guys caused. They could have gone about it a different way for sure, but to claim 50k is just bs. Hiking alone can cause the same mount of “soil damage. The concrete walks and wheelchair lifts are ok, but a berm is not. This stuff really bothers me when they sensationalize things to suit their own agenda. Its purely double standards. Hikers really bother me since they deny us access to dedicated hiking trails, but they can use our “dedicated bike trails. often stinging up fishing string or burring nails. This is a hiker report to kill the MTB biker sport.

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