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October 26, 2012 at 09:33 #113516
The Swan Lake Ranger District will begin removing what they consider mountain bike “challenge features” from the Bear Dance Trail south of Woods Bay this fall.
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Those challenge features were installed on the Bear Dance Trail system as part of at least two years of volunteer trailwork by Kalispell resident Ron Cron.
“A lot of the trail work he did was very good,” said district ranger Richard Kehr. “What was the issue was some of the constructed features for mountain bikes.”
Ranger district employees went out with Cron and Swan View Coalition advocate Keith Hammer to look at the Bear Dance Trail last Tuesday. Kehr said he saw at least three reasons why those features should be removed.
Features need to fit with current management requirements, anything added to a trail needs to be safe for any prudent user and those features need to be maintained to Forest Service standards.
“With additional features the trail migrates further from its purpose,” Kehr said.
Management requirements for the Bear Dance Trail allocate that the trail is to be used by moutain bikers, hikers and horseback riders.
Cron set out to make the trail accessible to all three sets of users and be attractive to mountain bikers interested in doing something a bit more challenging than just riding down the hill.
A lot of the work Cron performed under a volunteer-agreement with the forest service was overseen by Andrew Johnson of the Swan Lake Ranger District, who recently took a District Ranger Position in Minnesota.
Cron said everytime he builds a relationship with someone at the Swan Lake Ranger District, they pick up and move.
“It’s just demoralizing,” Cron said. “All I can say is I tried.”
Cron is trying to pull kids who love mountain biking onto legal trails and get kids off the couch and out into the woods.
He said the challenge features are so desireable that often times, avid mountain bikers can’t find them on a legal trail and go build them illegally somewhere else.
“These kids are amazing, they can’t get enough of this stuff,” Cron said. “And yet they are forced to do this kind of illegal stuff.”
Kehr said the argument is not a sufficient enough reason to keep the features on the trail. He said there may be a need to install challenge features, but that can’t be decided without a public process.
“The trail itself without any features is challenging,” Kehr said.
Hammer agrees with Kehr.
“We support the notion that these are nice mountain bike trails,” Hammer said. “There shouldn’t have to be a conflict on these trails and what creates these conflicts are jumps put in next to perfectly good trail.”
So until a public process shows a need for trails in the Flathead with jumps and other features designed specifically for mountain bikers, Flathead Valley riders like 19-year-old mountain bike racer Kent Billingsly will have to search elsewhere.
“I live to ride my bike and dig trails to ride on, most of the trails we’ve built have been for a higher difficulty of riding, considering we don’t have anything around here like that,” Billingsly said. “Those are the only places I can train.”
I found this article very interesting since I have ridden this trail before and used to live near there. http://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/beardance.html When I rode it, there were no features on the trail. It just sucks that Cron seems to have been trying to work with the Forest Service and inside of their guidelines (and under their supervision, as the article notes), and yet his work is STILL being destroyed.
Also, who is this Kehr guy to decide what is and is not a "challenging trail?" When I rode it way back in ’08, yes, there were a couple of tricky sections… but I was also not a super-experienced rider. As long as there are ride-arounds constructed for all of the technical trail features, I see no reason to not leave them in place.
November 1, 2012 at 10:55 #113517
Ron’s work is thwarted by the NIMBY Keith Hammer and his million dollar (out of town) supporters. The USFS and Rich would likely work more with Ron were it not for the never ending lawsuits filed by Keith Hammer and the Swan View Coagulation. Keep up the work Ron!
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