The National Park Service has given the thumbs up after a year-long trial project allowing mountain bikes in the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area. Mountain bikes were allowed on the Grand Gap Loop Trail through a shared use plan (no bikes on weekends) and during this period there were no complaints from hikers. Based on these results the park service may potentially open more trails to shared mountain bike usage.
This is definitely great news but I’m a little skeptical about the analysis used in a projects like this. I mean, if there had been 1 complaint would they have said the project was a failure? What about if the mountain bikers complained about the hikers picking wildflowers or walking their dogs off leash? Would that get hikers banned?
Unfortunately it doesn’t seem like there are good objective measures in place for assessing trail usage. Instead of weighing “complaints,” perhaps land managers could look at trail impact (horses would lose here) or user group popularity (in many locations hikers would lose on this count).
Anyway, kudos to the courteous bikers of Big South Fork, perhaps we can show more land managers that we can share the trails with everyone else.