Illegal Trail Builders Ruin It For Mountain Bikers Everywhere

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There’s been a lot in the news lately about trail building and advocacy and fortunately most of it has been good news thanks to groups like IMBA and local bike clubs. On the flip side there’s also been news out of California about illegal mountain bike trails being built on public land that threatens to undo years of positive progress.

Just last week the LA Times wrote about an illegal trail network that was found in Limestone Canyon and Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. Before being dismantled by rangers and volunteers, the trail featured wooden bridges, jumps, and even sandbag-reinforced switchbacks. Apparently several other Orange County parks have seen illegal trail construction as well, though the Limestone Canyon trail was in a particularly eco-sensitive area.

Up in Marin County they’re still bitching about us and one letter to the editor of the Marin Independent Journal points to the damage freeriders have done in the Tahoe area by building illegal trails. Here’s an excerpt:

(L)ast summer the U.S. Forest Service announced the discovery that renegade mountain bikers had secretly cut up to 30 miles of trails in the Tahoe backcountry during this past decade. In 2009, the USFS spent $29,000 to close three miles of illicit trails at Tahoe alone. Despite having 255 miles of trail access in national forests around Tahoe, that isn’t enough for the free-riders.

The writer goes on to connect the irresponsible behavior of an unknown group of riders in the Tahoe area to all mountain bikers and voices her opposition to an alternating day use plan split between hikers and bikers in Marin County. It’s really a shame because the alternating day policy seems quite reasonable and this person assumes mountain bikers won’t follow the rules because of what happened in Tahoe.

On the spectrum of things that are bad for the reputation of our sport, building illegal trails has to be one of the worst (if not the worst) things we can do. So if you’re thinking about putting a shovel to dirt this spring on land you don’t own or have permission to use, give us all a break and volunteer with your local club to improve existing trails.

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