Land Managers are Getting Nervous About Unauthorized Trail Modifications During Lockdown

One of the official flow trails at Allatoona Creek Park where an unknown group has been modifying trails.

With out of town mountain bike trips postponed and extra time on their hands, a few riders are making unauthorized changes to their local trails, drawing the ire of local land managers.

At Graham Hills Park in Mount Pleasant, New York an unknown group built wooden ramps and features in an area that was recently discovered by the county’s director of park facilities, David DeLucia. Based on news reports the features were being used by a large number of children and adults.

In this case, government officials’ main concern seems to be liability, in addition to the fact that the features we constructed without permission on public land. For now, the area will be spared from demolition thanks in part to a petition signed by more than 2,000 residents in support of the features.

At Allatoona Creek Park in Acworth, Georgia, just outside Atlanta, officials are not being as accommodating.

SORBA West Georgia posted this note on their Facebook page:

The flow trails at Allatoona Creek Park are CLOSED until further notice. This includes Mo Flo, Knuckle Sandwich, and Medusa. These trails are being closed by Cobb County Parks – Natural Resource Management with our full support because of repeated unauthorized changes to the area by a certain group of users. If you ever see anyone altering jumps or creating new lines, please let us know. Unauthorized features create huge liability issues for us and the county. If you would like to help build/maintain trails, just ask. These trails will reopen once everything has been repaired, but we are not sure of a timetable.

Unofficial trail building can be a symptom of a lack of trails in an area, especially as existing trails become more crowded during the current pandemic. In the case of unauthorized features, this is driven in part by mountain bikers who might normally travel to ride more challenging trails but are currently riding locally.

Despite government closures and recreation service reductions, land managers in many places are still monitoring activity and in some cases, acting now to dismantle unauthorized trails and features. At Mount Work Park in Victoria, British Columbia workers recently dismantled two trails that were built without permission.

In Longmont, Colorado shelter-in-place is driving more riders to congregate at an unofficial pump track that’s existed in some form or another since 2013. Unfortunately for the teens who have built and maintained the track over the years, that’s drawn increased attention from government officials who now plan to remediate the area and erect a fence around it to keep bikers out. Two of the teens started a change.org petition that’s drawn more than 2,000 signatures in support of what’s become a welcome part of the neighborhood.

If anything, the current pandemic highlights the need for more outdoor recreation spaces, not fewer, though clearly citizens need to follow the proper channels.

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