[cdt-l] Mountain bike use

Jim Wolf mail at cdtsociety.org
Thu Jul 12 20:13:36 CDT 2007

The Forest Service has published proposed directives for planning, 
development, and management of the Continental Divide National Scenic 
Trail (72 Federal Register 32276, June 12, 2007). The Society has 
submitted a number of comments, mostly technical in nature. One issue of 
special concern, however, deals with mountain bike use. On this topic, 
we wrote:

    The provisions regarding mountain bike use are too lenient. The
    CDNST was conceived as a simple facility for hikers and horsemen,
    without the intrusion (except on roaded portions) of motorized or
    mechanized instruments. This understanding of the recreational
    experience of a national scenic trail has been recognized for the
    Appalachian Trail, and the same should apply here. We find it
    disturbing while ambling along in a backcountry setting, at a pace
    of two or three miles an hour, with stops to admire the wildlife and
    flowers, to have a mountain bike speed by at a rapid clip. Yes, we
    know that biking is not proscribed /per se/ on a national scenic
    trail, but that does not imply that it should be authorized where it
    may well take away the sense of solitude and freedom that the CDNST
    aims to afford. For some hikers, perhaps the occasional mountain
    bike will be accepted cheerfully – but what is to assure that the
    one or two bikes do not soon turn into a horde? How might they
    impact the physical setting of the Trail, especially in the fragile
    and often moist alpine terrain that characterizes many parts of the
    route? And for the horseback rider along the trail, the sudden
    appearance of a bike could startle his or her mount, causing it to
    take off in situation of potential hazard. Each national forest has
    a system of trails, many of which are and will continue to be
    available for mountain bike use. But a national scenic trail is,
    /and is intended to be,/ different – somewhere where the visitor can
    enjoy a high quality recreation experience in a relatively unaltered

    As a minimum, paragraph 7 should be revised to presume that mountain
    bike use is not to be authorized. That is, “bicycle (mountain bike)
    use may /not/ be allowed on a trail segment of the CDNST /unless/
    the following conditions ["an affirmative determination has been
    made that bicycle use would not substantially interfere with the
    nature and purposes of the trail"] are met….”. It might be helpful
    to spell out some of the factors that might come into play in
    determining whether bicycle use will or will not substantially
    interfere with the nature and purposes of the trail – levels of use,
    impact on the physical and biological environment, velocity of
    expected bicycle traffic, proximity to highways or other populated
    locations, etc. But in backcountry (and, especially, alpine)
    settings, on trails designed for pedestrian and equestrian use,
    bicycle use should be authorized rarely, if at all.

[Another provision in the proposal defines the nature and purposes of 
the CDT as follows: "... to provide for high quality, scenic, primitive 
hiking and horseback-riding, non-motorized recreational experiences and 
to conserve natural, historic, and cultural resources along the 
Continental Divide."]

We understand that mountain bike groups are opposing the proposed 
directives and have alerted their members to file comments. The hiking 
community needs to be heard as well, so we urge our members and other 
CDT users to submit their views by writing to:

USDA Forest Service
P.O. Box 25127
Lakewood, Colorado 80025-0127

Comments should be submitted on or before August 13, 2007.

Jim Wolf

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