[cdt-l] Mountain bikes --> Backpacking stats

Ginny & Jim Owen spiritbear2k at hotmail.com
Tue Jul 17 21:27:32 CDT 2007

Jonathon -
The basic data comes from Park Service numbers - which says that backcountry 
usage over the last 10 years is down 25%.  But there are other data sources 
that go back a number of years.  I first saw this kind of thing in the 
Washington Post, of all places, about 5 or 6 years ago.

If you want independent confirmation, go to the ATC web page and look at the 
declining number of AT thruhikers over the last 6 years.  Nor is that number 
any larger this year.

I wouldn't bet on it, but I think the number of starters on the PCT may have 
increased, but the number of finishers may be the same as in 2000.  Not a 
good indicator of a healthy system.

The CDT starting numbers have increased - but for how long?  The AT and the 
PCT are the feeder system for the CDT.  If the numbers on those trails 
decrease, then the CDT numbers will also decrease eventually.

>From personal experience - we're seeing very few backpackers - and a lot 
more mountain bike, motorized and horse use of the backcountry relative to 
what we've seen in the past.  Doesn't mean that "outdoor usage" has declined 
as much as  you've been told.  But it for sure means that the emphasis (and 
activities) have shifted.  As someone said - we don't have the political 
clout (numbers) to get some things done anymore.

Mountain bikes - are NOT the problem on the CDT.  The dirt bikes and ATV's 
(motorized) are.  There are Ranger Districts that have given over what were 
patently hiking trails (on the CDT) to motorized use (we hiked those trails 
in 1999 - and there were no ATV's out there  - or allowed on those trails 
then).  And they've REALLY screwed them up.  One example is the Lewis & 
Clark NF south of Marias Pass.  As I recall, the CDT was to be built for 
foot and horse traffic - and motorized vehicles were to be allowed only on 
those sections that had been open to motorized use prior to the 
establishment of the CDT.  But now you have sections of the CDT being given 
over to the ATV's by the Forest Managers. I believe those actions to be in 
violation of Federal law.

BTW - the Federal funding thing - we've seen no indication of that.  What we 
saw last year was multi-million dollar improvements on the CDT - in certain 
places.  Meaning some Ranger Districts had done massive trail construction - 
and others hadn't.  In our wanderings this year, we've seen massive capital 
improvements to the Park system.  Not necessarily in the back country, but 
certainly in the front country - where the vast majority of Park visitors 
are found.  I've seen comments about the NPS being neglected and 
underfunded.  From persoinal experience, I'll tell you that it's BS.  We've 
visited and hiked in nearly every National Park and National Monument in 
Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana this 
summer.  There's no evidence whatever of any lack of funds.

Walk softly,


>From: Jonathan Ley <jonathan at phlumf.com>
>Reply-To: cdt-l at backcountry.net, jonathan at phlumf.com
>To: cdt-l at backcountry.net, Paul Magnanti <pmags at yahoo.com>
>Subject: Re: [cdt-l] Mountain bikes --> Backpacking stats
>Date: Tue, 17 Jul 2007 18:27:08 -0700
>One comment in this thread caught my eye - "...with declining use of the
>I'd really like to know where this perception has its foundation. All
>anecdotal information I've heard/seen would indicate the opposite is
>true. There are various political groups and industries who have an
>interest in promoting the idea that people aren't heading to the great
>outdoors. Federal funding for outdoor recreation surely has taken a hit...
>So, I did a bit of quick research on the subject. One of the more
>interesting reports I found was this one:
>(see pages 50-57 in particular)
>It's from these people:
>  From this, it does appear the % of backpackers and "outdoor activity"
>is generally down slightly. Though the trends are pretty "noisy" - lots
>of up and down - and it depends a lot on which geographical areas you
>look at. I'm sure if you sliced it even further to look at areas with
>good access to great backpacking areas, the data would be more different
>I don't think they'd have an agenda to spin the data, but I could be
>wrong.  Regardless, it's an interesting report.
>If anyone has a good link to other reports on the subject, I'd love to
>see them!
>Paul Magnanti wrote:
> > Ah...the mountain biking can of worms.
> >
> > I will preface this post by saying I *DO NOT* mountain bike.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > Most Eastern trails are not mountain biking friendly. Too steep, rocky 
>and rooty.
> >
> >
> >
> > However, most Western trails are built a bit wider, plenty of
> > switchbacks and tend to be graded nicely. Basically, I don't think 
>mountain bikes have as much an impact on western trails as they would on 
>(most) Eastern trails.
> >
> >
> >
> > Out West, there is more of a tradition with multi-use trails. As such, 
>there does not seem to be as much an impact.
> >
> >
> >
> > To be honest, with declining use of the backcountry, to keep mountain
> > bikers out of trails is going to be extremely difficult. The majority
> > of backcountry users are NOT backpackers at this point. Point blank: We
> > don't have the political muscle to keep mountain bikers out of most 
> >
> > And to exclude people out of areas that they now legally enjoy is going 
>to create some bad ju-ju.
> >
> >
> >
> > Rather than fight the other users, we should concentrate our energies on 
>preserving what is out there.
> >
> >
> > Do I want to see mountain bikers
> > on the AT? No, I don't. Too old of a trail that would require major
> > overhaul in many parts to accomodate mountain bikers. Like wise, I would 
>not want to see them in Wilderness areas. There needs to be some areas that 
>are foot traffic only.
> >
> >
> > On the Colorado Trail, CDT et al? They are out there already. To
> > exclude them would also exclude people who could be allies. There are
> > not many people into non-motorized recreation. Hunters, mountain
> > bikers, anglers, equestrians and hikers also share a love for the
> > outdoors (in different ways). The division amongst us only hinders
> > everyone's ultimate goal: protecting the outdoors.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > I do not mountain bike. But I don't see how excluding potential allies 
>on trails already open to them would help us either.
> >
> >
> >
> > Just my .05 worth.
> >
> >
> >
> > ************************************************************
> > The true harvest of my life is intangible.... a little stardust
> > caught, a portion of the rainbow I have clutched
> > --Thoreau
> > http://www.pmags.com
> >
> >
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> >
> >
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