Cooperation opens trails: two stories from the front lines
Two years after the City of Baltimore proposed banning off-road bicycles from its watersheds, mountain biking is now officially legal in the popular city-owned Loch Raven watershed and two other watersheds north of Baltimore.
On March 5 Baltimore Public Works Director George Balog announced approval of a plan developed by the Maryland Association of Mountain Bike Operators (MAMBO), and approved by the Friends of the Watershed Committee. "This is the most significant achievement we made," Balog told the Baltimore Sun, referring to the compromise worked out with cyclists in a set of new recreational regulations on more than 17,000 acres.
"It's been nine years coming," said MAMBO president Roger Bird, "but cyclists need to understand that it was either this agreement or nothing. If we continue to move forward, we'll be able to get more trails opened. But unless everyone pitches in and helps, the City could put a fence around the watersheds and no one will be able to ride there."
The task force of cyclists and non-cyclists was assembled by the City to forge a plan to allow mountain bikes in the watersheds while protecting reservoir buffer lands. A proposal submitted by MAMBO was the basis of the new plan. With the new rights come responsibilities. "We turned the city government around 180 degrees," Bird said. "We not only befriended them, we did a lot of hard work. But this is just the beginning."
The cycling community, led by MAMBO, is required by the City to provide educational outreach at bike shops and at trail heads, regular self-policing by woods roads cycling patrols, and volunteer maintenance projects to improve trails. All of these programs have already been initiated by MAMBO and will continue. The City will provide materials such as maps, copies of watershed regulations and signage on the woods roads.
The Friends of the Watersheds Committee, a group that monitors the environment in the watersheds, will review the mountain biking plan on at least an annual basis. The committee's review will be used by the City when considering whether to further restrict cycling in the watersheds or to add to the approved system of bike routes.
After a grace period of one year, watershed police may impose fines (ranging from $100 to $1,000) and confiscating bikes of cyclists who ignore the new rules; impounded bikes will be charged a storage fee of $50 a month. During the grace period, police and watershed officials will warn violators as MAMBO and other cycling groups work on educating bikers on the new rules.
For more information, call MAMBO at (410) 902-1295 or point your browser to: www.bikemobile.com/mambo.
By Terry Heslin, Arizona State OHV Program
The Charoleau Gap Trail, one of the southwest's premier 4x4 and mountain bike routes, will soon reopen thanks to the involvement of concerned trail users. Five years ago, the trail&emdash;and access to the National Forest&emdash;was cut off because of a disagreement between a private development and a jeep tour outfitter over road maintenance.
Thanks to citizens from all over the country who wrote letters to elected officials and the land management agencies, the Arizona Game and Fish Commission took up the challenge. The result was a new recreational access permit and a new route to be constructed entirely on State Trust Lands. The new alignment will reduce the visibility of the trail from surrounding areas.
In addition, the Tucson Roughrider's 4x4 Club has volunteered to relocate affected native plans to adjacent State Trust lands. This is in stark contrast to the adjacent resort community, which has been cited repeatedly for bulldozing pristine desert vegetation in flagrant violation of Arizona Native Plant protection laws.
This success should serve as inspiration to all who are fighting access closures across the nation. This is a testament to the power of writing letters and being proactive. The Game and Fish Commission is also to be credited for taking up this access issue and taking heat for doing so. Naturally, the Game and Fish Department has an interest in enabling access for hunting and fishing, but other recreationists also benefit from this right-of-way acquisition.
For information call Terry Heslin (602) 542-7115.