Dirt Rag #120 Access Action

Jason

JORBA Board Member/Chapter Leader
JORBA.ORG
You may not know it, but there's a quiet war going on. Waged almost entirely by a volunteer army of mountain bikers, these folks are fighting for you and your ability to ride on public land. It doesn't matter what part of the country you live in or what trails you ride, chances are there's a mountain bike advocate in the trenches nearby working to keep your bike on the trail. Here are a few of their stories.

Michael Vitti
New York
Presedent, CLIMB


What is the biggest issue facing mountain bikers in the metro NY and Long Island Area?


The number one issue is liability. Land managers and the general public have this idea that mountain biking is a dangerous activity and it makes getting approval for new trails very difficult. New York's Recreational Use Statutes aren't very cut and dried, and there's a lot of room for interpretation in the courts. Even New York Stat Parks isn't completely sure if the statutes protect them from personal injury. It's forced me to create an information packet for the parks to explain the issues, and we're having to develop a Risk Management Plan to get better access to single-track.

What's CLIMB focusing on to improve access?

We're trying to increase our visibility because most people don't know that members of the Concerned Long Island Mountain Bikers (CLIMB) are out there working on the trails. The Parks Department doesn't do anything for mountain bikers, as they do for hiking or equestrian groups. We're either on our own or we have nothing, so I've written a couple of articles that have come out in local community newspapers, one article being, "Long Island Mountain Bikers on a Quest for Respect." The hikers presume that mountain bikers cause the erosion on their trails but you never see mountain bikers on the hiking trails-it's a myth that bikes cause the erosion. The truth is that the trails weren't designed properly in the first place. Most of the trails are animal trails that hunters followed, or they're trails created by teenagers on motorcycles and ATVs. So in reality, we have animals and teenagers designing the trails we use. We spend a lot of time re-designing badly designed trails.

What are you doing to get single-track built in New York City?

Matt LeBow, who was the New York IMBA rep, started the process of getting access to New York City Parks almost six years ago, and I became aware of it three years ago and decided to have CLIMB help provide larger organizational support. I started going to the meetings with Matt LeBow and Dawson Smith. At first, the Parks Department was very against the idea of building trails in the city, but over time, the people who opposed us actually became our greatest allies. We showed them that we have the same goals as they do, and that we could be good partners. After about two years, we convinced them that building mountain biking trails in Manhattan is a good idea.

We're going to put in two trail systems. One in Highbridge Park in upper Manhattan and the other is in the Northwoods section of Cunningham Park in Queens. It's an area that has a lot of problems with ATVs, teenage drinking parties, drugs and invasive species. Their biggest concern is people riding off-trail looking for thrills and trampling native plants, so we told them that the success of the trail will be determined by building black diamond loops with technical trail features so that riders will stay on designated trails.

We received a $100,000 grant to build the trail at Highbridge and we're going to contact GreenApple Corps to have two crews working full time for two weeks. We're hiring IMBA Trail Solutions to do the design and supervision. But we don't have the money yet for Cunningham Park.

How can people get involved in the project?

The best thing is to join our email list on our website, www.climbonline.org, so they can get notified of the trail work parties we'll be organizing. It's going to take a while to finish this project and we're going to need plenty of support. New York City Parks is a huge corporation, and each department needs to be on board, so it's going to take a while. We also need financial support. A CLIMB membership is only $15 and you get a lot in return: a 10% discount card to local bike shops, a quarterly newsletter, free food at our summer BBQ, free food at our winter holiday party, access to the website and forum, and access to our bi-annual bus trips.
 
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