IMPORTANT ACTION ALERT: DNR TRAIL POLICY
The DNR is currently holding statewide meetings to help determine trail policies for the various user groups that have minimal impact on the lands they manage.
Last Thursday, they held the first meeting in Sedro Woolley that Thaddeus Quinn and I attended. As many of you know, there are currently have zero authorized trails on DNR in Whatcom County for any user group. Nada, zip, nothing! So, if you care about having local access on DNR-managed lands, take a few minutes to read below and then send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org I’m also including some of my thoughts along with input from Evergreen to help give you some ideas.
As you give input on the 5 questions below regarding DNR’s Recreational Trails Policy, please consider the following criteria:
• Causes the least impact to the land
• Provides environmental and water quality protection
• Maintains the lowest maintenance and construction costs reasonable
SOME OF MY THOUGHTS on the 5 DNR questions:
1. What kind of trail experience do you want on DNR-managed lands?
Mountain bikers prefer to ride a variety of trail types and ability levels. Everything from rolling cross country, to steep /technical descending trails, to flowing jump trails and, of course, trails that account for all levels – from beginner to expert. We prefer to ride on narrow singletrack and avoid double tracks or roads whenever possible.
2. What do you want us to know about your trail activity?
Mt. bikers are a diverse group – both in gender, race and age. It’s a recreation that one can participate in for most of their life and, as such, many mt. bikers today are parents (and grandparents) and still enjoy getting the trails as they get older. Additionally, we care about the environment and take our trail designs and routing very seriously to avoid wet areas and mitigate erosion. Mt. bikers do not want to ride through a riparian zone or creeks – hence why we route around them whenever possible or bridge over them using native materials (cedar) – if necessary.
3. How does your type of trail use interact with other recreational uses?
Mt. bikers interactions with other user groups are usually very positive in Whatcom county. Many times, that comes down to proper trail design and locations that make sense for each user group. We do share riding areas with equestrians and hikers/trail runners and co-exist very well together. At times, to reduce user conflicts and increase safety, single use trails are a necessity – whether that’s for hiking, mt. biking or equestrian use.
4. What are some strategies for meeting the three criteria for your preferred trail activity?
For mt. biking trails, we have recognized trail standards and utilize Whistler Trail standards and IMBA guidelines. There is no reason to re-create the wheel because those standards already mitigate environmental issues/erosion via proper trail design, include structures and feature design and focus on the type of experience that riders are looking for in the woods. They are also achievable from a cost and labor standpoint. As an example, requiring a cribbed switchback be made out of 2 man rock might make sense if there’s a lot of rock in an area, but generally speaking, we can build a cribbed wall using blowdown cedar at nearly zero cost and without requiring the hauling big rock to a job site – which usually does a lot of unnecessary damage to the trail tread, is cost prohibitive and burns out our volunteer labor pool.
5. What could the DNR do to increase volunteerism on trails?
First and foremost, locally, they would need to authorize some recreation areas in Whatcom County. Any off-road recreation use (for ANY user group) on DNR-managed lands is currently unauthorized in Whatcom County, so any responsible user group can’t be associated with these trail networks, can’t publicize them and cannot condone any trailwork in these areas. That said, due to zero available access, most user types have already have formed user-built trail networks on DNR lands. Additionally, when you recognize that a group is recreating in an area, it creates a sense of stewardship and ownership that helps keep most unwanted activity at bay (e.g. illegal dumping, illegal, vandalism, firewood cutting, poaching, grow ops, meth labs, etc.)
Second, reach out to the user groups and ask THEM what they’d like and where it would make the most sense for them. There is no shortage of volunteer labor in this area – whether it’s the BCH, WMBC, WTA or motorized users. Every one of these groups has a large user base and can supply the volunteer labor to make these areas world class with very little cost to the DNR.
Here are some points you might consider making to DNR (from Evergreen):
- New trail development and maintenance of existing trails should stress resilience, user experience and cost-benefit balance rather than over-engineering.
- Mountain bikers seek a diversity of trail experiences, from rolling cross-country routes to steep-and-fast downhill runs. DNR’s trail policy should meet diverse recreation user needs.
- DNR should consult with the recreating community as it develops policies and standards for sanctioning or decommissioning user-built trails created by all user groups. Many were built to address a significant shortage of recreation opportunities, are in excellent condition and would make worthy additions to our trail inventory. Others are poorly located or built and should be decommissioned in the interest of user safety and resource protection.