Sunday, September 30, 2007
Steamboat Springs Steamboat mountain bikers should take heed of the phrase adorning bumper stickers seen across the nation: "Ignore your rights and they will go away."
Substitute singletrack for rights.
Keep an eye out for the proposed directive to update the management plan for the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. This 3,100-mile mixed-use route runs along the nation's spine from Montana through Routt County to New Mexico. The leading nongovernment partner working to complete the trail, the Continental Divide Trail Alliance, says it's 70 percent complete. If mountain bikers want to make their voices heard before the Forest Service finalizes its plan regarding the nature/purposes of the trail (i.e., what user groups are allowed), they need to act now. The public comment period ends Oct. 12.
Just what exactly is at stake? Well, some the best rides in the county, if not the country.
"Every time someone comes into town and wants to go on an epic ride, we go there," said Wheels Bike Shop owner Chris Johns, who hosted the Yeti Tribe Gathering last year with the classic Divide ride from Dumont Lake to Mountain View Trail and down Mount Werner. "It's more forested and pristine, it's a rough, technical trail and it's mostly in the shade."
It's hard to believe bike use would have greater environmental impact than horse traffic if this pristine characteristic is a priority.
"I'm very concerned - these trails are in dire jeopardy of being eliminated," said Routt County Riders president Brad Cusenbary, who started biking in Steamboat after seeing the world's best tackle the trails in a stage of the Mercury Tour race.
The panic button is being slammed because the directive states, "where bicycle (mountain bike) use is allowed on the CDNST, consider establishing bicycle use prohibitions and restrictions," and goes on to discourage management practices that would promote increased bike use. The stance goes against the grain of the original language of a 1976 Study Report that set the mold for both the 1978 act to create the national trail and its 1985 implementation plan - one that linked existent trails from 1985 to 1993 and what the trail currently is managed under. The original report, although antiquated and created long before mountain biking hit the mountain community mainstream, speaks to the primary purpose of a trail, "designed for the hiker and horseman, but compatible with other land uses."
Kent Foster, recreation program manager with the Routt National Forest, knows the directive "won't just be a stroke of the pen," but rather the impetus for further public comment and environmental impact studies. The bottom line remains that, as Foster put it, "if a user group feels like they'll get aced out, they need to speak up."
View the directive at www.fs.fed.us/cdt/ and submit comments via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Mountain bike-supportive organizations' comment templates and more information are available at the CDTA (cdtrail.org) and International Mountain Bicycling Association (imba.com) Web sites.