Wednesday, March 21, 2007

MCOSD Rangers, MMWD Rangers, Enforcement Offials

The reference to a possible illegal trail was removed by singletracks. Visit them for links to legitimate trails.

What They Really Talk About

See for yourselves what a mostly illegal trail riding crowd has to say about the necessity of riding illegally: Some comments by Dana Beckstoffer rationalizing her law breaking habit...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ron Ford's Comments on IJ Article

I agree totally with John Parulis. The IJ completely missed the real story here and that is illegal trail usage. Tom Sienstra of the Chronicle did a much better job on this same piece. John Parulis is a member of Green Peace and was on the Rainbow Warrior (Green Peace's environmental tracking vessel). He is doing a video documentary on the clapper rail (his own dime) at this time. His tracking of illegal trail use goes back many years. His credentials as an environmentalist are impeccable and no doubt more involved than Mark Prado ever has been.
The main character in Prado's article is a professional mountain bike downhill racer. I think Mark is enamored. His title was meant to sell papers and was totally derogatory to our Parks & Open Space personnel who are some of the best in the business at what they do. The down hill racer was obviously pissed that her favorite illegal trail was blocked off. As far as the danger or so called "booby-trap", this barbed wire fence was bent down by bikers trying to take it out. They have destroyed or moved any barriers placed to stop use of illegal trails. Barbed wire fences are common in parks and ranches around Marin, Sonoma and most counties with rural areas. If she doesn't use the illegal trail, there is no danger to her or anyone else. The legal trail is clearly marked.
Their is a huge problem with down hill racers making Marin Open Space their play ground and descecration of virgin hillsides. They chose to illegally construct huge jumps made with two-by-fours, chicken wire and steel reinforcement bars on private land (without permission) and Open Space.Some of these jumps are as tall as 8 feet. I personally destroyed one that was over 8 feet tall and 30 feet long, a literal bridge in the Open Space. They cut down baby redwoods with chain saws(one 8 inches in diameter) in one section of the Open Space to utilized the wood to build bridges over ephemeral streams. If we all took this attitude about our Open Space we would have no Open Space.
This piece is obviously biased in favor of use by down hill bike racers in our Open Space. It's sad that the statement by people who have so little respect for the Open Space that their attitude is "go ahead and fine me, $50 is nothing to me".

Ron Ford

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Trouble With Ron Acker's Views

Let’s Now Deconstruct -March 18, 2007

What is most curious about the following opinion piece in Saturday’s (March 17, 2007) Marin IJ is not so much the article itself but the speed with which it was posted and the unusual black box drawn around it to bring attention to itself. Letters to the IJ Opinion editor usually take several days, sometimes longer to get posted. This pro-mountain bike letter made it into the Saturday paper faster than any response I’ve ever seen in 10 years of reading the IJ, which raises the question, was there any collusion between mountain bike proponents and the paper’s editorial staff? ( Today, March 19th, IJ Opinion editor, Doug Bunnell, informed me that this wasn't intentional. Acker had gotten his letter in on early Sat. The box around his letter was meant to set it apart from the ICE Raid letters according to Doug) Here’s the letter written by Ron Acker of San Anselmo: comments in red

Trails should be open to all (Ron Acker Marin IJ March 17, 2007)

This is in response to Friday's IJ article concerning obstacles placed on the Split Rock trail by Marin Open Space District to deter mountain bikers from using the trail.

It's a mighty understatement by Sharon McNamee, district general manager, that its solution to place barbed wire, boulders and metal fence posts across the trail was "not the most well-thought-out solution."

Regardless of district rationalizations that this effort "makes the trail safe," the perception is that by placing barbed wire at chest and head level and planting metal posts painted green in the trail the intent is bodily injury.

This is nonsense. Rangers from the Marin Municipal Water District, State and local rangers often take trail blockage actions to close off or protect fragile or environmentally sensitive trails. Mountain bikers have a habit of either tearing these barriers down or damaging them to gain entry to off-limits trails

This further illustrates the divide between Marin land managers and mountain bikers. Marin is the birthplace of mountain biking, and yet, mountain bikers are discriminated against in their access to trails. The basis for this is suspect at best and based on anecdotal trail encounter data or questionable environmental impact analyses. The debate must move beyond stereotypes and prejudices to pragmatism.

I’ll bring in Connie Berto, a long standing member of the Marin County Open Space Board.

Dear Sir: This letter is to correct the misinformation spread by mountain bikers such as Ron Acker (17 March) claiming that the basis for trail use regulations is "suspect at best and based on anecdotal trail encounter data..." It's time that Acker and others learn the facts, if only the I-J will print this letter.

Trail accidents and deaths caused by mt. bikers have been well documented in ranger reports and articles and the file is growing. These range from deaths to horses from 1989 (Annadel State Park) to a shocking incident in Santa Barbara in October 2005; deaths to humans, from a 1993 incident in Sacramento to bike-to-bike collisions in Colorado in 2003. In July 2006 there were three serious injury accidents in Marin County alone, caused by mountain bicyclists. One was to a jogger on Mt. Tam and two to horseback riders in Marin County Open Space. One rider suffered a broken collarbone; the other was knocked unconscious and suffered a concussion. All of these details can be verified.

With over 600 miles of ample wide dirt fire roads in Marin appropriate for sharing in peace, it is sad that mt. bikers continue to focus on narrow trails and footpaths where their speeding presence is a safety hazard to all users. I'd like to see more of their "self-policing" as claimed by Acker. Fact is, the bicyclists themselves have access to every single hiking trail in Marin County -- it's only the bicycle that must be left at home.

Sincerely, Connie Berto, San Anselmo.

Marin's large mountain biking community isn't going away. Riding singletrack is fun. There are more than 600 miles of fire roads and singletrack in Marin. There are less than 30 miles of "legal" singletrack available to mountain bikers. The primary spots, China Camp and Tamarancho, get rather crowded as a result. Given supply and demand, there will be mountain bikers on "illegal" singletrack.

There’s a good reason why mountain bikers aren’t allowed everywhere. Mr. Acker seems to be forgetting another vital component to the open space experience and that is the needs of the varied wildlife that inhabit Marin’s open space regions. A glance at Marin County’s official open space web site will reveal some of the varied wildlife that inhabit these regions

In the 10 years I’ve been hiking the trails in and around China Camp I’ve noticed a large drop off of animal sightings that can only be attributed to increase human activity there especially with the onslaught of bike traffic in the wilderness. Gone are the grey fox, raccoons and skunks I used to see high on San Pedro Mountain ridge tops. Numerous ring neck snakes are squashed by bike tires. Tires that move too fast to avoid doing this kind of damage.

This situation is analogous to Prohibition. If you drive an activity underground, you lose control. Marin land managers can either choose to allocate their limited time and resources to policing mountain bike activities or they can choose to embrace mountain biking and leverage that interest to upgrade existing singletrack, build new singletrack, and maintain the trail system so it can last for everyone's enjoyment. The examples set by volunteer-driven efforts at Tamarancho and China Camp should be evidence that, when given the opportunity, the mountain biking community is responsible and self-policing.

The situation is more analogous to high pressure water cannon strip mining for gold in California’s Sierra foothills in the 19th century that President Lincoln put a stop to. The new breed of illegal mountain bikers are a minority, who are composed of semi-pro and pro downhill racers or their wanabees looking for taxpayer paid open space obstacle courses. The trails they crave wouldn’t be ridden by the majority of law respecting mountain bikers. This is pure selfishness and way out of touch with open space stewardship. Also, take a look at some of the more abused trails like the Scetrini Fire Road ancillary trails near Barbiere Park. They were described by the former Open Space director as a mess. There is nor was ever any attempt by mountain bike advocates to maintain or heal this trail. The condition of the trail steadily worsens every year.

Mountain bikers are not the young, arrogant punks portrayed by those who wish to limit their trail access. In Marin we are your neighbors and we're paying the same taxes to fund Marin Open Space, Marin Municipal Water District and Golden Gate National Recreation Area land management. We should have the same access to the trails.

This too is nonsense. Take a look at the this web site

to get an idea of what type of person is stretching the boundaries of legality in our open spaces.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Response to Biased Article In Marin IJ

Booby-Trapped Trails? March 16, 2007

The Marin IJ has once again showed its true colors in writing a story sympathetic towards illegal bikers that doesn’t tell the whole story about illegal biking.

Folks, this story is about ‘illegal’ mountain biking. The side of the story that the Marin IJ consistently fails to tell, are the documented stories of assault by illegal bikers on hikers, the destruction of existing trails and the destruction of endangered species habitat by illegal trail builders, and the ongoing violation of Marin’s narrow hiking trails by illegal and now downhill racing bikers. Mark Prado, the story’s author, is a mountain biker. ( I have been informed today, March 19th, by the IJ Opinion editor, Doug Bunnell, that Mark isn't a mountain biker ) If there’s one component that can not be de-linked from this story it is that the mountain biking craze is intimately tied to a billion dollar a year industry. Selling bikes and the mystique of risky biking is what it is now about. If you pick up any of the bike magazines out there, invariably you will see a glorification of risky, extreme riding that extols elements of law breaking. The celebrated president of Marin’s Wilderness Trail Bikes, Mr. Patrick Seidler underwrote a wild mountain biker film produced in 2000 called “Super Heros” that glorifies illegal trail riding in Marin, trespassing on State property and public urination.

The woman who supposedly tipped off the press about what she called ‘booby-traps’ is herself a professional downhill racer who competes in bike races affectionately referred to as “No Brakes” on the NORBA circuit. Google her and see for yourselves. She admitted in the article that she was trying to find the “split rock trail”, which is an illegal trail. These people are not your typical mountain biker. They are professionals or semi-professionals out for extreme workouts. Marin’s off limits trails are what they’re after. The environmental impacts of what they leave behind are an ongoing headache for hikers and open space personnel. I know one of the rangers who erected the barricade. Yes it was a barricade and not a trap. This guy is a family man, a former soldier, and in fact, an advocate for creating more trails for bike riders. He would never erect a device to hurt or injure anyone. In Tom Stienstra’s SF Chronicle article on the same incident, mention was made that it was a biker who in fact bent the metal fence posts down in an effort to dislodge them, leaving them in a position that could potentially harm someone. In the almost 10 years I have been fighting illegal bike riding and trail building I have never seen or read any reports about bikers being injured by barriers, fences, or trail blockage devices of any kind. The truth is that most mountain bike injuries result from risky riding habits. According to sports medicine expert, Dr. Robert Kronisch

“A number of factors contribute to acute injuries. A retrospective survey (4) of recreational mountain bikers found that off-road crashes were commonly associated with excessive speed, unfamiliar terrain, inattentiveness, and riding beyond one's ability. A similar survey (7) of recreational and competitive off-road cyclists identified loss of control, high-speed descent, and competition as factors related to acute injuries; competitors were four times more likely than noncompetitors to be acutely injured.”

In other words, the dangers of mountain biking are inherent in the sport itself.

Ms. Beckstoffer also states in the article that “We don’t mind paying a ticket”…what is that all about? Not minding paying a ticket? The Marin County Bicycle Coalition has consistently opposed increasing the fines for illegal trail riding. Why? Beckstoffer’s statement seems to indicate that the current fee structure is too lenient. This needs to change. Marin’s fragile narrow trails (inappropriately referred to as ‘single track’-a mountain biker term) are under constant assault. The problem is getting worse and the often heard complaint within the mountain bike community is that “we don’t have enough of trails to ride on”. This is pure nonsense. In Mountain Biking Marin by Martin and Simon, there are 458.2 miles of legal mountain biking trails in Marin alone.

I have personally risked my health and well being fighting illegal bikers. I have received numerous death threats and even participated in a citizen’s arrest over a year ago, of an illegal biker who broke into my car and stole my car keys as I was reporting on an illegal night ride by about 14 riders in Marin County Open Space near China Camp. I wrote about and reported this story to the IJ. It was never published. Please check out the following link to view the congratulatory blogging by bikers regarding the IJ and Chron stories from March 16. See for yourselves the impudence and delight taken in illegal riding activity.

John Parulis