Marin hiker biker battle continues

Marin hikers protest cycle routes in San Geronimo Valley preserve By Nels Johnson 05 Dec 2015, 05:44 PM Linda Novy hikes Split Rock Trail off Cascade Fire Road in Fairfax on Friday. Novy is part of a group opposed to mountain bike riding in parts of the Cascade Canyon Open Space Preserve.(James Cacciatore/Special to the Independent Journal) Mountain bikers accustomed to using informal trails to cross the popular Giacomini Open Space Preserve in San Geronimo Valley were triumphant when the county agreed to authorize several for listing on the official trails map, but a hiking and equestrian group is crying foul, saying cyclists should be barred from all five “biker-hiker” routes the county is adding to the regional trail system. Cyclists, already outlawed from the majority of Marin’s open space trails, say the public lands that served as the cradle for mountain biking must remain accessible to the growing cycling community. But the Footpeople, an advocacy group that says it represents the majority of trail users who seek “a slower, serene and safe trail experience on foot,” contend cycling on narrow trails can be dangerous and damaging. It wants officials to bar bikes on the Juniper, Vista Hamaca, Haute Lagunitas and Candalero trails in the Giacomini preserve, as well as the Split Rock Trail leading from White Hill fire road to Cascade Canyon in Fairfax. In a 13-page report to county parks officials that came complete with a DVD highlighting issues including trail erosion, the hiking and equestrian group that includes three Marin Conservation League board members balked at what it called the county bid “to re-designate trails for mountain bikers.” The move gives bikers priority over resource preservation while threatening “the safety of other users,” the Footpeople document said. County designation of eight miles of trails in the Giacomini and Cascade Canyon preserves, including 4.8 miles as “bike-hiker” routes, is “intended primarily to accommodate mountain bikers, not hikers,” the Footpeople report said. “We see it as a first step in an effort to turn the preserves in the San Geronimo Valley and the Cascade Canyon into recreational parks for mountain bikers,” the group warned. The Footpeople, describing itself as a “council of environmental leaders,” also called for an enforcement crackdown on trail scofflaws, urged a ban on night biking in the Giacomini, White Hill and Cascade Canyon preserves, and proposed a seasonal closure of narrow trails to bikers. A companion letter from equestrians signed by about 150 people protested plans favoring cyclists and issued a plea for “some trails where mountain bike riders are prohibited.” Linda Novy of Fairfax, a Footpeople spokeswoman, Marin Conservation League official and former parks commissioner, said the group is “not anti-bike but rather we are supportive of mountain biking that is safe, appropriate and when the operators comply with rules and regulations of each public land agency.” Novy, calling for closing illegal trails and increasing enforcement of regulations, conceded that “joining in compromise to allow more bike access to narrow trails, when hundreds of miles of fire roads and some multiuse trails are already available to mountain bikes, is not our first priority.” Vernon Huffman, head of Access4Bikes, calling the Footpeople “a group comprised of the same dozen or so people that have been obstructing mountain bike access for generations,” said they “have shown no willingness to share trails with bikes, and offer no solutions to mountain bike access issues.” The good news, he said, is that the county has a trails plan that promotes environmental protection while accommodating recreation for all, including cyclists. Huffman said a federal Department of Interior review indicated there is “no significant difference between the vegetation and soils impacts from hiking and mountain biking.” Further, he cited research indicating “bikes have similar impacts as hikers, often lesser impacts than hikers, and significantly lesser impacts than horses,” and added that dogs, not bikes, are the biggest problem on Marin open space lands. ‘World of difference’ Novy begged to differ, saying biking causes more environmental damage than hiking: “There is a world of difference in impact when volume of use, riding style, and location are considered.” Tom Boss of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition said designating trails for hikers and bikers recognizes old logging road and social routes relatively few hikers use that have been functioning well for years. The move provides the access bicyclists want without carving out new trails or necessarily attracting new users, he said. “It’s unfortunate this group of people really struggle to see this meets the needs of mountain bikers while meeting many of their own concerns,” Boss said. “Marin County Parks did an excellent job balancing recreation and environmental protection,” Boss said. “Giacomini provides new opportunities for mountain biking, while avoiding new trail construction in a sensitive habitat and displacement of other users.” ‘Get on board’ Boss said the bike coalition met with the Footpeople to talk about trails in the Giacomini preserve “and make a case for why the county is on the right track” in making informal bike routes part of the official system. Footpeople were unaware of some of the trails used by cyclists and now “are trying to kill something without knowing if it works,” Boss said. “Enough is enough. Get on board. Find some common ground.” Carl Somers, planning and acquisitions chief for county parks, said the new trail designations in primarily remote areas make sense because they “provide opportunities for bikable trails without taking anything away from other user groups” or affecting habitat. As official trails, they will be maintained by the county. Such disputes about trail use are now “structurally contained” by the county’s road and trails plan process, Somers said, noting the innovative program divides county open space preserves into six regions and outlines a decision-making matrix that sorts priorities for projects, including trails, according to best management practices. The Giacomini and Cascade Canyon preserves are in the second regional zone reviewed under the plan, with the Lucas Valley region next in line. Dissent expected Somers characterized the trail designations as a “starting point” in an “open and transparent” decision-making process during which officials expect one group or another to complain about turf. “People will continue to be upset but it doesn’t mean the system isn’t working,” he said. “None of these user groups has taken control and there’s a little bit of pain in that for all of them.” Under the county trails program, formal road and trail project proposals, including creation or elimination of trails, may be submitted at any time. What’s more, individual trail designations may be “revisited and adjusted over time,” Somers said. The Footpeople did not cast stones at all plans for the Giacomini preserve. The group agreed that Contour, Cortez, and Rockridge trails, as well as an unnamed trail off Meadow View Lane near San Geronimo Valley Drive, are appropriate “multiuse” routes, while Sinaloa and Spring Street remain hiker only. “The Footpeople and many of Marin’s public believe that environmental stewardship is the number one priority of the Marin County Open Space District and that recreation is subordinated to natural resources protection,” their report said. Parks planner Somers says that best management practices and decision-making protocols outlined in the county’s roads and trails plan will guide officials as they groom the trails network. The program “is off to a balanced start and what I hope will be balanced progress,” he said. The bottom line for all user groups, Somers noted: “You’re not always going to get your way.” by Taboola Sponsored Links From The Web Bring Your Computer’s Audio to Life Crutchfield RSI Scalping Strategy Advanced Forex Strategies Begin Paying Down Credit Card Interest Faster By Taking 5 Minutes To Do This NextAdvisor The 20 Richest People Without College Degrees POP Newz David N. Swaim Tam Realty Inc Owner DRE#1070789 415-710-5504 609 San Anselmo Ave San Anselmo CA 94960 www.tamrealty.com Serving all of Marin County

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