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Environmentalists Gone Wild – Support Mountain Biking in Big Bend

Submitted by on March 28, 2011 – 9:26 pm2 Comments

Big Bend National Park, West Texas

Let’s get my bias out in the open, I am highly sympathetic to environmental causes and believe we are far better off trying to preserve rather than destroy in the name of progress or commerce.  And in spite of what our  coiffed governor says, there is no such thing as clean burning coal.   So it’s out of the ordinary for me to find myself at odds with the Sierra Club, a noble organization dedicated to protecting “communities, wild places, and the planet itself”.  But they’re opposing a National Park Service proposal to create a 10 mile mountain bike trail to be built within the Big Bend National forest,  and quite frankly, they need to be reined in on this one.

The project they are opposing reads:

The National Park Service (NPS) proposes to construct a new multi-use trail, to include mountain biking, in Big Bend backcountry.

The proposed new trail would be located in currently undeveloped backcountry, northeast of Panther Junction. Nearly five miles of trail would be constructed for use by hikers, horseback riders, and bicyclists. The proposal includes creating a trailhead parking and picnic area near the Panther Junction Visitor Center, and a second trailhead along the Grapevine Hills road. The area is not within the Recommended Wilderness areas of Big Bend backcountry, which remain off-limits to mountain bikes.

The purpose of the proposed project is to provide new recreational opportunities to park visitors, including an experience not currently available to bicyclists. The proposal results from a 2002 Memorandum of Agreement between the NPS and the International Mountain Biking Association, established for the purpose of identifying mountain biking opportunities in the national parks.

Because federal regulations currently prohibit use of bicycles off of existing paved and unpaved roads in all units of the National Park system, formal federal rulemaking would be required to create an exception at Big Bend, including publication in the Federal Register and an associated public comment period.

Contact Information
NEPA (Public Involvement) Coordinator Raymond Skiles (432) 477-1145

You can read it all here and be sure to go here for the complete environmental report and project details (PDF file).

To put in perspective the park is over 800,000 acres in size, they have 150 miles of hiking paths and 150 miles of roads.   The proposed mountain bike path will be 10 miles, which represents a drop in a bucket.  Furthermore the mountain bike path will not jeopardize any endangered species or other wildlife.

The Sierra Club seems to be the only opposition to the trail.  Their objections are simply without merit (and not worth my time to repeat and respond to), and telling mountain bikers to play in the road with cars is not a solution.  You can read more about where they’re coming from here.  While I support much of what the Sierra Club stands for and does, I am opposed to their efforts to block this park improvement for mountain biking.  I hope you feel the same and will let the Park folks know how you feel.

You have until April the 2nd (at 11:59pm) to leave your comments.  We hope you will take a minute and let the park folks know that you support the proposed trail for mountain biking.  And if the link doesn’t work, click it again.  It took me a few times, this is a government website so…

Hat tip to Dorba.

ps: encourage your fellow cyclists to let the parks department know their thoughts as well.

-Chris

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Chris started riding a bike again when he noticed the Preston Ridge Trail being constructed across the street from his house. Since then he co-founded Biking in Dallas, has gone through countless Craigslist bike projects (some better than others) and can be found pedaling around town on a Electra Ticino with a camera in tow.

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