We’ve been meeting with lots of people about mountain biking lately – our San Vicente Redwoods partners (POST, Sempervirens Fund, and Save the Redwoods League), County officials, and the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz County. The meetings are about the challenges and opportunities of building mountain bike trails at San Vicente Redwoods. I realized during one of them that our overarching goal is to make mountain biking respectable.
Making mountain biking respectable mostly means keeping mountain bikers on the trails. Here’s how we are planning on doing that. We’re planning on trails so awesome no one will want to build their own. And if they do build their own, they’ll be shut down immediately (the way you fight graffiti by removing it quickly). And on top of that, we’ll invest in having a law enforcement presence – and an education presence, so that would-be illegal trail-builders can learn why it’s so important to stay on the trails and out of certain areas (like mountain lion denning areas).
One reason mountain bikers build their own trails is there aren’t many legal ones. There are only 35 miles of legal mountain biking trails in Santa Cruz County and 240 miles of hiking trails. Nobody knows how many miles of illegal mountain bike trails there are, but certainly the shortage of legal trails itself encourages illegal trails.
One of the things the San Vicente partners talked about was phasing in the trail building and carefully monitoring trail use before building more trails. This approach recognizes that our commitment at San Vicente Redwoods is to both provide access and protect the natural resources. And it recognizes that the mountain biking community has a reputation problem – all those uncounted miles of trails weren’t built or maintained with the same care we’re showing at San Vicente Redwoods.
We look forward to working with mountain bikers to make mountain biking as respectable a way of enjoying nature as hiking or horse-back riding.