Friday, April 4, 2014

DPW appoints a taskforce to write Watershed Recreation Paln

In early March, the city of Frederick's DPW held an initial meeting to get an overview of the watershed from the perspective of all of it's users, and controlling groups.
   Among the groups represented were the Fish and Wildlife service, DNR, Frederick Steeple-chasers (runners), equestrians, PATC (hikers),  Herpetologists, City officials (like Alderwoman Kelly Russel), Frederick Parks and Rec, and of course us, the Mountain Bikers. (Also referred to as "locusts" by a DNR official).  This group of  Mountain Bikers, made up of Joe Whitehair, Ryan Delaney (IMBA), Clyde Hicks (Owner of Trail House and official liaison of the Blue Trail to the City since the 90's),  Tom Rinker  (owner of Bicycle Escape), Phil Vanwerkhoven (MORE waterdshed liaison), Dave Kalt (long time rider and trail worker, MORE ), and me (Hillary Elgert), have come together as a work group.  The mission of this work group is to gather data to defend the trails in the hopes that they may be included in a new Recreational Management Plan for the Watershed.
  This group of mountain bikers has been assembled from a smaller group, who have been communicating with the City to manage and expand area trails for years.
  Happy there's a pump track in Frederick now?  You can thank Joe, among others in this group, for their efforts in making this and other local trails happen. Core members in this group have the appropriate connections with City officials, a feel for how the system works (and the ability to stomach it), to be an invaluable asset to the mountain biking community.  Their voice is no more or less important then anyone else, they are just the willing to do the work and deal with the politics and process.
  That being said, none of the members of this group have any say which trails stay or go.  I was glad to see that, no matter what riding background they come from, none of the members want ANY of the trails closed.  They see all of the trails as an asset to the area that should be fought for.  It has been made clear to the City and DNR that if they want any trails closed, they will get no help from this group.
 The meeting began with an introduction by everyone in the room of themselves, their title, interest in the Watershed, and their concerns and hopes for it's future.   Needless to say, this took up most of the meeting. The head of DPW led the meeting by writing down the key points on a board.  By the end of the meeting, it was clear that everyone's objective was conservation, regardless of our intended use.  From there he felt we had a good starting point to appoint a task force, comprised of  members from each of the organized groups represented, to write, re-write, amend, fight over, and finally, bring before the City to vote on, a Recreational Management Plan.
  Before I was involved in this work group, they drafted an initial trail assessment matrix based on the map of trails just created by the city.  They submitted this as a work in progress to the city prior to the meeting. DPW confirmed this was a good approach and a useful tool as we move forward.   Now the fight begins to keep the amendments in our favor!
  The strength behind this fight will come from hard data gathered on the trails.  We will be taking slope measurements and cataloging trail conditions on all of the trails appearing on the Citys recently created trail map.  Combating mis information such as trail run off getting into streams, and proposing solutions for eroded trails.
  Say hi of you see us out there.  Until next time!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Rays Womens weekend 2014

Another year is in the book!  As always it was a beautiful harmony of chaos.  Around 175 ladies were in attendance, from beginners through advanced, with 12 of us coaching.

One of the highlights of the weekend for me was a private lesson 8 year old Madison.  At home in Arizona she is getting into BMX.  I really hope to see her at Womens Weekend next year to see how she's progressed.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Watershed Access Progress

As many of us know, the DNR and City of Frederick have begun their long promised project for a shared multi use plan for the Frederick Watershed.   Although spurred on the by the increase in mountain bikers to the area, the building of "rogue" trails, and the resulting complaints (and vandalization) from hunters and other users, the project will likely take a few years to complete. For a good overview of the area check out

  Needless to say, the current officially recognized trail, the Blue trail at around 20 miles, is not enough to handle this use increase.  As the watershed has been established and managed as a recourse for the City via hunting, water supply, logging, and the conservation of natural habitat, mountain biking is allowed but not promoted.  Currently the DNR and WMA do not collect resources to manage mountain bike trails, not to mention those in a position to do so have no interest in it.  To give you an idea of their level of interest- at a public hearing last winter addressing motorcycle access to Greenbrier state park, Chris Boyer, president of the R&T motorcycle club, reported the submission of a report with photos of the heavily eroded stream crossing of Delauder rd by trucks (complete with photo of dead trout), and bicycle jumps built in the watershed.  Neither of which had anything to do with dirt bikes in Greenbrier state park, but everything to do with the lack of motivation to manage any issues.  Probably this goes back to a lack of funding.  At this time there are no public access OHV riding areas in the state of  Maryland!  Hopefully mountain bike access is not heading the same direction.

  Luckily all this can change, as hopefully our newly elected officials will reflect the change in their constituents. The current Mayor of Frederick, Randy McClement, as well as some key alderman are open to, and in communication with local mountain bike advocates who aim to legitimize a larger trail network.  Theses city officials recognize that the demographic of Frederick is changing, and that zero tolerance will get us no where.  This is not to say that the near future will see a change in the primary objectives of the watersheds' management.  That will almost certainly remain "to conserve and enhance wildlife populations and their respective habitats as well as to provide public recreational use of the State’s wildlife resources."  Via DNR website. 

  At this point no one can say what the outcome of the multi use plan will be.   There are simply to may players and factors.  The city is currently in the first phases of the planning, which include the mapping of all possible trails.  This recently completed map includes old logging roads, as well as "rogue" trails, jumps and legitimate trails.  The next step in the process is to properly categorize 
these, followed by an assessment of which are high risk to habitat, highly erosive, unused, popular etc...  The city will be looking for input from mountain bikers on the importance of each trail and feature.

  Unfortunately, there are different user groups among us riders, and the pressure the DNR has put on us has strained on those relationships, to say the least.  The city hardly recognizes this though, and the minutes from a December meeting reflect harsh words and criticism to the mountain bikers present, including a renewed request to stop all new construction, especially of jumps and what they call "speed trails", as well as cutting down trees on the blue trail.   This is the crux of the issue.  Here alone they have unknowingly identified three different groups, and are yelling at a fourth who had nothing to do with it and even less authority to control it.  Some of the other groups responsible for building trails and features have opted not to even get involved with this process.
  Even so, myself and more connected advocates could not speak for all of us, and hopefully a meeting can be organized where everyone can have their say, regardless of what work you may or may not have done in "the shed".  I'm pushing for it, and as always, I will let you know when I do.  Follow this blog for updates on all kinds of local riding happenings!
Happy Trails!