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 http://www.logoffrideon.com/trails/index.php?title=Frederick_Watershed

  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!