Thursday, February 12, 2009

MBOSC meeting with Ranger Gary Brennan

On Monday, February 9th, Concerned mountain bikers in the Santa Cruz area met with Ranger Gary Brennan to discuss the new Henry Cowell UC9 enforcement program.


  • Ranger Gary Brennan, Henry Cowell State Park
  • Tom Ward, IMBA CA
  • A few dozen concerned mountain bikers
Henry Cowell State Park enforcement program

Ranger Gary Brennan presents the background and justification for the new enforcement program.

  • Citations for riding in Henry Cowell State Park between UC and Hwy 9 will start Sunday February 15th. Not February 18th in an older flyer.
  • Rangers staffing levels have been filled, issues of biker rescues, complaints from neighbors about noise and garbage.
  • Gary received a lot of messages and phone calls against the implication that mountain bikers were responsible for the garbage. Call us poachers but not litterers.
  • Resource ecologists and archeologists will be evaluating the area this spring to do an inventory and an environmental assessment.
  • The enforcement program in Pogonip by the City had the effect of moving homeless and drug dealing into the Rincon parking lot. This is a real issue.
Many questions and much discussion from the audience. Recanting of history of riding in Santa Cruz goes back to 1983 when there were no bike policies. Established order of politically savvy hikers, conservationists and equestrians changed the rules to exclude bikes. Worked with the system and the process over the years to change the policies and were invited to the table when new lands are acquired. Progress was made.

Frustration with the slow process, lack of State resources, staff turnover and lack of partners within the State Parks system. Frustration with the ease at which opposition groups has shut down these initiatives has created a sense of disillusionment within the responsible mountain biking community. Lack of enforcement in open space created a culture of riders who create their own reality and know how to mange sustainable trails. Responsible mountain bikers willing to accept the fact that mountain biking is an underground activity in Santa Cruz.

Secret stash becomes too popular with interlopers who do not have the same respect for the community and open space. Trails proliferate. No guidance or management. Trails are ad hoc and everywhere. Anything goes. Concussions, impaling, helicopters, neighbor complaints. Rangers.

Tom Ward leads a discussion on the future

  • This is a golden opportunity since the attention of the mountain biking community is energized. What should we do about it?
  • Despite the horrible economic climate that the State is in District Superintendents are faced with making decisions on where to focus scarce resources.
  • A decision was made to staff ranger positions over a trail co-ordinator or resource ecologist. So enforcement became a higher priority over opening new trails. The challenge is to make the recreational needs of mountain biking a high priority to warrant State Parks resources.
  • Legalizing the Cowell/UC9 trails is a hard battle. Perhaps a trail or two (or three). Long term goal.
  • Short term: There is an existing proposal on submitted to District back in November 2006. The trail conversion proposal is the most expedient way to get legitimate trails in the local State Parks. 24 miles of single track and 12 miles of fire road in Big Basin, Castle Rock and Fall Creek.
  • Medium term, opening the Wilder/Gray Whale trails will take a little more effort and funding.
  • Medium term, the inland of Coast Dairies represents the best opportunity for the future of Santa Cruz mountain biking.
Action Items

We request that District Superintendent Chet Bardo have an open dialog with mountain bikers. As a public servant and accountable to state taxpayers and local constituents we ask that you listen to the concerns of the mountain biking community.

We are willing to become partners and offer our trail building expertise and labour. We can create sustainable trails which are ecologically feasible, enjoyable and safe. We are willing to negotiate for shared access to trails to mitigate other trail user concerns.

You may choose the time and place for the dialog but we request that you address this in a timely manner and where the community can reasonably attend. A Sunday afternoon in the park would work.


Thanks to Ranger Gary Brennan for attending and subjecting himself to the barbs and arrows and handling the situation with grace.

Thanks to Tom Ward for making the trek from Sacramento to attend the meeting.

Thanks for Daryl B for providing the amp and wireless mics.

Thanks to Charlie Meehan and the staff of Seabright Brewery for the venue, the beer and the great hospitality.

Thanks to all of you in the community that showed up to support of mountain biking in Santa Cruz!

Thanks to Sebasien’s IPA for getting me though these minutes.

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