Monday, March 16, 2009

Our Open Dialog Request with our District State Parks

I had a conversation with the District Superintendent Chet Bardo for the Santa Cruz area State Parks to follow up on the open dialog request that we submitted to him and his two superiors. We made a request for an open dialog between Chet and the mountain biking community so that he can hear our concerns for additional access. The objective of the open dialog was to see movement on our existing proposals. This letter was really effective in getting his attention and he gladly took my call. We had an amiable conversation for about an hour.

The bottom line was that Chet said NO to an open dialog. However, I’m pleased to announce that we have achieved our objective without having to rent a space and rally a critical mass of 100-200 mountain bikers. Chet has agreed to move forward with some of our existing proposals to open new trails to mountain bikers. The letter accomplished two things:

1. He finally read and is currently responding to our trail conversion request. He has asked the Mountain Sector Superintendent to contact me (more later).

2. He actually pulled and read the Gray Whale file. The issues are complicated but he has a broad understanding of the issues associated with opening the trails on Gray Whale.

There were a lot of constructive discussion points and most of them sounded favorable to mountain biking (given his audience) but there are three specific points that he wanted to make to the mountain biking community:

1. Chet is one of our better recreation advocates within this State Parks District in many, many years. I agree and so other bike advocates who have worked with Chet while he was at previous position. He seemed slighted from the letter and he took it personally that the tone of the letter implies that this district is unsympathetic to mountain biking - which was true under previous District Superintendents.

2. His number one priority is to keep the park operations functioning. Very challenging in this economic climate so don’t expect quick progress.

3. There are a lot of new people in the district and there has been some promotions. There is a great opportunity to create positive working relationships with the staff. The new staff is going to try different ways to manage the properties. Enforcement is one such action (as we are all aware).

Some other points which were made:

The Big Basin general plan is starting up again. Mountain bikers should be engaged in this process to ensure that we are not excluded from the property and we may be able to make inroads on future trails and re-designations of existing trails.

Chet belongs to a group of local park professionals (Mid-Pen, POST, etc...) who regularly hold “what have you got” meetings and try to pool resources and strategies. They all agree that multi-use trails should be used to connect adjoining properties.

He thinks that mountain bikers are going to be important allies and recognizes the importance of the mountain biking community.

I will be working with the Sector Super to find common ground, look at the role of mountain biking and see what projects he is willing to staff which will be beneficial to mountain bikers. I will be discussing the existing enforcement program, converting limited use trails to multi-use (as per our proposal) and get an understanding of the status of trail reclamation.

This is good news. A little bit of progress.

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