Monday, September 14, 2009

Why we are supporting State Parks for "Freedom Riders" showing

Our showing of "Freedom Riders" this Thursday is a fund raiser for our local State Parks District. I'm a mountain biker and parks supporter. Not only do the parks provide great trails for riding but they also provide other recreational/educational opportunities for local residents and visitors.

The main reason why MBOSC as a mountain bike club is raising money for our State Parks district is we appreciate that they are serious in finding more legal mountain biking opportunities. We have made a lot of progress with State Parks this summer.

Here is a summary of the story so far.
  • History: back in Nov 2006, we submitted a trail conversion proposal which asked to convert 24 mi of single track and 12 miles of fireroad to multi-use from limited use in Castle Rock, Big Basin and Fall Creek State Parks. We focused on trails which are currently open to hikers and equestrians only. This proposal has been met with stale mate. We met with the parks staff many times and have been stonewalled.... until this year.
  • More history: There has been a change in leadership in the district. Senior management - mostly conservation oriented - have retired and been replaced by newer leaders who are sympathetic to active recreation. They have also filled a role of a District Trails and Road Superintendent - a key position required to address our proposal and other change in use for existing/future trails.
  • Back in February, there was a change in strategy to deal with unauthorized riding at Henry Cowell Park. The Rangers would be issuing warnings then citations to enforce the bike ban on the west part of the park adjoining UC - incorrectly referred to as "UCSC" (ie. Campers, Carpet, Sick & Twisted, etc...). This was seen as those handouts on car windshields in the lot.
  • MBOSC successfully negotiated a change in tactics from enforcement to education. In response, we ask that mountain bikers try to limit their activity in that area.
  • Sensing growing negative sentiment towards the local parks by mountain bikers, the State Parks District Superintendent made creating more legitimate mountain biking opportunities the highest priority for the new Mountain Sector Superintendent (to be hired). He suggested that addressing our submitted proposal is where the new Sector Super will start.
  • Karl Tallman was hired as the Sector Superintendent earlier this summer. In June, MBOSC members and Tom Ward from IMBA CA met with him and the District Trails and Roads Supervisor to restart the trail proposal process. Karl demonstrated the commitment of the District to find more legitimate mountain biking opportunities. We spent most of the meeting looking at maps and discussing the trails in the proposal. There was a definite "can do" attitude within the State Parks Staff. We made more progress in a 2 hour meeting than we made in the past 2.5 years. I want to emphasize that last point: We made more progress in a 2 hour meeting than we made in the past 2.5 years.
  • The senior trails specialist from Sacramento has been visiting Santa Cruz this summer (at least twice) to move this process forward. The sector super has been giving me progress updates all summer. This demonstrates the commitment from the District AND Sacramento to provide more legal mountain bike trails.
  • The Sacramento trails specialist will be in town on Sept 15th to meet with the District Trails and Roads supervisor to do a construction estimate on the first trail (3 segments) in our proposal to get addressed: The Skyline trail in Castle Rock - which is part of the Bay Area Ridge trail.

The biggest impact has been the change in attitude towards mountain biking in top management in the District. Our local State Parks are willing and honest partners for mountain biking. This means that we have a bright future for legal mountain bike access in Santa Cruz.

We want to demonstrate our appreciation for the district by raising money to help pay for some hard costs of maintaing the district. We hope you agree and support more legitimate mountain biking in Santa Cruz County by attending our showing of "Freedom Riders" this Thursday at the Rio.

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