Thursday, January 19, 2017

Tracy Ridge, Part 3


With just a few more days left to submit comments, I’m taking another look at the Tracy Ridge Shared Use Trails and Forest Plan Amendment Project Environmental Assessment and making some more comments.  You can find information on how to submit your own comments to the Forest Service at the bottom of this post.



The Overlooks have been over looked
According to the Environmental Assessment:

“In the 1990s, this area was seen as a magnet for day hiking and backpacking.”
  

Well, what happened?  
Here’s another sentence from the Assessment:

“The 1995 decision also authorized the creation of vista area3 that would provide recreationalist a view of the reservoir.”
   


Well, as you can see, there is a footnote after the words “vista area.”  What does that footnote say?  It says

Today, the vista areas (as indicated on the maps) do not have views of the reservoir except during  “leaf off.”


Well, that explains why people are not hiking out to the overlooks.  It’s because there are no overlooks.  Or as I call it, the overlooks have been over looked.
 
Overlooks such as this one on the North Country Trail in Wisconsin need to be maintained
every 2 to 3 years
Overlooks, like anything else needs to be maintained, especially overlooks in the woods that are not rocky outcroppings. The Forest Service needs to send someone down the hill with a chainsaw to clear the overlooks.  This needs to be done every two to 3 years.  Of course, if Tracy Ridge does become a Wilderness, that work will have to be done by people with cross cut saws.  So, if there are no overlooks on trails that are supposed to have overlooks, no wonder the trails are not being use that much.


It is not Clear
Under "Alternative 2 Proposed Action" it reads. 

“Although brought up by commenters, it is not clear how shared use trails in the Tracy Ridge area would disqualify the area for wilderness designation.”   

The key part of that sentence is the part where it says “it is not clear.”  Sounds like the Forest Service doesn’t know for sure.  They go on to mention to say

“There is no evidence that bike use of the area would degrade the trails at all and certainly to the point in which wilderness designation would be improbable.” 

Well, I have BIG NEWS for the Forest Service.  The degrading of the trails is not the issue when it comes to the mountain bikes in the Wilderness.  The issue is that mountain bikers are now the most vocal opponents of any Wilderness Designation.
It’s hard enough to get any Wilderness Area passed by Congress without having vocal opponents.  Just google “mountain biking, wilderness” and you will find dozens of articles on this subject.

Just Google "mountain bikes, Wilderness" and you will find several articles from the past year.

Small Area
Also, we are talking about a very small section of land that mountain bikers are being excluded from.  Tracy Ridge is 9705 acres. In the lower 48 States, Wilderness Areas are only are around 2.7% of the land area.  Currently, the State of Pennsylvania has 9005 acres of Federally Designated Wilderness.  That 9005 acres represents .03% of the land area of the State of Pennsylvania.  That’s right, 3 hundredths of 1 percent of Pennsylvania is Wilderness.   
 
Pennsylvania ranks low on the list of percentage of land used as Wilderness Areas

Even if all the Wilderness Areas that the Friends of the Allegheny Wilderness are proposing are approved by Congress, that still is .2% of the land area of Pennsylvania.  That’s right, it’s only about 1/5th of 1 percent of the land area.


Schutte Study
Under  "Issue 2- How would the shared use proposal affect the Forest’s ability to provide various trail/recreations" 
It says:
“A study of mountain bikers in Boulder, CO, for example, found that 81% of the riders preferred single track trails for riding (Schutte, 2003)” 

Under “Alternative 2” in that same section, it says 
Also, much of Jakes Rocks Trails will be in close proximity to the road system – the current 10 miles, for example, are all within ¾ mile of a road.  The Tracy Ridge trails, by contrast, provide a much more remote “backcounty” feel.”


Well, did the Forest Service even read the rest of the study they cited by Stacey Schutte?  Here are a few findings from that study which can be found here: http://www.bouldercounty.org/os/culture/posresearch/2003schulte.pdf

 
The Study by Stacey Shulte

The Forest Service seems to think that mountain bikers are seeking a remote “backcountry” feel, but in the Schutte Study “solitude” is very low on the scale of being important as a reason for biking.  In fact, 1% of the mountain bikers responding state that Solitude is the main reason they pick a mountain biking trail to ride on.  Nature/Scenery does rank high on the list, but with no vistas at Tracy Ridge, that is also not much of a factor to draw mountain bikers.
From the Schutte Study
Also in the Schutte Study it says that only 8% of mountain bikers enjoy riding on “gentle slopes.”  Since the Forest Service itself has described the trails at Tracy Ridge as having “gentle grades,” well, that means that 92% of mountain bikers will not be attracted to Tracy Ridge
From the Schutte Study

Also, according to that study “Almost 90% of the respondents rate themselves as an intermediate rider or above.”  So, the beginner trails with gentle grades will not be attracting almost 90% of mountain bikers.
From the Schutte Study

And even mountain bikers on their own mountain biking forums don't think that having only 12 miles of trails open to mountain biking will make Tracy Ridge a mountain biking destination


Gigantic, regular poster on MTBR.com's forums


 Trailhead Counters.
According to the Environmental Assessment, a counter was installed at the Morrison Trailhead in the summer of 2016.  It received 1000-1250 visitors a month, this is two times greater than the than the numbers at Tracy Ridge.  Also, according to the Assessment, an estimated 1500 users utilized the Jakes Rock Trailhead in October of 2016 while only 400 users were at the Tracy Ridge Trailhead. 

Well, there’s a big reason for the difference.  According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the traffic count on Hwy 59 is 1400 cars per day.  Highway 59 is the highway where both the Morrison Trail and Jake’s Rock are located. The traffic count for Hwy 321, the Highway that Tracy Ridge is on, is only 100 cars per day. Again, these are Pennsylvania DOT statistics.

 
Screen Shot from the Pennsylvania DOT's Website showing cars per day.
In other words, the Morrison Trail and the Trails at Jakes Rock are convenient to 1300 more cars a day than Tracy Ridge.  There are 1300 more cars available to stop by and check out those trails, than at Tracy Ridge.  There are 1300 more cars that stopping by Jakes Rock and doing a short ride is not going out of the way.  Meanwhile, going to Tracy Ridge is going out of the way for everyone except the 100 cars a day.


The National Forest System Stewardship Act
On November 28, 2016, President Obama signed the National Forest System Stewardship Act into law.  This Act gives the Forest Service more resources to maintain trails.  That’s just what Tracy Ridge needs.  The Act authorized the use of off-season Forest Service firefighters to maintain trails.  It also gives incentives to volunteers to help maintain trails, including some liability and insurance issues. The Bill is patterned after a 2010 Act that helps National Wildlife Refuges obtain volunteers.  The Forest Service didn’t have a very good overall strategy for obtaining volunteers.  This Act addresses that problem.
A KGWN article about the new National Forest System Stewardship Act
The Allegheny National Forest needs to embrace this new law immediately and use it to get new volunteers.  The Forest Service need more volunteers because of Tracy Ridge and because of all the new miles of mountain biking trails being built at Jake’s Rock.  In a few more years there could be 45 miles of mountain biking specific trails at Jake’s Rock.  They will need all the volunteers they can get.

Jakes Rock
And speaking of the Trails at Jake’s Rock, exactly how do they feel about the mountain biking proposal at Tracy Ridge?  You would think they would be excited for some more mountain biking opportunities in the Allegheny Forest area.  Well, the Trails at Jake’s Rock hasn’t even mentioned Tracy Ridge on their Facebook Page since the recent comment period began.  There are no posts encouraging people to write in comments in favor of mountain biking at Tracy Ridge. 
The Facebook Page for Jakes Rock touts the Allegheny River as the "River of the Year"
They are not coming out against mountain biking at Tracy Ridge, perhaps because they don't want to strain their relationship with the Forest Service, but they don’t appear to be overly enthusiastic for it, either.


There's just a few more days left to comment on the Tracy Ridge Project
For instruction on how to comment on the project, go here: http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/104642_FSPLT3_3806246.pdf

To read the "Tracy Ridge Shared Use Trails and Forest Plan Ammendment Project Environmental Assessment" go here: http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/104642_FSPLT3_3910848.pdf

You can discuss this blog at the Preserving the PCT facebook page located here: https://www.facebook.com/preservingthepct/



 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Tracy Ridge Part 2





As promised at the end of Tracy Ridge Part 1, I would be doing a second post about ideas for getting people to hike at Tracy Ridge. I believe that having two loop trails with overlooks of the Allegheny River should be attracting many people to go hiking at Tracy Ridge. During the Fall Colors Season, the parking lot at Tracy Ridge should be full of cars. Here are some ideas to make that happen.

The Map is Crap
Have you looked at the map of the trails at Tracy Ridge? It is a really bad map for hiking. The overlook loops are shown really small, and there is no topography on the map. Also, there is no mileage on the map itself, you have to look at a separate chart for mileage.

View and print the map here: https://www.fs.usda.gov/Internet/FSE_DOCUMENTS/stelprdb5107583.pdf


And I also found a couple mistakes on the Tracy Ridge Map. Plus, the map doesn’t print out very well for the people at home. It is a good overall map for Tracy Ridge, but if the Forest Service wants more people to hike to the overlooks, perhaps they should have a map just for the overlook trails.  Fortunately, there is a Map Illustrator in the house.

That would be me. I have done several map illustrations including 42 maps for “The Guide to the North Country Trail in Minnesota.”  I have created a new map that features the Overlook Trails in Tracy Ridge. 

you can view and print the map here: http://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0O-3V5RfIrQbTFWZ1dZZkJmY3M/view?usp=sharing
Now, I have taken some liberties being the map illustrator. I believe every trail and campsite should have a name. I was unable to find names for the two loops to the overlooks, so I made up names. The names that I called them are the “North Reservoir Overlooks Loop” and the “South Reservoir Overlooks Loop.” The names actually describe why you should hike the trails. It’s because you want to see the overlooks of the Allegheny Reservoir. I feel that the name “South Reservoir Overlooks Loop” is better than calling it the Junction 13 to Junction 15 Trail. It’s nice that the trail junctions are labeled; especially since there are several trail junctions and sometimes there are also clusters of trail junctions. But actually having a name for the trail gives the trail a little more character and can describe the trail. (Update: apparently, there are no overlooks on the overlook trail because they have been allowed to fill in.  The Forest Service needs to go down the hill and clear out the overlooks again.)

Also, according to the North Country Trail map of the area, there is a campsite at the bottom of the Tracy Run Trail near where the Tracy Run Creek goes into the Allegheny Reservoir. I decided to add that campsite to the map and call it the “Tracy Outlet” campsite. And there is a trail that goes between Johnnycake Trail and Tracy Trail up on the plateau. I decided to call that the Cut Across Trail. And the Trail that goes south from Junction 4, I have decided to call the Sugar Bay Connector Trail because it goes in the direction of Sugar Bay.

have a map box at the Trailhead and the Campground
Perhaps the trails already have names that I don’t know about.  If so, I would be happy to revise the map.  If there is other information that is needed on the map, I can make the changes.  Apparently, according to one video I saw on the internet, there is a trail where you have to ford a creek.  If so, I would like to add that information to the map.  Also, I have rounded off the mileage for the trails.  The Forest Service lists the mileage from Junction 10 to Junction 9 as 0.87 miles.  I really don’t think you have to go to so much detail as listing the mileage in hundredths of miles.In that case, .9 miles is more than good enough.
Amerigo Vespucci
 Yes, I have taken some liberties with the map by making up names for places. But that’s the Great American Tradition. We are the United States of America. The name America was created by mapmaker Amerigo Vespucci who called it the latin version of his first name. Fortunately, Amerigo didn’t use his last name or else we’d be known as the Vest Pukers. 

I need the Forest Service to look at the map and let me know what changes are needed. I will make the changes then ask the Forest Service to approve the map.

Group Campsites are needed for Real Groups 
Yes, you can reserve a group campsite at Tracy Ridge. What happens is that you can reserve a camping loop. The loop can have a maximum of 168 people, 42 cars and costs $50 a night. I’ve never seen a Boy Scout Troop with 168 people and 42 cars. Instead, a normal Boy Scout Troop might need a campsite for 15 tents and 5 cars.
You can rent a whole loop for your group at Tracy Ridge
 So, I propose that the Forest Service create such group campsites by combining 3 or 4 regular campsites.  They would have to remove some of the vegetation between those campsites to make it a more open area and have more tent pads.  For individual campsites it’s good to have vegetation between the campsites for some privacy.  But for Group Campsites, a wide open area with clear sight lines is needed so the Scout Leaders can see what’s happening around the campsite. 
My illustration of combining several individual campsites into group campsites.
 And it is perfectly all right to have one or two spaces for an RV to be included with a group campsite.  Sometimes Groups like to have a RV to cook in.  This is the case with the Heritage Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, which I am a member.   

My Sister and her family cooks for the Heritage Chapter using an RV site next to the Group Camp at Copper Falls
 We camp at a Group Campsite that has room for about 12 tents and we park a camper nearby for our cook.  This would work well for family campouts.  Plus, Boy Scout Troops often have Troop Trailers.  A RV pad would work well as a place to park the Troop Trailer.

a Troop Trailer at a campsite
 Again, I would combine 3 or 4 campsites for a group campsite. Since the Tracy Ridge Campground is usually only 10% full, it really wouldn’t matter too much if you combined a few campsites. I would charge around $30 a night for those campsites. This would still be very reasonable for Boy Scout Troops with only 10 people and would be very reasonable for Boy Scout Troops with 30 people. The Forest Service would probably make more money from this than selling a whole loop for $50 because it will get used more often.

These Group Campsites would work well for Boy Scout Troops, Girl Scout Groups, Church Groups, School Groups, Family Campouts and other groups. The reason I mainly refer to Boy Scouts is that I am very familiar with them from being a Scoutmaster for 10 years. I think the group campsites that I am describing definitely would attract Boy Scout Troops. The main reason is because Boy Scouts need to hike. One of the requirements for Second Class is the following:

“Using a compass and map together, take a 5-mile hike (or 10 miles by bike) approved by your adult leader and your parent or guardian.”

Tracy Ridge is the perfect place for a 5 mile hike. All you have to do is hike from the campground, do one of the Reservoir Overlooks loops to and hike back to the Campground, and you have completed over 5 miles.

Hiking Merit Badge
 Also, Hiking Merit Badge is on the list of required Merit Badges for the Eagle Rank.  For Hiking Merit Badge, a Scout must do 5 hikes in the following order:  one 5 mile hike, three 10 mile hikes and one 15 mile hike.  After all those are done the Scout must do a 20 mile hike in one day.  Tracy Ridge is a perfect spot to do some of those hikes.  Plus Boy Scouts need to do Service Projects to complete their Rank Requirements, so, maybe some of the Troops will adopt a section of trail.

Having Group Campsites like I have described is one advantage the Tracy Ridge Campground would have over the Willow Bay Campground, which has no Group campsites.  Boy Scout Troops could always hop in their cars and go down to Willow Bay for swimming.  They don’t mind driving around a little bit if they have an inexpensive place to camp.

 
If the Forest Service does make some Group Campsites by combining several regular campsites, they should send out a press release to every Boy Scout and Girl Scout Council in the Region. Boy Scout Troops are always looking for new places to camp, so I’m sure many Troops will be headed to Tracy Ridge. Also send out the press releases to all the newspapers in the region.
Bullwinkle and Rocky at Wossamotta U
 And here’s one more idea for the Group Campsites that I am proposing. The Forest Service should allow groups doing trail maintenance to use those campsites for free. Let’s say the Outdoor Club at Wossamotta U wants to come for a weekend to maintain trails. The Forest Service should just let them camp at one of these Group Campsites for free. Wossamotta U is Rocky And Bullwinkle’s Alma Mater, so naturally their students are interested in animals and the environment.

Tracy Ridge Hiking Festival

How about having a Hiking Festival at Tracy Ridge? The Itasca Moraine Chapter of the North Country Trail has been having a hiking fest at Itasca State Park for the last 10 years. It may not be the biggest festival in the world, but it attracts people interested in hiking, and it also garners some news coverage. Check out this story on a TV newscast:






Maybe some organizations like Friends of the Allegheny Wilderness, the Allegheny Chapter of the North Country Trail and the Allegheny National Forest could join together and organize such an event.  I wouldn’t expect it to cost too much to put on because the main activity is guided hikes.  Perhaps, they would need to rent a party tent for presentations, food, etc. You might want to get some porta potties, too, if the party tent is located too far from the Campground Latrines. The groups holding the event could set up their own pop up tents for displays, etc.  

The Heritage Chapter of the North Country Trail has a booth at the Copper Falls Harvest Festival
 Matt Davis, Minnesota Regional Coordinator for the North Country Trail Association wrote in a email to me about their hiking fest.

            “We've had as many as 200 participants over the last 10 years at Itasca but it's never been all at once...meaning they participate in various activities scheduled throughout the day….  Our guided long hikes have drawn anywhere from 20-50 people. We have picked up a few new members from the event and possibly a few volunteers but the biggest goals are 1) promotion of the trail and 2) promotion of the NCTA and what we do.”

 
Do I think a Tracy Ridge Hiking Fest could attract 200 people? Well, not maybe the first time around, but in future years it could become a tradition with over 200 people. The Hiking Fest at Itasca gets more people because there are lots of people already visiting the park and some wander into the Hiking Fest. The same cannot be said of Tracy Ridge. They hold the Hiking Fest at Itasca in late August. But if Tracy Ridge did a Hiking Fest during the Fall Colors time period, it could be quite popular.
Zach Johns on the Lakeland Television News
Plus, the Tracy Ridge Hiking Fest would be an opportunity to have Tracy Ridge get some coverage in local newspapers and even TV stations.  All you need is an enthusiastic hiker spokesperson like Zach Johns

 

There probably will be a Tracy Ridge Part 3 eventually
You can discuss this blog at https://www.facebook.com/preservingthepct/





Saturday, December 31, 2016

Tracy Ridge, Part 1


I have read the "Tracy Ridge Shared Use Trails and Forest Plan Ammendment Project Environmental Assessment" for adding mountain biking to that area and I have some comments on it

Jakes Rock Donations
Here is a passage from the Environmental Assessment
Under
“Issue #2 - How would the shared use proposal affect the Forest’s ability to provide various trail/recreation opportunities?”

It reads
“Some commenters remarked that with the Jakes Rocks trail system under construction, additional mountain bike trails are not needed. Currently, ten miles of trails are constructed at Jakes Rocks (out of 45 miles approved for construction). Funding for the full build out is not yet secured.” 

The Community Foundation of Warren County gives the Trails at Jakes Rock an $100,000 donation.

This has changed.  The Trails at Jakes Rock have received a $100,000 donation from the Community Foundation of Warren County.  With $100,000 in hand, many of miles of trails should be able to be built at Jakes Rock.  According to their Facebook page, they are planning to build 10 miles a year.  They have enough money to build 10 miles in 2017 and have made a dent into building 10 more in 2018.  Having a purpose built mountain biking trail just a short ways from Tracy Ridge means that Tracy Ridge might not even be used very much by mountain bikers.  The Tracy Ridge Environment Review even notes that the grade of the trails at Tracy Ridge are “mostly gentle as much of the system is on a plateau.”  This doesn’t even sound like a place that most mountain bikers would like to ride. After all, it’s called “Mountain Biking” not “Gentle Grade Biking.” People are not traveling all the way to the Allegheny Forest to ride on a beginners trail.  They can do that where they live.


Hurting chances of becoming a Wilderness.
Here is another passage from the Environmental Assessment
Under
“Issue #5 - How would the shared use proposal affect future suitability for wilderness designation in the Tracy Ridge Recreation Area?”

It reads
“Furthermore, evidence suggests that Congress will designate Wilderness despite the presence of trails that allow bikes. For example, in 2015, the Boulder-White Cloud Wilderness was designated by Congress. Within the new Wilderness, more than 50 miles of trails previously open to bikes were closed to bikes.”

I really don’t think comparing the proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness Area to Boulders/White Clouds is a very good comparison.

In an email to me from Julie Thomas of the Sawtooth Recreation Area she pointed out that only around 40 miles of trail that mountain bikers actually used were closed to mountain biking due to Boulders/White Clouds. So, here is the Comparison.  The Boulders/White Clouds Wilderness is 275,665 Acres.  There were 40 miles of mountain biking trails within the Wilderness.  That means that there was 1 mile of trail for each 6900 acres of Wilderness. Meanwhile, having 12 miles of mountain biking trails in the proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness will create a bigger impact than the trails at Boulders/White Clouds.  The proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness will be 9500 acres, which means there will be 1 mile of trail for each 792 acres.  Proportionally, the 12 miles of mountain biking trails at Tracy Ridge will have a much greater impact on whether the area is approved for Wilderness.
At 275,665 acres, you could fit 29 Tracy Ridges in Boulders/White Clouds
And to me it’s not a very good idea to allow mountain biking now only to have it booted off the trails if Tracy Ridge becomes a Wilderness.  Tracy Ridge is the largest roadless area in the Allegheny National Forest, thereby, should seriously be considered for Wilderness Designation.  According it the Friends of the Allegheny Wilderness, only 2% of the Allegheny National Forest is Federal Wilderness compared to 11% in the rest of the Eastern Region of the National Forest Service.


Affects on Wildlife
"Issue #6 - How would the shared use trail proposal affect the wildlife, native plants and nonnative invasive plants in the area?"

This section mentions Bald Eagles, Bats and the Northern Goshawk, but doesn’t mention Bears.  According to Wildlife Biologist Brian Horejsi “The basic science solidly supports the general claim that bikers and bikes are displacing bears,…”  Since the proposed trails for mountain biking are in the middle of the proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness, it will effectively cut the range for bears in half.  The article about mountain biking displacing bears which quotes Brian Horejsi is located here: http://www.thewildlifenews.com/2014/08/05/mountain-biking-impacts-on-bears-and-other-wildlife-by-brian-horesji/
A Black Bear at the Tracy Ridge Campground

The Tracy Ridge Campground
In the Opening Section called “1. Purpose and Need For Action,” the Environmental Assessment mentions that both the hiking trails and the Campground at Tracy Ridge are under used.  Here is the Quote:

“The two main legs of the system – the Tracy Ridge Trail and the Johnnycake Trail experience use but the connectors (trails built in the mid -1990s) are seldom used by the hiking public. Likewise, use of the campground is quite low – occupancy of the 100+ site campground is rarely above 10%.”

The Forest Service seems to think that adding mountain biking to the trail system at Tracy Ridge will also add users for the Campground.  This is probably not the case or marginal at best.
The reason the Tracy Ridge Campground is not doing very well is that there is a better Campground less than 5 miles away.  The Willow Bay Campground just north of the proposed Tracy Ridge Wilderness has dozens of amenities including showers and flush toilets.  After a hot day of mountain biking, the first thing the mountain bikers will want to do is take a shower, so they will be headed to Willow Bay, anyway. The Tracy Ridge Campground does have running water, but it also has pit toilets.   
 
an amenity comparison

Willow Bay is right on the Allegheny Reservoir with excellent views of the lake.  There are no views of the Reservoir at the Tracy Ridge Campground.  The Willow Bay Campground has several campsites right on the shore of the Reservoir.  This sounds much more appealing than camping in a dense woods.   
The Deer Grove Camping Area at Willow Bay has campsites right on the water.

Of course, campsites with all those amenities at Willow Bay cost more than the Primitive campsites at Tracy Ridge.  But, if you can afford to ride around on a $2000 bike, you can afford to pay a little more for a campsite with amenities.

Why are they proposing this project?
There is a section in the Environmental Review called. "Why are we proposing this project?"  The Forest Service writes that mountain biking is an "increasingly popular and accepted use.." 

Well, this is not the case.  Yes, mountain biking is an accepted use, but it is not an "increasingly popular" use.  In fact, mountain biking numbers have remained steady at just under 3% of the population.  These numbers are from the Outdoor Foundation's Participation Studies, which are the premiere source for outdoor participation information.  The Study Reports can be found here: 

In Conclusion
The people at the Friends of the Allegheny Wilderness have been putting forth a great effort in trying to get Tracy Ridge designated as a Federal Wilderness.  Let's do everything possible to help in this effort, and not approve uses for the area that are inconsistent with the Wilderness Act.

You can discuss this blog at the Preserving the PCT facebook page located here: https://www.facebook.com/preservingthepct/

To read the "
Tracy Ridge Shared Use Trails and Forest Plan Ammendment Project Environmental Assessment" go here: http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/104642_FSPLT3_3910848.pdf

For instruction on how to comment on the project, go here: http://a123.g.akamai.net/7/123/11558/abc123/forestservic.download.akamai.com/11558/www/nepa/104642_FSPLT3_3806246.pdf


In Part two: Ideas to get more people hiking at Tracy Ridge.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

The Sustainable Trails Coalition: Just Making Up Stuff.


When you go over to the Sustainable Trails Coalition Website, the first thing you see is the following statement:  “When the President of the United States signed the Wilderness Act of 1964 he wasn’t banning bicycles, wheelbarrows and strollers.”  Really?  Do they go on to give some sort of quote from Lyndon Johnson to that affect? No they don’t.

Screen shot of STC's Website

Do they have any evidence that LBJ wanted to allow such items into Wilderness Areas?  No they don’t.  The original Wilderness Act has the following statement

"PROHIBITION OF CERTAIN USES
(c) Except as specifically provided for in this Act, and subject to existing private rights, there shall be no commercial enterprise and no permanent road within any wilderness area designated by this Act and, except as necessary to meet minimum requirements for the administration of the area for the purpose of this Act (including measures required in emergencies involving the health and safety of persons within the area), there shall be no temporary road, no use of motor vehicles, motorized equipment or motorboats, no landing of aircraft, no other form of mechanical transport, and no structure or installation within any such area."

As you can plainly see the Act says "no other form of mechanical transport." And President Johnson signed it into law with that wording. Well, under STC's logic, the phrase means “no other form of motorized transport.” It's obvious that their logic is flawed. Bicycles are mechanical transport, period.


Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Wilderness Act

Also, Ted Stroll wrote an opinion piece in the High Country News on March 29. Called “It’s inevitable. There will be bikes in Wilderness.” Ted makes the following statement: 

“Congress never prohibited biking or pushing a baby carriage.”

Really, do Ted and the Sustainable Trails Coalition have one quote from one Congressman who supported the Wilderness Act at the time, that bikes and baby carraiges are to be allowed in Wilderness Areas? No they don’t. At this point, you’d have to agree that Ted Stroll and STC are just making up stuff.

Ted and the Sustainable Trails Coalition claim that a 1966 Forest Service definition proves that mountain bikes should be allowed in Wilderness Areas. Here is the definition:

"Mechanical transport, as herein used, shall include any contrivance which travels over ground, snow, or water on wheels, tracks, skids, or by floatation and is propelled by a non-living power source contained or carried on or within the device."

It’s clear that the Forest Service got the wording wrong. The Forest Service’s rule implies that there needs to be a motor being used in order for it to be Mechanical Transport. As you can see from the quote from the original Wilderness Act, there is no such limiting factor regarding mechanical transport. And the fact that the writers of the Act wrote "no other form of" also emphasizes that it means more than just "motorized transport.”

It should be noted that the Forest Service is only one of 4 agencies that manage Wilderness Areas. The Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service all got it right the first time by outright banning Mountain bikes in their Wilderness Areas. The Forest Service eventually specifically banned mountain bikes and hang gliders in a 1984 rule.

It also should be noted that the Forest Service was originally against the Wilderness Act.  They even testified before Congress against the Wilderness Act.  No wonder they started out with such a confusing rule.

And here is how the Forest Service defines Mechanical Transport today:

“Mechanical Transport. Any contrivance for moving people or material in or over land, water, or air, having moving parts, that provides a mechanical advantage to the user, and that is powered by a living or nonliving power source. This includes, but is not limited to, sailboats, hang gliders, parachutes, bicycles, game carriers, carts, and wagons. It does not include wheelchairs when used as necessary medical appliances. It also does not include skis, snowshoes, rafts, canoes, sleds, travois, or similar primitive devices without moving parts.”

As you can see, it is more in the spirit of the original Wilderness Act that says “no other form of mechanical transport.” And evidence is beginning to pile up that bicycles were never meant to be in Wilderness Areas.


In a May 2, 2016 opinion piece in the High Country News, Andy Wiessner wrote an account of a meeting between the Forest Service and Congressmen Mo Udall and John Seiberling, both Chairs of Committees in Congress regarding public lands.  At the meeting held in the early 1980s, both Congressmen confirmed that mountain bikes are not to be in Wilderness Areas.  Andy Wiessner is a very excellent witness to this event because he was a Legislative Counsel at the time.
Screen Shot of Andy Wiessner's Article

I’ve read much of the Testimony before Congress leading up to the passage of the Wilderness Act. It’s true that Congress was concerned about motorized uses in Wilderness Areas. The Interstate Highway System was being built at the time and several Congressmen were concerned about a flood of cars heading west while people were on vacation, etc. But to say that Congress was only worried about motorized uses is a misstatement. Congressman Compton White asked the following question during the hearings. “I am talking about the mechanical contraption with wheels that goes behind the horse. The buggy. Or spring wagon. This is considered-and this is not a mechanical device?” It’s obvious that Congressman White was concerned about more than just motorized uses. And after that hearing the Wilderness Act was changed to include the words “no other form of” in front of “mechanical transport.” And that’s the wording in the final version of the Act.

Ted Stroll and STC continue to be wrong time after time.  This has been happening for a long time now.  Way back in 2010, Ted wrote a New York Times opinion piece called “Ah, Wilderness” where he supported signs in Wilderness Areas.  Here is an excerpt from it  
Every summer numerous backpackers, hikers and hunters get lost in the wilderness, with occasionally fatal results. In 2008, two experienced hikers along the Kekekabic Trail — the same Minnesota trail where the skier perished in 1970 — were lost for days and nearly ran out of food. The Forest Service listened to their complaints about the lack of signage but refused to act.” 
Screen Shot of Ted Stroll's Article

Well, as it turns out, the two hikers who got lost in 2008 didn’t really consider themselves lost.  They had lost their map, and were proceeding slowly. But they knew all they had to do is keep hiking east and they would come out onto the road called the Gunflint Trail.  When they were finally found they were 4 miles from the road.  

Here is an article about the two missing hikers on the Kekekabic Trail in 2008

Screen Shot of an article about the two missing hikers in 2008
The incident happened in October of 2008 and I actually hiked the Kekekebic Trail in May of 2009.  Yes, the Kek was hard to follow in some places, but it’s easy enough to stay on track if you have a map.  So, much for Ted Stroll’s lack of signage theory.  Evidently, at that time Ted thought that revising the sign policy would be the first step to allowing mountain bikes in Wilderness Areas.



Articles mentioned
Andy Wiessner's  High Country News Opinion Piece "No Bikes in Wilderness, Period" can be found at:   http://www.hcn.org/issues/48.7/no-bikes-in-wilderness-period

Ted Stroll's High Country News Opinion piece "It's enevitable, there will be bikes in Wilderness can be found at:
http://www.hcn.org/articles/its-inevitable-there-will-be-bikes-in-wilderness

Ted Stroll's New York Times Opinion piece "Ah Wilderness" can be found at
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/27/opinion/27stroll.html