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:

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'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:

To read the "Tracy Ridge Shared Use Trails and Forest Plan Ammendment Project Environmental Assessment" go here:

You can discuss this blog at the Preserving the PCT facebook page located here:


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