Sierra Club: “all mountain bike usage at the Middlesex Fells, as approved by DCR as the land manager, is currently in direct violation of Sierra Club policy.”
From Sierra Club Massachusetts letter to DCR 11/19/2010
SIERRA CLUB AND OFF ROAD USE OF BICYCLES
Although the Club has stated in written communications and at public meetings numerous times that we are not intrinsically opposed to off road use of bicycles where determined to be appropriate, our policy has been misquoted, misrepresented, and distorted by user groups not affiliated with our organization. Therefore, we will clarify that policy here.
Sierra Club Policy on Off Road Use of Bicycles state the use should not be allowed where it would cause the following measurable effects. This list is not all-inclusive.
1. Significant soil erosion or significant damage to streams or fish habitat.
2. Rutting, impairment of trail drainage, breakdown of trail shoulders, and other forms of damage not correctable using U.S. Forest Service trail maintenance standards.
3. Significant disturbance of plants, animals, or their habitat.
4. Danger to the safety of bicyclists or other users because of bicycle speed, steep grades, steep terrain, sharp curves, slippery or unstable trail surfaces, or limited visibility. Significant displacement or annoyance of other non-motorized users.
5. Damage to archaeological, scientific, historical, or other significant resources, including rare natural features of interest for scientific study.
Without conducting a comprehensive Resource Management Plan, DCR simply can not claim an ability to assess these items, especially “damage to resources” (item 6).
Therefore, all mountain bike usage at the Middlesex Fells, as approved by DCR as the land manager, is currently in direct violation of Sierra Club policy.
Furthermore, DCR has failed to:
1. Promulgate effective implementing regulations where impacts are sufficiently low that vehicle use is appropriate.
2. Monitor trails and areas designated for vehicular use to detect environmental damage or user interference inconsistent with the above criteria.
Where this occurs, Sierra Club policy clearly states that the trail or area must be closed to vehicles including off road bicycles unless and until effective corrective regulations are established and enforced. Failure to conduct an RMP which addresses all management and resource protection concerns raised in the Club’s policy will necessitate a request to the land manager that all trails be closed to off road bicycle use at the Fells and similar properties.
The Massachusetts Chapter has not yet called for closure of all bike trails at the Fells. As an alternative, we have requested an expedited and comprehensive RMP process in order to achieve a balance where some usage can continue without unacceptable degradation to the resource, as appropriate and determined through the RMP process.
Continued trail usage at the Fells after completion of an RMP would include establishment of
• Identifying the impacts being monitored, including impacts to water quality, soils, wildlife, flora, and other users (accidents, injuries, enjoyment of the trail). Sierra Club Comments Middlesex Fells Trail System Plan (corrected 11/19/2010)
• Establishing quantitative and qualitative measurement scales for impacts.
• Establishing impact thresholds which, if reached, trigger correction or closure of trails.
• Establishing a schedule for monitoring activities.
• Establishing a written reporting system.
• Training personnel to follow the monitoring program (reliable trained persons user groups may be used to supplement monitoring by staff.)
• Specifying baseline inventories to allow for monitoring of trends.
• Securing the resources to carry out the monitoring/enforcement plan.
• Full enforcement of regulations from regular patrolling combined with effective education and an active monitoring program.