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Northeast Ohio's mountain biking enthusiasts hack their way through brambles, brush, and red tape to build their trails in public parks


Vivian Goodman
The winds of December whipping through the bare branches of our parks and forests don't scare mountain-bikers one bit. Many are still riding. Most are busy building the trails they'll enjoy in the spring. Others are negotiating the trickiest path of all, the National Park system's bureaucratic maze :
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Related Links & Resources
The Ohio Trails Partnership

The Ohio Horsemans Council

Metro Parks Serving Summit County

The International Mountain Bike Association

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park

The Cleveland Area Mountain Bike Association

Listener Comments:

I have a few things to say in response to Dave G.'s comment.

There are ways of building trails to be more sustainable, have less erosion, and so forth. I'm sure Mill Stream Run wasn't built that way, or maintained, etc, especially since it was built so long ago. It's not even an actual mountain biking trail, so how can you even use it as a basis of judgment?

Most mountain bikers don't thrive on "tearing up the trail," that's obviously why you don't see many mtb-ers riding after rain, and everyone discourages people from it for reasons of erosion and ruining trails, because then they have to be fixed.

I think it's ridiculous that you mention that "Long stretches of Mill Stream are impassible quagmires or strewn with exposed roots," because I'm sure that wasn't caused solely by the knobby tire gang. I'm sure many factors tied into it. And today, most trails are maintained and managed by groups, and those types of things are fixed.

Maybe you should check out

In response to: mountain bikers are "oblivious to or dismissive of the damage they inflict on terra firma" that's just a sweeping generalization, and is completely uncalled for, and incorrect.

Most groups have a few people who attend "trail building school," and then put that knowledge into practice and relay it to other mountain bikers.

Honestly, I don't know a single person who goes out with an intention of "tearing up the trail."

But yeah, nice try guy. It's definitely not 1987 anymore, so maybe that's how people were back then, I wouldn't know, I wasn't even conceived yet.

Posted by: Emily Benson (Medina) on December 20, 2007 4:55PM
It doesn’t require a trail design class to realize a sensitive ecosystem like Mill Stream Run cannot survive a sustained assault of knobby tires, or horses, which is why both are banned by the Park from the trail, and why park management has been so deliberate when approached about adding an off-road bike trail.

I have not taken any trail design courses, but I have taken time from skiing and hiking, rolled up my sleeves and gotten my hands dirty while helping maintain park hiking trails. Nothing short of a motorized off-road vehicle has the destructive potential as a seemingly innocent jaunt on a mountain bike through the woods. Since one cannot stop rain or snow, one controls what one can by prohibiting the activities which cause the destruction.

The Mill Stream quagmire I mentioned in my December 12th note preceded regular visits by off-road cyclists. But the area was well managed by the Park and stood up to annual pedestrian traffic. I watched over an alarmingly brief period as off-roaders began to frequent the trail. Their activity contributed more to the rate and extent of damage inflicted than the hikers and skiers.

I invite you to visit the area, on foot, and then call the Metroparks for some background.

Horses are restricted to hardened trails. Perhaps, so to should MTBs

Posted by: Dave Grabski (Westlake) on December 13, 2007 7:57PM
I notice that all the agreement comes from mountain bikers themselves. As the one non-MBer noted, they are oblivious to their impact - where was the coverage of the slope that they collapsed at Ohio Erie Canal or the tree roots being eroded away?
Having your mother do a story to pitch your side doesn't prove your points - but does make it obvious that your claims won't stand up to real impartial scrutiny. As the continued destruction in Rocky River, Mill Stream, etc. shows, their claimed disapproval of illegal riding is only a front. 'Never go straight down' (when somebody's watching).

Posted by: anon2 (west side) on December 13, 2007 6:02PM
I like to see level-headed reporting in Cleveland. No sensationalism - just the facts.

I think we will all see that as more off-road trails are developed and the off-road traffic becomes dispersed across many well-designed trails, the impacts will be virtually un-noticeable - even accounting for increased traffic due the improved accessibility of park areas. There are many trails that have survived frequent MTB traffic since 1987 (as much as we don't like to admit that they have been ridden on). Purpose-built trails have an even greater chance for very long-term use.

Posted by: Brian Jay (Hinckley, OH) on December 13, 2007 12:44PM
Dave, Can you please explain how Horseback riders are not creating damage on the trails (not to mention leaving behind a mess with animal waste?) I have always struggled with how they are allowed on the trails and mountain bikers are not. Thanks.

Posted by: Anonymus (Anonymus) on December 13, 2007 11:08AM
I would like to thank the reporter for presenting a story that was interesting and accurately presented. The story was right on target!

Regarding a comment that was posted: as someone who has spent quite a bit of time attending trail design and building classes sponsored by the International Mountain Bicycling Association I would like to point out the fact that water damages trails, not the user. This is especially true for hiking and biking trails. That fact that "long quagmires" of trail exist in the first place points out a basic trail flaw, not a failure on the part of any user. The first hand observations that were noted are evidence of extrodinarily bad trail design, not bad behaviour.

If you have any doubt of this you can check out a very extensive study that the National Park System has recently performed.

I thank the reporter for taking the time to actualy understand the issues and present a well balanced story.

Posted by: Frank Dessoffy (North Royalton) on December 12, 2007 9:26PM

Give me a break. One only has to explore the damage at the Mill Stream Run 5K loop in the Cleveland Metroparks to gain a sense of how destructive off road cycling is to woodland settings. I've hiked and Nordic skied the trail since 1978, I purchased my first mountain bike in 1987, recognized its destructive potential, as I .witnessed an accelerated deterioration of the ecosystem at the same time I began to notice knobby tire imprints along the trail. . Long stretches of Mill Stream are impassible quagmires or strewn with exposed roots, rendering the trail an unsightly mishap of park management. I visited that area on average of 4 times weekly, observing my off-road friends doing their “rad scene”, whoopin’ butt on Mother Nature. I still own a mountain bike but swapped the knobbies for road slicks, and KEPT IT ON PAVEMENT AS A COMMUTER CYCLE

I have always found off-roaders to be enjoyable, courteous and friendly, but oblivious to or dismissive of the damage they inflict on terra firma. As to the statement that parks are dependant upon this imaginative group, you're really reaching. Parks will survive, and be better off depending upon hikers, picnickers, road cyclists, kite fliers, horseback riders, bird watchers, naturalists, runner, dog walker, and historians. Each one of these groups inflicts some degree of damage to the park eco-systems. But off-roaders thrive on “tearing up the trail”. Try skiing Mill Stream Run and you'll see what I'm speaking of.

30 year road cyclist and WKSU member

Posted by: Dave Grabski (Westlake, OH) on December 12, 2007 7:14PM
Excellent report and coverages. Kudos to all CAMBA members and trailbuilders.

Long CAMBA member

Posted by: Angelo Capistrano (CLEVELAND) on December 12, 2007 1:59PM
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