Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Permanent Trail Closure to MTB at Trout Brook Valley!

When I read Vin Lore's TA Report about Trout Brook and the magenta trail closure I contacted the land manager to find out why and this is their answer:

This winter TBV has seen a large surge in bikers who insisted upon using the TBV trails even though the sign was & is prominent in the parking lot stating biking is prohibited from Jan 1- April 30. Identical signs were put at every entrance into TBV & one was even removed after installation! All of the Trail Stewards voiced this violation as a major concern at our bi-annual meeting a few weeks ago. In addition, the Trail Steward responsible for the magenta trail asked me to take a look, along with an ecologist, to determine the state of the trail. We were not pleased with the conditions of the bike tire rutted trail in many spots, which is what precipitated closing the trail to bikers - permanently.

Please click the Read More ... link to see what else has precipitated this event. It's a shame that such a wonderful place to ride is slowly being cut off due to a few selfish individuals.

On the first day of biking - May 1 - we had trail stewards on duty all day in the Bradley Lot to hand out the biking do's & don'ts, along with dog do's & don'ts, & in this way we hoped to make it clear why the magenta trail was closed. In addition, there is a posted laminated copy as well, with all of the reasons. clearly stated. We also asked - on our information sheet & the posted sheet - for bikers to NOT ride the day after a rain & also to not ride if it is raining when they arrive. This is just common sense, but not employed. Thus, the trails suffer even more greatly.

For the bikers who are accompanied by dogs, leashes must be employed where signage dictates & also carried everywhere in TBV as the rule of the trail states all dogs MUST be leashed when approaching horses on the trails. FYI - blue & green are the permitted horse trails.
Most of us are tired of forever having to chase bikers out of there - I personally had more than my share - with the resulting arguments, which is aggravating, to say the least. And, seeing tire tracks on the no biking trails infuriates us even more as we are responsible for conserving the property. The bottom line is that unless there is more cooperation from the biking community, TBV will be closed to all bikers, period.
To give you a small example of what happens in there, I am copying beneath the report from one of our most experienced trail stewards & you can see how the few - or maybe more, are ruining it for you all.

Lisa Brodlie
ALT Land Management

During my hike yesterday (Sunday, May 2nd) in Trout Brook Valley, I had a couple of encounters with bikers on the Red and Yellow trails. As detailed below, I found this experience troubling from a number of perspectives.

I arrived at TBV around 7:15 am, and decided to take a long hike going up the Red and returning on the Yellow. I was only accompanied by my faithful furry friend Luke. Since it was so early and quiet, I was lost in thought and quite surprised when two bikers and their dogs approached me on the Red trail. My trail steward badge was easily visible when I told them that they were on a trail which is closed to bikes. They pleaded ignorance, and I informed them that the trails are well marked and environmentally sensitive. I also let them know that a biker had been seriously injured on that trail in the past, and it is off limits to bicycles. I hadn't really been paying attention to where I was on the trail, so I did not tell them to turn around. About 5 minutes later, I came to the intersection with the Green trail. I checked for no biking signs at that intersection, and there were two very visible ones.

I continued up the Red Trail until it ends at Jump Hill, checking for "no biking" postings at every intersection (they were all very well marked). All the way along the trail, there were tire tread markings evidencing that the bikers had ridden the entire Red trail. Many places along their ride, there were clearly posted signs notifying the bikers that the trails were closed. By way of the White, I connected to the Yellow checking for "no biking" signs as I started back on that trail. About halfway down the Yellow, I was approached by the same two bikers and their dogs AGAIN! The bikers were two men in their mid to late 30's with a Rhodesian Ridgeback and a Black Labrador.

When they tried to claim ignorance again, I made the following points:

The Red and Yellow trails are closed to bikers and are very clearly marked as such.
Almost all of the other trails in TBV are open to bikers from May 1st to December 31st.

Part of the Magenta trail was just closed due to trail damage by bikers during the winter months (when access in not permitted).

If bikers lose the privilege of riding in TBV, it will be due to actions such as theirs.
Did they want to give me their names? That way, if bikers lose the right to ride on the TBV trails - the anger can be directed at them rather than Aspetuck Land Trust.
They declined to give me their names, but acknowledged that they will have no one to blame but themselves if biking access is taken away.

In addition to the blatant disregard for the Aspetuck Land Trust rules and lack of consideration for hikers who may not want to encounter bikers, this situation is further troubling because:

Their actions indicate an absolute effort to not cooperate. Two examples of this are their failure to turn around on the Red trail (they knew that an intersection was close-by) and their decision to ride on the Yellow trail after our encounter on the Red.
If the mindset of these two is typical, the individual bikers do not seem to relate their behavior to the mountain biking community in TBV as a whole. While individual responsibility for possible loss biking privileges was acknowledged, the entire biking community could suffer from the consequences of their actions - not just the two of them!


Unknown said...

This is a serious situation.

Troutbrook is a well maintained excellent place to ride.

The Magenta trail is already a great loss-- it runs along an orchard at the highest elevation in the park -- thus connecting an uphill climb with a great fun descent.

I am not sure there is much of a mountain biking community-- all I know is that obeying a few simple rules keeps access and being a selfish fool might close the whole park to mountain bikers.

I hope the NEMBA is actively engaged with the Aspetuck Land trust to avoid more trail closures

Mark said...

We are working with them as we speak. If you ride TBV and want to ensure there are no future closures I recommend coming out to the next Trail Maintenance session that we are currently trying to set up with them.

Unknown said...

Thats great. Please post the details

Anonymous said...

A few thoughts...

The magenta trail between the dirt road/driveway trailhead and the orchard entrance seems in great shape, and also did this winter. The problem, this spring, I believe was in the section along the orchard fence. If this is truly a problem, it would seem that closing THIS SECTION ONLY (24 to 26 on the ALT trail map) of the trail would be the appropriate solution.

Closing the sections of the trail that were NOT adversely affected seems to be at best an over-reaction or, more likely, vindictive. The riders who rode on the trail when it was closed will likely ignore the current closure and continue to ride it, so that problem won't be solved with the current solution. The riders that did NOT ride on it when it was soggy and wet this winter/spring are the ones who are being punished for the actions of others, and clearly this is not appropriate.

The winter ban is a whole 'nother discussion -- I understand the need to keep bikes off saturated trails -- but so often in winter the trails are not saturated... of course they may be dry, but in addition they often are a) frozen, b) have snow on them or c) have frozen snow on them. I know -- I hike and cross country ski as well as bike at Trout Brook. So I don't get upset when I see bikers riding in the winter in clearly acceptable conditions. I'd much rather see a closing for conditions than for an arbitrary period of time, but I understand that there is an enforceability issue so I guess that's how the four month winter closing came about. To me, the problem months are more likely March/April, I'd love to see the Jan/Feb portion of the ban lifted.

Several individual trails have been closed "due to environmental sensitivity". I'm not sure what that means exactly... there may be a very good reason for the closure, or maybe not. Either way, I sure don't understand what it is, and I doubt that the riders who ride on these closed trails do either. If there was a better effort to explain the specific reasons for closure (assuming they are good reasons), anybody with ANY respect would in all likelihood pay attention. And if the reasons don't support the closure, then the discussion that will occur in the light of day is all good.

I mean, if the trail is closed to biking because of say, an endangered plant species grows right alongside the trail, it would be nice to know. If that were the case, don't you think we should close the trail to users with dogs, who might actually trample the plant? If the trail is closed because of erosion, don't you think we should close it to horses?

After all, this is an area that was purchased, in VERY large part, by our tax dollars and, to the extent possible, should be open to the public for use in compatible ways. And as I mention above, I think that some of the current closures are arbitrary and do not permit the appropriate use of the area that should be not only allowed but encouraged by the area's managers.

Bans and trail closures hurt the users that respect the closures the most, and they are the ones that DID NOT CONTRIBUTE TO THE PROBLEM. And when bans or closures are implemented without communicating the specific reasons that they have been put in place, at best the disenfranchised users will be upset, at worst they will violate the ban, leading to further damage and closures, once again affecting the rule-abiding users the most.

Alex Heckert said...

Anonomous has many valid points that are right on target. It's hard to do damage to a trail that is frozen and covered with snow, so the seasonal ban seems rather arbitrary (especially Jan/Feb). This and trail restrictions for "environmental" reasons that are not obvious only inspire contempt for the authority making the rules. The dichotomy with respect to mountain bike and equestrian use is one that I'd love to see explained. There is a cost benefit analysis associated with every form of use of the PUBLIC resources. Unfortunately, hikers and equestrians have been around longer and have more political clout than the mountain biking community. At Trout Brook, they seem to have he upper hand, regardless of the cost benefit math.

Anonymous said...

rich snobs win poor man looses whens the last time you saw a rider get off his or her horse to fix a trail............fin