Trail use issues create canyon concerns

Cyclists’ illegal jumps, riding in undesignated areas pose safety risks, ranger says
By: Sara Seyydin Journal Staff Writer
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Mounds of dirt crafted into berms and trees cut down to fashion jumps are two symptoms of a conflict in the Auburn State Recreation Area. Pedestrians, equestrians and mountain bike riders are often put at odds when cyclists construct illegal skills terrain or ride on undesignated trails. Though these actions are punishable by law, many cyclists feel that the lack of trails available to them gives them no other choice. “If there were more bike riding trails, it wouldn’t be a problem for us,” said Mike Thompson, manager of Auburn Bike Works. “I still feel like the Auburn cyclists are pretty respectful.” Thompson is one of many residents who moved to Auburn for the unmatched mountain bike terrain and rides five to six days a week. Unfortunately, though, he feels there are just not enough trails available to mountain bikers to meet the demand in the region. He advocates that building new trails is the solution. Auburn State Recreation Area officials do not see this as a viable possibility for the time being. They attribute the lack of new trails to budget cuts and say that the illegal trail use poses many problems, some of which are dangerous. According to Scott Liske, park ranger at Auburn State Recreation Area, building jumps changes the natural terrain of land, affecting runoff and erosion. Digging and cutting trees is also damaging to the land. Liske consistently sees a more pressing problem with the undesignated use of trails though. “When bikes ride on trails designated for pedestrians and equestrians, there are line-of-sight issues and they can hit the horse coming around a corner,” Liske said. “Usually how we find out about jumps is that someone crashes and we have to go rescue them.” In past rescues Liske has seen cyclists, equestrians and horses badly injured because equestrian and pedestrian-only trails are too narrow to accommodate cyclists. He maintains that the vast majority of trail-users in all groups do so legally and safely, but those who disregard the rules often do not realize the risks. Of the 42,000 acres in the recreation area there are many multi-use trails available, however budget cuts have kept these trails from being properly maintained. The Folsom Auburn Trail Riders Association Coalition formed as an advocacy group to address this issue by building and maintaining trails in the foothills. According to long-time association member and Placer County trail advocate Jim Haagen-Smit. the group does not support the illegal use of trails by mountain bikers, but has had a more difficult time seeing trails built since the budget constraints. “The problem definitely suggests a deeper issue that needs to be addressed,” Haagen-Smit said. “There are a number of places that have addressed the issue like Fresno for example.” Haagen-Smit was referring to the 10-acre Woodward Mountain Bike Skills Progression Park in Fresno, which features riding and tabletops for every level. When the conflict between various trail-user groups escalated, Fresno opted to build this separate facility as a solution. Much of the construction was done on a volunteer basis, therefore lowering costs. Donna Williams, a local equestrian who helped launch, which enables trail users to anonymously report trail misuse, is also in support of separate tracks for mountain bike riders. “Both groups seek single-track trails,” Williams said. “We could engender more private stewardship for the parks by having each recreational group maintain their trail and pay for it.” With the limited resources available through the current state park system, Williams sees groups taking responsibility for their recreational areas as the best way forward. While her group works to regulate the proper use of trails, she thinks this would be less of a problem if mountain bikers had their own trails and technical parks available to them. Until then, will partner with the recreation area to crack down on mountain bikers and others who do not obey trail regulations. This is one way local equestrians have chosen to steward their trails, but in her 35 years riding trails in the region Williams has seen them contribute even more. Through private efforts they have rebuilt bridges, maintained trails and put up maps to improve recreation in their communities, she said. She said her experience in these ventures makes her confident that although Auburn State Recreation Area officials, mountain bikers, pedestrians and equestrians are often in disagreement the situation is not without hope. “I think we all need to think outside of the box and come together to find solutions.” Williams said. -------------- Where to Ride Legally in the Auburn State Recreation Area • Stagecoach Trail: Runs from Russell Road in Auburn to the Old Foresthill Bridge and connects at the west end of the big Foresthill Bridge. • Old Lake Clementine Road: Runs from the Old Foresthill Road Bridge to Lake Clementine Road •The Fire Break Trail: Runs from Lake Clementine to the Auburn Foresthill Road connecting to Culver Trail. • Mammoth Bar to the Confluence Trail • Quarry Road Trail: From Highway 49 to Poverty Bar • Omstead Loop Trail: Starting behind the fire station in Cool on Highway 49 For more information visit To report illegal use of California State Parks visit