IMBA World Summit 2010 Resources - Unauthorized Trails
Dealing With Unauthorized Trails
Tom Ward, IMBA California Policy Advisor
An “unauthorized” trail is typically associated with some or all these attributes:
- Not approved by the land manager
- Trail does not appear on official maps
- The trail is legitimate, but it's not open to mountain bikers
- Cyclists don’t have permission to ride it
Why is riding unauthorized trails an important issue?
- With over 13,000 miles of non-system and unauthorized trails in California alone, they are becoming a major problem for the legitimacy of the mountain biking movement.
- Unauthorized trails often damage natural resources and can damage cultural and historical resources.
- They violate trust between mountain bikers and land manages.
- Building and riding unsanctioned trails threatens current and future trail access—land managers can refuse mountain bikers all together.
- The practice displays mountain bikers as being lawless, arrogant, disrespectful, selfish, irresponsible and ignorant.
- Alienates other members of the trail community.
- They often create a safety hazard to other cyclists when not built properly, ie: no alternate routes around TTFs, no signage, etc.
- It's against the law!
- As the mountain bike world expands, there is a growing demand for more trails, and more diverse and technical trail experiences.
- Illegal builders often lack a connection to the trail community—they don’t belong to clubs or advocacy groups.
- There is often a perception that unauthorized trails will eventually become accepted, system trails.
- Sometimes seems like there is passive acceptance in bike community and in the bike industry
Strategies to deal with the proliferation of unauthorized trails:
- Educate mountain bikers on the environmental ethic, sustainable design, legalities of trailbuilding, etc.
- Improve riders’ advocacy skills, including getting organized, participating in the larger trail community, and working with industry players to improve the image of our sport.
- Within the agency subculture, land managers need to increase efficiency of creating new trails, and create diverse and technical trail experiences.
- Land managers also need to partner with mountain bike community to build trails, and to establish fair and logical policies.
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