IMBA says trail planning process was started under a national partnership to promote mountain bike opportunities in parks
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — A Boulder-based bicycling group is defending its advocacy for a mountain bike trail in Big Bend National Park. Conservation and watchdog groups charge that the National Park Service erred by starting construction of the trail before giving the public a chance to comment on the final decision — as required by federal law.
The International Mountain Biking Association doesn’t dispute what it calls a procedural error on the part of the agency, but says it’s been partnering with the park service since 2005 to expand cycling opportunities in national parks.
The bike group is also challenging other statements made by critics of the trail in a statement on its website. Some of the critics have said the Big Bend trail would be the first in a national park, while IMBA points out that there are trails on other lands administered by the agency, including Golden Gate National Recreation Area, north of San Francisco, seen by some as the birthplace of mountain biking. See a full list of authorized mountain roads and trails in national park units here.
Several other parks are also studying bike trails as part of a push to expand recreational opportunities in parks and attract a new constituency. IMBA says it’s important for the National Park Service to be inclusive.
“It’s unfortunate that a few organizations cannot embrace the idea that mountain biking is low in impact and brings a large, committed and new constituency to our nation’s conservation and public lands efforts,” the group said on its website.
“Big Bend Trails Alliance, American YouthWorks, IMBA, a large number of Texas cyclists, local residents and many other groups have been energized by this project. We believe that giving park visitors an opportunity to hike, and eventually to mountain bike, on this trail will enhance Big Bend National Park,” the statement continued.
IMBA also denies the charge that it paid for the environmental study, and says it only works in parks where they’ve been invited by staff.
IMBA also takes issue with the claims that the trail will be built in an area considered for wilderness, stating that wilderness status for the Lone Mountain area has been rejected by the agency because of visual impacts and the potential for water development. The most recent management plan for the park doesn’t recommend the area for wilderness.