Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Comments Sought On Bike Trails On Forever Wild Lands

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and the Department of Environmental Conservation are holding a joint public comment period to solicit comments regarding proposed management guidance for the siting, construction and maintenance of single-track bike trails on New York State ‘Forever Wild’ Forest Preserve land in the Adirondack Park.

The APA and DEC will accept comments until September 29, 2017.

The guidance is expected to establish criteria for building designated non-motorized bicycle trails on Forest Preserve lands classified as Wild Forest.  “Trail guidance is intended to establish reasonable access for bicycle use in a manner that ensures trails are sustainable and have minimal effects on the environment and character of the Forest Preserve,” an APA press announcement said.

The proposed guidance addresses trail style, riding opportunities and specific design and construction techniques such as alignment; Grading; Drainage; Parallel Feature Trail; Insloped Corners; and Side Slope Management.

The proposed Bicycle Trail Guidance for the Adirondack Park can be downloaded as a pdf here.

Address all written comments pertaining to the proposed guidance and its conformance to the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan to:

Kathy Regan
Deputy Director for Planning
NYS Adirondack Park Agency
P.O. Box 99
Ray Brook, NY 12977

Fax: (518) 891-3938, email

Submit all written comments to the APA by September 29, 2017.

Photo by Phil Brown: Hardy Road bike trails in Nov. 2016.

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15 Responses

  1. Kerry Lanahan says:

    I think it’s a good idea.Road cycling is getting too dangerous!I I like the minimal effects part.

  2. James Marco says:

    No. This is not a good thing. Money that should be dedicated to maintenance, new hiking trails, and, rangers to patrol them will be diverted to making separate bike trails, and their maintenance, and a special group of “bike” rangers to patrol them. And, to destinations that generally have a trail already.

  3. Paul says:

    Yes. This is a good thing. We already have bike trails on Wild Forest Land. This is about properly designing them and maintaining them so they the impact is minimal. Trails on WF land are used for more than just hiking.

  4. Charlie S says:

    Bikes do much damage to trails!!

  5. Taras says:

    Bikes do much damage to trails?

    Based on what I read in the article, it sounds like there’s a lot of planning involved to construct these trails. I think it’s fair to say they’re being designed to withstand bike traffic and not erode away within a season or two.

    Even they don’t build the trails properly and the bikes “do much damage”, it’s hard to believe these bike trails will end up looking worse that your average High Peaks foot-trail.

    Full disclosure: I’m a hiker not a mountain biker but I’m also a realist. Wild Forest areas allows for bikes so let’s build robust bike trails and allow cyclists to enjoy a day in the woods.

  6. Eric says:

    I can not find any info on the APA website. Could you provide a direct link?

  7. Tanner says:

    I drive over an hour to ride trails built by the Barkeater Trails Alliance. These folks are committed to building sustainable, fun, diverse trail systems that are simply incredible to ride. APA and the DEC truly have unique partners in this group. Bikes only do damage to poorly designed trails that are ridden by unethical riders, the same as any other user group. I strongly support more trails on wild forest land that are built to the high standards of BETA.

  8. Charlie S says:

    “Bikes only do damage to poorly designed trails that are ridden by unethical riders, the same as any other user group.”

    I’m not so sure about this but maybe you’re right and I’m not here to go against bike riders but I know from firsthand experience what bicycles do to the woods. My experience is relative to a geographical area down south (Tampa) where I used to live where the terrain is different than up here. There is a water management area with a seven mile loop (Flatwoods) that went around that I used to walk. It was the best place to get away from the noise and hustle and bustle of city life and I was there often.This trail was surrounded by woods which I would, here and there, step into to find a quiet haven to sit and think and take notes. When I started going out there it was the best kept secret as hardly anybody knew about it at the time.

    Then they started taking down the woods on the outside of this water management area and it wasn’t long before new tile-roofed homes could be seen through the thinning of trees. The hundreds of upper middle class people that moved into them homes had easy access to this seven-mile loop and them woods and within a few short years that peaceful haven turned into Grand Central Station. What was once a peaceful seven-mile walk where I’d bump into a handful or less of people going in the opposite direction turned into scores and more of people coming and going in both directions. Then more people, then they widened and added more parking spots, then they paved the seven-mile loop, then water stations were put up to convenience everyone.

    Then they allowed mountain biking through the woods and what were once quiet, narrow dirt trails that went through them woods, turned into wide torn up trails and the landscape turned outright ugly and there was no more quiet places to get away in them woods. Plus I started seeing trash, etc.. Then they started charging a fee to park and what was once a paradise for me turned into one big ugly mess. So I stopped going.

    In my walks out there I took photos of all of the flowers that I saw and cataloged over a hundred species. There were gopher tortoises, and a species of lizard I saw nowhere else. Tree frogs and other frogs and toads were abundant. I remember common night hawks were, well…common, and I used to love to watch them drop and to hear their whirring sounds when they did. They outright disappeared after the crowds showed up and the environment changed. Most of them flowers disappeared also after the crowds showed up which is how I learned that flowers are very sensitive to the environment that surrounds them.

    This is my firsthand experience with bicycles on trails in woods and though I am aware the terrain is different in Tampa than it is in the Adirondacks I am also of the mind that once a can of worms is opened things do change not necessarily for the better and that oftentimes foresight is on the back-burner when it comes to decisions to the detriment of what once was a good thing.

    • Joe Hansen says:

      Charlie, I believe your message is stay out of Florida which is one I will abide to my dying day. Greed,unplanned development,and environmental negligence has trashed a once beautiful state. As far as purpose built mt. bike trails, I think they are an excellent idea. They are much more fun to ride than hiking or snowmobile trails, are built with drainage and erosion in mind and are more geographically compact. Most people ride mt. bike trails for the enjoyment of riding not to reach a particular destination. As an avid hiker I see very few riders as it is, purpose built bike trails should keep it that way.

  9. Steve B. says:

    In general, its possible to build sustainable mt. bike trails that minimize damage. There is likely as little damage done by bikes ridden responsibly on well built trails as would be found on heavily used hiking trails in the high peaks. I’m a member of a mt. bike club on Long Island that has expanded the network of bike trails to probably 300 miles in the past 20 years or so. The club does ALL the building and maintanence, including re-routing as required when erosion becomes an issue. One advantage of expanding the trail systems is it spreads the usage over more trails, which takes the load off the older trail systems. No reason this would not be the case in the north country and in general mt. bikers have the same ethics and understanding of how to be responsible users of the woods as any hikers I’ve met. Indeed, many are former hikers like myself, who have just migrated to a different activity.

    Bikes do not belong on wilderness area hiking trails, but road systems and other areas that are suitable terrain can see mt. bike trails established. This is successful all across the country and is needed in the Adirondacks. Indeed, I am currently researching areas to ride for a camping trip in 2 weeks or so (one reason I’m on this site). I will happily spend my dollars in Long Lake or elsewhere in the region.

  10. Boreas says:

    MTB is an activity I am not really involved in. To me, at least on the surface, building hardened trails for this activity is a good idea if done in the right places. I believe most of the discussion will center around what is considered “the right place”.

    That being said, how much are state high-usage areas currently being utilized for various types of MTB trails? For instance, I believe Whiteface already has some trails – are they built using these proposed guidelines, or are they just access roads on which bikes are allowed? I would think ski areas would be an excellent place to build these trails as they could be used by cyclists in summer and skiing in winter. Perhaps modified ski lifts could result in many more runs in a day. Another advantage is a massive amount of parking, sanitary, and food infrastructure already exists and often is under-utilized through the summer.

    I believe putting an emphasis on building these trails on ski areas would ultimately mean fewer NEW trails would need to be built in more remote and sensitive areas. Not that I am against the construction of new trails in more remote areas, but I feel they should be added gradually to the backcountry until it gets to a point where usage (riders/day) begins to drop. That way we don’t interfere with natural settings any more than needed.

    Another thing to keep in mind is that much of the current high numbers of people participating in all types of outdoor recreation in the Park is a function of cheap gasoline. How long will this situation continue? Should we expend our limited taxpayer resources on infrastructure that may be unneeded in the future if gasoline prices double or triple? As James Marco notes above, will the same amount of maintenance and patrolling in these new areas effectively drain human and financial resources away from more sensitive areas such as the HPW that will be more likely to continue being used to the max? Just something that the administration should be keeping in the back of their mind. Unfortunately, politics is terribly myopic. Their horizon is rarely more than 2-6 years in the future.

  11. Josh Wilson says:

    @Boreas – just a quick response to a few of your thoughts:

    You are correct on a few points. Yes the Whiteface Bike Park has a network of trails designed for downhill mountain biking, a very specific discipline of mountain biking that requires a certain kind of bike that is built for this kind of intense riding, as well as full-face helmets and crash pads, and usually a ski lift to transport riders up the hill. Downhill oriented mountain bike trails are increasingly being developed at ski areas around the world for just the reason you cited – more year round use and revenue in the face of increasingly unreliable snow fall. Downhill bike trails are primarily purpose built and are usually located both in the woods between ski trails and on the ski trail slopes themselves. Access roads are also used to some degree but are not the focus. The important point is that this kind of riding appeals to a very small subset of the mountain biking community…partially because it comes with higher risk and the gear is very expensive.

    Most mountain bikers out there are looking for an experience which allows them to ride a system of cross country “single track” trails. The trails themselves are the experience…not the destination one reaches while riding.

    Other smaller alpine and nordic ski areas in our region are well-suited to host cross country mountain bike trails, and the Barkeater Trails Alliance has worked to establish trail systems on municipally owned lands at Dewey Mountain, Mt. Pisgah and more recently the abandoned Scott’s Cobble ski area property adjacent to Craig Wood golf course.

    However, we do not see these “ski area” trail systems as a replacement for building trails on Forest Preserve lands classified as Wild Forest, where mountain biking is allowed and should be encouraged where (a) there is a demand for such trails, (b) the terrain, soils, and other natural resource conditions are demonstrated to be suitable for trail building, and (c) where a dedicated, organized group of trail stewards exists to construct and ultimately maintain said trails.

    To see where these trails have been developed on Wild Forest lands, one only needs to look at the bike trails in the Wilmington Wild Forest, and also the new trails proposed in the draft Saranac Lakes Wild Forest UMP. While some trails reach more remote, backcountry areas, the majority are concentrated quite close to state and local highways and are located on smaller tracts of FP land that is already segmented by roads and surrounding private lands.

    The guidelines are just that – guidelines. They are not a directive to build more trails or divert resources from other trail-related projects. Mountain bike trails are already being built and more are being proposed by the state. Establishing a specific standard by which new trails can be constructed and existing trails can be maintained on Forest Preserve lands is simply a smart thing to do at this point.

    Our organization applauds the work of DEC and APA to establish these guidelines and we appreciate the inherent recognition that developing mountain bike trails often requires using a slightly different set of trail building principles than those commonly used on hiking trails in the HPW and elsewhere.

    Josh Wilson
    Executive Director
    Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA)

  12. Daniel Remington says:

    I believe there should be a tire width requirement for bicycles on some trails. Fat tires (3″+) do little to no damage on wilderness trails. Anything outside the “wilderness” or “forever wild” trails should be whatever tire you are safe and comfortable on. As always cyclists need to be kind to others using the trails.

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