Sunday, June 10, 2018

Mountain Bike Trails Management Guidance Issued

The Adirondack Park Agency (APA) and Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) recently approved guidelines for mountain bike facilities on “forever wild” Adirondack Forest Preserve lands.

The document, Management Guidance: Siting, Construction and Maintenance of Singletrack Bicycle Trails on Forest Preserve Lands in the Adirondack Park is expected to assist DEC in planning bicycle trail networks on Forest Preserve lands classified as Wild Forest.

“Community based bike trail networks will link Adirondack Hamlets to the Forest Preserve in a manner that protects natural resources and retains the wild forest character of the Park,” APA Chairman Sherman Craig said in a statement issued to the press. “The implementation of this guidance through unit management plans such as the Wilmington, Moose River Plains, Saranac Lake and Vanderwhacker Wild Forests will establish new bike specific recreational destinations and elevate the Adirondack Park to a coveted place for bike vacationers. This will broaden and diversify economic impacts to Park communities wholly in a manner consistent with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan.”

A statement issued by DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said he looked forward to working “to establish the Adirondacks as a world class mountain bike destination.”

Land managers are expected to use the guidance document in developing, an announcement from DEC said, “high quality biking experiences that incorporate different trail styles appealing to a broad range of bikers.”

According to the APA and DEC’s press announcement:

“This includes stacked loop networks, long distance routes and winter riding. Factors such as ecological characteristics, strong presence of local support, proximity to communities and trail density will play a role in determining the style and layout of trail networks,” A detailed trail rating system was also devised to ensure the general public will be fully informed of the challenge level required to ride different trails and networks. The rating system incorporates characteristics such as tread width, trail grade and obstacles.

“Specific trail construction and maintenance elements such as alignment, grading, drainage, insloped corners, bridges and side slope management are addressed in detail. Trails will follow the natural contours of the terrain as much as possible and will be laid out to minimize tree cutting, rock removal and terrain alteration. Grading may be undertaken to facilitate natural drainage without the use of water bars. Grade reversals, dip drains, and trail alignments that facilitate drainage and tread stability are encouraged. Stone or log staircases, log ladders, or other trail structures suitable solely for hiking are inappropriate for bicycle trails.

“Bicycle trails may include parallel feature trails (PFTs) that provide a technical element. These trails and associated technical features offer mountain bikers the opportunity to ride challenging natural terrain features. PFTs will be carefully sited to limit resource impacts.

“Flat or out-sloped corners can be prone to ruts, widening, and tread creep from riders travelling to the outside of the corner and skidding to control speed and change direction. Modest in-sloping (berming) will be allowed in certain corners highly prone to skidding. This keeps riders within the trail corridor, reduces skidding, and generally creates a more enjoyable and safer riding experience.

“Bicycle trails in the Adirondack Forest Preserve will continue to be built and maintained primarily with hand tools. However, the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan allows for minimal use of motor vehicles (i.e landscaping equipment such as mini-excavators and material haulers) to construct and maintain bicycle trails in Wild Forest and Intensive Use areas. Guidance is provided regarding what is considered to be minimal use of motor vehicles on bicycle trail projects.

“Destination mountain bike locations have revitalized struggling rural areas of the northeast over the last decade. Communities that build trail systems for bikers have realized substantial economic gains. Presently, the Northeast Kingdom in East Burke, Vermont annually attracts 90,000 riders with a combined economic spending impact to the region of 12-15 million dollars.

“The Adirondack Park is well positioned to become a destination location. Many Adirondack communities have tourism accommodations that offer direct access to the Forest Preserve. The approval of this guidance will enhance land managers’ ability to further develop bike trail networks that are consistent with the Adirondack Park State Land Master Plan and appeal to a wide range of mountain bikers.

“Bike trail networks in close proximity to hamlets and campgrounds that integrate seamlessly with publically accessible trails on state, municipal and privately owned lands are encouraged. Due consideration is given to how bike trails will integrate with other types of trails in a way that protects the experience of all trail users. This will result in an increase of a recreational user group which historically has not identified the Adirondack Park as a destination. The guidance strives to enhance public health and incorporate the economic benefits of singletrack bike trails while simultaneously protecting the wild character of New York State’s Forest Preserve lands.”

Both the Wilmington Wild Forest and Moose River Plains Wild Forest Unit Management Plans have approved mountain bike trail networks.

To read the full guidance click here.

Photo of Wilmington Mountain Biking by Josh Wilson.

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9 Responses

  1. Larry Roth says:

    So, after all these bike trails are built, who will maintain them, who will patrol them – and who will pay for it?

    Those are the questions that never seem to get answered.

    • Todd Eastman says:

      The mountain bike community throughout the nation is extremely persistent at maintaining trails on a volunteer basis.

      The guidance manuals are helpful and as the riding experience depends on the trail surface, great detail in maintenance is normal for most rider/volunteers.

      The hiking community is far less involved in volunteer efforts per capita.

      • Chris Morris says:

        Larry, I would recommend checking out BETA’s impressive work across the region in maintaining mountain bike trails — and in raising private money to sustain that maintenance. Additionally, BETA does an excellent job of educating the public about when/where to bike, and in advocating for a healthy trails system.

  2. Tanner says:

    Welcome to the 1990’s!! It’s about time the Adirondacks adopt a sensible plan to develop sustainable mountain bike trails. I have long since left the ADK region and now live in a place that actively supports mountain biking, and recognizes the important economic, health and social benefits of cycling. Look east across the Lake, ADK mountain bikers. Your model is right next door!

  3. Tony Goodwin says:

    The mountain bike trails (50+ miles) built to date have been built and subsequently maintained by volunteer members of the Bark Eater Trails Alliance (BETA). As the number of mountain bike trails has grown, so has BETA’s membership, so it appears to be a sustainable model going forward with BETA now able to pay a small professional trail crew out of privately donated funds.

  4. Lorian Bartle says:

    I look forward to trying out these new trails. It will be a lot of work to construct but I think that the result will be worth it.

  5. Brent Wittmer says:

    Chris is correct, BETA’s work is very impressive. It has been incredible to see this community grow over the past decade or so, and to see how much they have accomplished with private resources, fundraising, and tons of volunteer hours. Their leadership is forward thinking and extremely skilled at working with private landowners and State agencies to accomplish their vision in a responsible and equitable manner. They’re extremely welcoming, too, and a blast to ride with!

  6. Richard DeFichy says:

    I currently mountain bike in the Essex Chain Lakes, Boreas Ponds and Santanoni areas, and applaud the future biking opportunities being planned. The same challenges of preventing trail overuse and misuse for hikers should be addressed for bikers.

  7. Jim S. says:

    The photo with this article looks more like a tree farm than a forest.

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