Why are unauthorized trails a problem and what can be done about it?

IMBA World Summit 2010 Resources – Dealing With Unauthorized Trails

Below is a summary of the IMBA presentation:

The Problem:

  • Mountain bikers are building and riding unauthorized trails
  • This is an increasing trend
  • Thousands of miles of non-system trails
  • Varying degrees of impact

Why is this a problem?:

  • It can damage natural resources
  • It can damage cultural and historical resources
  • It violates trust between mountain bikers and land managers
  • It threatens current and future trail access
  • It portrays mountain bikers as being lawless, arrogant, disrespectful, selfish,  irresponsible, and ignorant
  • It alienates other members of the trail community
  • It can create a safety hazard to other cyclists
  • It’s against the law

Causes of problem:

  • Growing demand for more trails, and more diverse trail experiences
  • Increased skill levels and new technologies driving desire for technical trails
  • Mountain bikers are in a non‐conformist subculture
  • Lack of connection to trail community
  • There is a disrespect for government oversight
  • Perception of entitlement to public lands
  • Lack of legal awareness
  • Perception unauthorized trails will become system trails
  • Ignorance of environmental impact
  • Perception won’t be caught
  • Passive acceptance in bike community
  • Industry sometimes subtly condones
  • The public process for new trails is slow, cumbersome and costly
  • Land managers are understaffed and stressed out

Strategies to deal with problem:

  • Change mountain biking subculture
    • Educate mountain bikers
      • Environmental ethic
      • Stewardship of the land
      • Sustainable trail design
      • Legalities of trail building
      • Environmental impact
      • Bike patrols
    • Improve advocacy skills
      • Get organized to advocate for the trails you want
        • Form an effective advocacy group
      • Participate in the larger trail community
        • Become involved in issues beyond your own
        • Become knowledgeable about trail planning, environmental issues, agency structure and needs, other user groups, etc.
      • Work with industry players
        • Get them to support your efforts
        • Help them project a good image of our sport
  • Change agency subculture
    • Land managers need to:
      • Increase efficiency and effectiveness of the process of bringing new trails on line
      • Create diverse and technical trail experiences
      • Partner with mountain biking community to build trails
      • Converting existing unauthorized trails into system trails where appropriate
      • Establish fair and logical mountain biking policies
      • Enforce their own rules