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

What is STORM?

South Texas Off Road Mountain-Bikers (STORM) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization representing thousands of area mountain bikers in San Antonio and surrounding areas. Founded in 1993 by a group of San Antonio mountain-bike enthusiasts, STORM is committed to environmentally conscious mountain biking and trail building, facilitating recreational trail cycling, educating about the sport of mountain biking, maintaining local trails, and advocating for increased multi-user trail access. As the oldest and leading mountain bike advocacy organization in San Antonio and surrounding areas, STORM is first and foremost an organization by and for mountain bike riders. That is to say, we like to ride our bikes off road and work to increase the opportunities to do so by advocating access to trails on public and private land. We advocate responsible mountain biking by adopting a sustainable trail ethic along with practices that ensure the future of our sport. STORM assists both public and private land owners with developing, maintaining and preserving access to sustainable trails. STORM is responsible for natural surface trail maintenance and building in many of the San Antonio city parks and greenways. Through a proven history of collaboration between land managers, volunteer groups, and other local stakeholders such as businesses, private landowners, environmental organizations and community leaders, STORM’s approach to advocacy and organizing is based on coalition building amongst these various trail and parkland users. In addition to our advocacy and trail building work, STORM maintains several programs aimed to increase the safety and enjoyment of our sport. Our goal is to provide riders of all skill levels the opportunity to enjoy the trails throughout San Antonio and surrounding areas for generations to come. STORM hosts weekly all skill level rides, monthly kid’s rides (STORM Kidz), quarterly women’s skills clinics through our women’s group (Rebel Betties), as well as hosting a XC race and XC Marathon race each year.