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Rules of the trail for mountain bikers aim to cut clashes

New City Parks Mountain Bike Policy developed for Colorado Springs trails system.

By Kathryn Sosbe

Map of Colorado

A proposed mountain-biking policy geared toward reducing problems on Colorado Springs trails and in city parks got a unanimous nod from nearly 60 enthusiasts Thursday evening during a brainstorming session. "It'll work," said Stan Levitz of the policy, "Well, it works on paper. People have to make it work on the trail."

Levitz is a self-described "social hiker" who hits the trails with his dog, Zip, as a way to get out of the house. He said he has never encountered problems on the trail and attended Thursday's meeting more out of curiosity than concern. "You know, I've never had a problem with anyone," he said. "I just was curious about what the ruckus was all about. Seems most people get along out there."

True, but occasionally there are conflicts between bikers and other trail users, such as hikers, runners and those on horseback. At times, each complains that others are hogging the trails or using them improperly. Environmentalists, too, are concerned about overuse of the trails.

And technically, bikes are not allowed on trails unless they are designated for such use. Under the proposed policy, mountain bikers would not be banned from city parks. They would, however, be expected to share the trails with other users and vice versa.

Terry Putnam, manager of planning and development for the city's Parks and Recreation Department, said the proposed policy will be given to the park Advisory Board for its final stamp of approval. The policy does not need the approval of City Council, he said. Highlights of the policy are:

-- Parks and Recreation will designate areas and trails where mountain biking is allowed. It will consider erosion, natural drainage patterns and wildlife habitats.

-- Etiquette education programs for trail users will be implemented. For example, bikers should announce their presence behind runners to minimize the "surprise" effect as they ride past. A program to hand out warning bells is considered. However, bells should never be used behind a horse.

-- Advisory signs will be placed at trailheads with information about the length, description, levels of difficulty, directions and safety precautions.

New City Parks Mountain Bike Policy developed

The Parks Department, led by Terry Putman, and the Mountain Bike Policy Committee have created a new policy on riding bicycles in City parks such as Palmer Park. Ute Valley park, Pulpit Rock Park and North Cheyenne Canyon. The position of the Parks Department is to allow mountain bikes in the parks. All of the public meetings were very supportive and helpful in the development of the policy. The policy was approved by the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board on December 14. The Trails Coalition was a member of the Policy Committee.

The Policy

"It is the intent of the City of Colorado Springs Parks and recreation Department to provide a variety of off-raod mountain biking opportunities and experiences within the City parks system. The Department is the steward of the City parks, and environmental protection is its primary goal. The charge of managing parks' resources includes balancing demands with maintenance and preservation. As a result of this policy, mountain biking trails will be available in City parks. Therefore, the Department will provide a policy structure for responsible mountain biking. The goals of that structure are that it:

  • does not cause unacceptable environmental impact.
  • minimizes user conflicts.
  • encourages user cooperation.
  • promotes safety.
  • educates users (mountain bikers and others).

The Department will designate the trails where mountain biking is allowed. Some designated trails may be closed periodically for maintenance, revegetation, redesign and other improvements. Trails will be designed to minimize environmental impacts. Unacceptable environmental impacts occur when park users create their own trails. The Department will reserve the right to close to close trails in sensitive habitat areas or that do not meet design standards for drainage and erosion or topography. Staff will seek input from local trails advocacy groups regarding temporary and permanent trail closures. Staff will also work with local trails groups on volunteer efforts to build and improve trails.

The Department will pursue means of encouraging user cooperation to reduce conflicts among trail users. All trails should be multi-use; however, in some cases, use may be limited to one activity or predominate activity in problem sections.

The Department will sponsor and/or promote educational programs to teach mountain biking skills and trail etiquette. Staff will coordinate educational outreach, safety and enforcement programs with the efforts outlined in the City-wide Bicycle Plan.

Trail signs will be placed at trailheads and should include a map with the length of the trail, description, directions, challenging areas, and levels of diffculty. For more information, please contact the Parks Department or the Trail Coalition.

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