The Coastal Post - June 1999

Open Space District Takes Action Against Rogue Mountain Bikers

By Terri Avillar

Marin County Open Space District (MCOSD) General Manager, Fran Brigmann, bravely confronted the District's Board of Directors at their May 25 meeting, with a set of recommendations designed to thwart illegal mountain bike trail building.

While the majority of the Board, namely Directors Kress, Kinsey and Brown, have staunchly advocated the agenda of the mountain biking industry, a motion approving most of Brigmann's recommendations indicate that increased protection for Marin's natural resources may be on the horizon.

Prompted by the recent discovery of the illegal "Medivac Trail" in Novato, Brigmann's seven recommendations were designed to eliminate other illegal mountain bike trail construction throughout the District.

The seven included: 1) Requesting the Bicycle Trails Council (BTC) to help find the vandals who "built" the trail and in "de-constructing it."

2) Offer a reward of $2,000

for information leading to the arrest and conviction of builder(s) of trail for violation of the seven applicable Open Space Code (OSC) Sections. 3) Close a 160-acre portion of Big Rock Ridge preserve to bicycles ...and allow the repaired area to heal. 4) Direct staff to develop a revision to the OSC prohibiting possession of trail building equipment... 5) ..Request that bail for vandalism of public open space property and the construction of illegal trails be increased to the maximum...

6)

...Increase enforcement in areas of illegal mountain bike use. 7)

...Investigate possibility of the District filing a civil suit against the builders of this trail should their identity be determined.

Director John Kress took the lead in quashing the closing of Big Rock Ridge Preserve to bicycles (the motion was seconded by Director Steve Kinsey), calling the Medivac Trail so extreme that just a few "miscreants" could have such a riding interest and it would be "unwise to sanction the entire mountain bike community."

Yet MCOSD Chief Ranger Chris Bramham was quoted in a May 1, 1999 Marin IJ front page article, saying that one half-acre of erosion protecting surface vegetation had been destroyed. Bramham also said that creation of "trails like this one" has become a problem for rangers. The estimate of County funds required to deconstruct just this trail is $10,000. Perhaps Director Kress should spend a week with Ranger Bramham in the field. Then he might be forced to admit that more than a few "miscreants" were required to cause such extensive damage.

This writer advised the Board that an illegal mountain bike trail, recently estimated by the Marin Municipal Water District and the MCOSD to cost $200,000 for complete closure and restoration, can be found by visiting the County's own website, then linking to Fairfax Online. The webmaster has mockingly called the posted sign "Keep Off.

Restoration Area," the work of a prankster. One call from the County Counsel's office could remove this improper advertisement.

Director Cynthia Murray supported all of Brigmann's recommendations and suggested creating a tip hot-line, so the public can report illegal trail activity. This suggestion was adopted. A welcome and unusual remark, Murray stated: "We need to be tough."

Director Rose supported the suggestion of this writer for inviting public donations to a reward fund.

Increasing the reward, as the fund permitted, would provide greater incentive to report illegal mountain bike trail building and/or its maintenance.

Three weeks ago, I was asked to guess what the BTC's response would be to the Medivac Trail discovery.

BTC president, Jim Jacobsen, proved my prediction correct by stating to the Board: "I am outraged at the lack of environmental protection...We can mitigate the damage by creating SOUND trails here."

Jacobsen advocated environmental damage prevention by "reconstructing" the illegal trails. Perhaps the Board should ask Jacobsen if his environmental outrage prevents him from using undiluted pesticides in his mountain bike trail construction and whether or not he has permits to excavate thousands of acres of watershed topsoil during the winter months, and whether his trail "construction" adheres to the County's Native Tree Ordinance.

Groups such as the BTC are systematically destroying the natural resources of Marin County. And for what?

For a joy ride. Now is the time to demand restrictions on this destructive sport. Now is the time for regional and local officials to realistically examine the devastating effects of mountain biking on irreplaceable open-space lands.

Illegal trail building is out of control. If the above recommendations are not successful and nature restoration appears unattainable, the MCOSD may want to consider the remedy other land managers have chosen-a ban on off-road bicycling in open-space preserves.

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