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Mountain Biking Floods Residents’ Patience

news_downhillControversy over growing downhill biking craze reaches boiling point
Law enforcement was jolted to take action on issues related to downhill mountain biking recently, thanks to a group of particularly perturbed Felton residents.

Residents of the Forest Lake community in Felton held a heated meeting on Tuesday, June 14, aimed at putting the controversy between residents and downhill riders on law enforcement’s radar.

An officer from the UC Santa Cruz Police Department and representatives from the Santa Cruz County State Park Mountain Sector were at the meeting. However, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office—the target of most residents' frustration for inconsistently responding to calls—was not represented. (Lt. Craig Wilson tells GT this was because the department is stretched thin—there are 28 unfilled positions in the county, and 20 will not be filled until budgets begin increasing.) One mountain biker that lives in Forest Lake and is familiar with both sides of the issue stopped in to represent the mountain bikers’ point of view, causing tempers to momentarily fly. The flare up, however, eventually led to some mutual self-reflection and a decision to find middle-ground solutions.

Meeting goers said they are fed up with trucks shuttling the heavy weight bikes to the top of Scenic Drive, as well as aggressive responses from a few riders when residents have told them they are trespassing.

"We have no constructive way of talking to these people ... I look out my front porch and see a stream of bikers [most of the day]," said Forest Lake resident Bill Anderson. "At first I was on the fence ... The tipping point for [me] was when I saw the damage to the trails and some of the ‘improvements’ they have made, [such as] building jumps."

Tickets have been given to riders exiting Henry Cowell State Park onto Highway 9, but Sheriff Sgt. Jim Ross says there are very few signs to alert bikers coming from legal trails on UCSC’s upper campus that they are entering closed trails under state park control.

“You get up in that land and some of the signs have been removed,” said Ross. “It’s unclear whether it is illegal.”

Despite the confusion, Ross says using Scenic Drive or other private roads to shuttle riders is illegal. Reports of vandalism and violence from both sides of this debate have spurred Ross to look into what the Sheriff’s Department can do to cool down the escalating situation. One resident at the meeting said a biker smashed a resident’s windshield after they told him he was trespassing, but also admitted that a different biker was recently shot at with a pellet gun for riding on a road in Forest Lake.

Mark Davidson, president of Mountain Bikers Of Santa Cruz (MBOSC), says he is aware of these issues with use private roads and has spread the word to “just not drive up there.” He says he doesn’t shuttle, but also says it is usually unreasonable to ride or hike the bikes—which weigh more than 30 pounds on average—to the top of courses to begin a ride.

Northstar-at-Tahoe lets users ride the chairlifts with their bikes, which Davidson says some local riders take advantage of when they can afford to make the four-hour drive and pay the $40 per day lift fee.

In addition to staying off of private roads, Davidson believes that part of the solution to the growing conflict will be to have more legal places to ride. He uses the popular comparison to skateboarding in the ’90s, when the sport’s popularity quickly outgrew the amount of legal spaces available to practice it. Currently, the only legal trails in the county that satisfy downhill bikers, according to Davidson, are in the Soquel Demonstration Forest. The tracks in that area are built and maintained by volunteers from the MBOSC.

“It’s got the best legal, technical mountain biking terrain in the area,” says Davidson.

Officials and riders are also eyeing federal land near Davenport, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, but a park there would be years away, even if talks began now. Davidson says this planning is difficult because the MBOSC is a volunteer organization. After jobs, families, and helping organize the many community events that MBOSC participates in, he says it is near impossible to make it to government meetings.

Their volunteer work would be crucial in the development of new downhill courses, because the state has been draining parks’ budgets to help balance its own books in recent years.

“We’re not getting more rangers, but we are getting a lot more bikers,” said Sheila Branon, acting superintendent of the mountain sector of state parks in the county.

Biking-induced damage to the watershed—which supplies the water to the entire neighborhood—is a large concern among residents in Forest Lake.

“A hydrologist that lives in the tract says the bog up there—near our well—has completely disappeared since bikers have been up there,” says Bob Wolf, president of the Forest Lake Mutual Water Company.

The building of illegal jumps and their subsequent removal by agencies like Cal Fire is “a cat and mouse game,” says Davidson. Cal Fire crews recently helped removed lumber and nails from downed trees in Wilder Ranch State Park, but the problem only moved further into the park.

Comments (13)Add Comment
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written by Lawrence Darnell, January 24, 2012
In Henry Cowell park, where mountain biking is allowed on specific trails, some mountain bikers have expanded trail use to other restricted trails. The park system would do itself a favor to place signage at trail heads along highway 9 where mountain bike usage is obvious, and, yet, restricted.

While the argument of ignorance of the law seldom holds much weight in enforcement, at least the posting will provide one less opportunity for the specious argument regarding the bicycle vs natural causes of erosion.
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written by Brian Taylor, January 09, 2012
To Scenic Drive Resident-

I've been up there and your claims of environmental damage are highly overstated. In fact, I would argue that Scenic Drive itself causes much more damage due to run off than any of these trails do. By your logic, that would mean that we should force you to close Scenic Drive. Also the hydrologist quoted in the article must be bad at his job. There is absolutely no evidence to support the claim that these trails have caused wells to dry up.

Furthermore, you people who live on Scenic Drive fail to realize you cannot stop the public from accessing public lands. The main problem with you people is that you want it all, the million dollar view, the trials, and everything else all to yourselves. You can't stand the fact that people are using their lands.
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written by u·nan·i·mous, August 07, 2011
50+ year scenic Rd resident is clearly a lead player in what he has given birth to, what has now been called a problem.
"50+ year resident..." is simply ANOTHER dishonest statement given by this individual, to express their idea of saying, I AM RIGHT.....or I've been here the longest, I know what is fact and what is wrong.
Sorry, it's not going to be that easy. You are a liar and should be ashamed of yourself.
Those who KNOW the truth, know quite well how exaggerated every single point the residents have made to argue their position.
Those who know the truth, know exactly which points are LIES, made up in an attempt to persuade the law enforcement to believe there is validity in stepping on their side for this bogus problem.
Even this Good times article is tainted with unacceptable and childish banter of misinformed slanted here say.
Example: "“A hydrologist that lives in the tract says the bog up there—near our well—has completely disappeared since bikers have been up there,” says Bob Wolf, president of the Forest Lake Mutual Water Company."
Ask yourself......who is this so called hydrologist, so just happens to live up there?
Where is he or she employed and what exactly is their expertise ?
Most importantly, exactly what type of study did this person conduct to evaluate the area to make such a statement?
The answers are simple. Zero, zero and none.
If this was legitimate there would have been details provided and it would have surely been in the article. But there isn't because as with all the residents allegations ( destroying watershed, Vandalism, violence and destruction of roads and private property) this is simply another LIE contrived in an attempt to make their side of an argument, right.
Take a close look at the folks who are being dishonest here ( most of them are named in print ), check their character through place of employment, etc and background.
and ...you will easily find the truth in this matter.
These people are not good people in ANY way. They do not lead happy or healthy lives and even impact and impose this negative experience and negative energy on their neighbors.
I know who they are and have spoken with their neighbors.
They are NOT liked.
You want your facts you self named 50+ year resident?
FACT:
there are many, many forest lands residential areas in the United states, where the residents in those intersecting areas are able to get along with other users of the land and it's trails or trail systems, whether it be mountain bikers or equestrians or even off road motor vehicles.

It's all about the quality of the people, when it comes to relationships and how people get can along and work together to find mutual satisfaction.
Unfortunately, there are always a few "bad apples" in every bunch.
Sadly, forest Lakes has a number of them.
Whether it's the elderly lady, who persuaded her adolescent son to shoot the Mountain biker with a firearm, ( yes, a pellet gun is considered a firearm) or the self righteous guy who spends much if his energy drumming up completely empty and dishonest allegations against the mountain bikers, who are simply enjoying a healthy and positive activity.
Soon the truth will come out as all allegations and statements will be tested and challenged by professional and un-biased sources.
And then these bad apples will be exposed as publicly as possible, so the next time they open their mouths or send an e-mail, the authorities will say, ' Oh my god, not that jackass again..."

...
written by Yedis TT, July 15, 2011
@ cathy.
Sounds like you haven't "taken a walk into pogonip" in a while. Nearly once a week I use that trail, yielding to pedestrians, however, half the time those pedestrians are vagrants. For them I do not yield. On two occasions, I have had homeless people stop me in the path. One attempted to steal the backpack from my back, first he asked for water, then he became aggressive starting to yell for me to take the bag off, and give him water. I have also been stopped by another vagrant out there, he got in my way then pulled out two objects asking if I wanted to buy a knife or a pipe...
Not sure what time of day you have been out to pogonip trail, but consistently, every time the sun goes down that trail and its squatters does come alive.
Also, There are trucks full of garbage out in this area that MBOSC are working to take out of that area. The hopes of making a legal-bike trail out in pogonip area are not one in which we are attempting to buy the trail, but instead rescue it. Trails Not Tracks . And saying that drug dealers favorite mode of transportation is "bicycling", explaining the trail will only curtail to the dealers, is a large assumption... On numerous occasion I have witnessed drug deals near the tracks, most are on foot. On those same occasion where I have spotted dealers walking, a car back near Vernon Street has been parked (I've seen a black mercedes several times)...
Finally, I do understand the assumption that all bikers will go off trail, however, if there were trails for us to ride in the first place maybe we could stay on them...? If there was a legal system that could be monitored, I would feel much safer, as well as feeling able to report all of the illegal activities that are hidden just above hwy 9.

50+ I have to agree with this ....
UCSC needs to take responsibility for their land and stop the illegal trail building, work with mountain bikers to create a network of legal, environmentally safe trails, permanently close the Scenic-Meadow easement to bike through-traffic.
...
written by 50+ year Scenic Rd resident, July 15, 2011
There has been a lot of misinformation on this issue as seen in both the article and the comments. Let me try to set a baseline of facts.

FACT: The roads in Forest Lakes are private. Period. Anyone who buys a home in Forest Lakes assumes considerable financial responsibility for two things: water and roads. We are on a private water system and on private roads. The land under the roads is owned by us and the asphalt on top is paid for by us. The county listing cited by 'resident' in the comments below does not change the legal status of the road. It's private.

FACT: According to the USCS map I have in my hand, the only road that it is currently legal to bike in USCS North Campus is the fire road. It is not legal to bike on the connector 'easement' trail from Upper Scenic to the meadow or on any other trail that has been cut in in the past 10-15 years.

FACT: The comment by 'resident' implies that the connector 'easement' trail from Upper Scenic to the meadow is a public easement. It is not. It is an easement for use in emergency only, for the mutual benefit of Forest Lakes residents, UCSC occupants and emergency vehicles in the case of a fire or similar emergency (hence the name 'fire road' for the main road through North Campus). The easement makes no accomodation for illegal biking.

FACT: Contrary to the comment by 'resident' many of the residents on Scenic have been there for years. Most of my neighbors have been here for more than 20 years. I have walked the connector easement into UCSC and into Wilder Ranch for nearly 50 years. Before the late 1990s that trail and the fire road from Empire Grade to the campus were the only trails. Since then, in my frequent walks there, I have seen more and more illegal trails cut in. I have been expressing my concern about this to the Forest Lakes Board and other residents for at least 10 years.

FACT: The environmental damage to the UCSC North Campus by these trails is considerable. Just go walk it and see for yourself. This is Forest Lakes watershed, which feeds our wells and provides our drinking water. All this was here long before mountain biking.

FACT: I am an avid road and mountain biker. I do not mountain bike in UCSC North Campus because it isn't legal except on the fire road.

RECOMMENDATION: UCSC needs to take responsibility for their land and stop the illegal trail building, work with mountain bikers to create a network of legal, environmentally safe trails, permanently close the Scenic-Meadow easement to bike through-traffic and patrol the area to ensure that the few who believe the world revolves around their needs don't destroy this formerly pristine area for everyone.
...
written by cathy puccinelli, July 14, 2011
Regarding your mountain biking story, there is another controversial bike trail story brewing. Santa Cruz Mountain Bikers Organization is trying to push a trail into Pogonip. Parks and Recreations gave birth to the idea a bike trail leading into this area would solve the problem of drug dealing and druggies. Mountain bikers would call police on suspected illegal activites. Rangers and police could use their ATV's. Have you ever heard of such a hair brained idea? A mountain biker rarely stops for walkers and hikers, let alone calling police to give location of drug dealers. The proposal has been on hold as Pogonip Park Master Plan developed by Santa Cruz city residents called for this to be a park without bikes. Bikes change the environment, abuse the environment, and almost always go off trail. Santa Cruz Mountain Bikers Organization has had an expensive bike raffled off to create funds to build this trail. They are also writing a grant for 200K to build the trail. Sounds like they are trying to buy the trail to me. There is much opposition to this crazy proposal. And as for the bikes who whine about not having enough trails to ride, Check out SCMBO website. It is loaded with mountain bike rides. If the trail prevails, then think about this. The very behavior for which the trail was created to curtail will be legally allowed in Pogonip. Drug dealers favorite mode of transport is biking. By the way, take a walk/hike in Pogonip. It is really clean. No druggies, no dealers. The Police made many raids in breaking up the dealer/drug activity on the railroad tracks from Homeless Service Center past Vernon ST . Now if the SCMBO want to fund the clean up of the San Lorenzo 'Heroin' Benchlands now that would be choice. By the way, I wonder how many bikers call in for the problems they see while biking the levee? Walk or ride on the river levee. It is an eye opener.
...
written by resident, July 05, 2011
people have been riding and shuttling up this street for 20 years. I first started around 10 years ago, all the people that are complaining are relatively new to the area and don't know how long people have been accessing the campus via Marshal road. One thing that is not mentioned in the article is that we aren't trespassing. Upper Scenic is an easement to UCSC. I have talked to the sheriff at the top of the street and he says im not doing anything wrong. The county public works department has Upper Scenic listed as a "privately maintained public road".
...
written by aldestrawk, July 05, 2011
@Charles Baughman: Can you give a link to that video if it is on the web. I have heard there was a video of mountain bikers riding in the Olympia watershed. Is this the one or is there another place in the Zayante Sandhills that is getting trashed?
...
written by another mountain biker, July 05, 2011
The county should just put in a gate that requires a pass code to enter at the bottom of the road or make non-residents of the road pay a toll to use it.

Doing that would open up a new job AND bring in money to maintain the road.

Embrace the sport. It will be here weather you like it or not.
...
written by John Hardy, July 02, 2011
While I rode in those hills as a kid, we used to ride up from SC through UCSC and THEN down the hill. This was back when bikes were heavier then now so that is not an issue. What we have now are truckloads (just drive hwy 9 and check out the parking lots) rallying up Glengarry (where my family lives) like it's a free "bike lift." Some neighbors think that theirs an underground taxi truck scenario happening, but it doesn't matter. What does matter is the amount of destruction that is happening to Private and State land. The other excuse, "there are no signs" is moot because EVERYBODY knows that it's illegal to ride up there. Ripping signs out and playing stupid is vandalism and perpetuates the problem.

Many of us in the neighborhood didn't even know there was a meeting about this problem, and if we did there would have been more land owners that would have described an abuse that needs to stop.This is not Squaw Valley, this is San Lorenzo Valley - respect the locals and the environment.
...
written by John Pritchard, July 01, 2011
We need to distinguish between people who just want to go for a bike ride and those adrenaline junkies who would turn our trails into racetracks. Many of these outlaw bikers refuse to yield to pedestrians, don’t obey speed limits or trail restrictions, and destroy the peace of our parks. Others deface the landscape by building illegal trails and jumps. And now we have the threat of commercial shuttle operators who bring bikers to the top of the our parks so they can descend at high speed. If these people want racetracks and jumps they can build them on private land with the owners permission. Our parks should be about hiking and contemplating nature, not thrill sports.
Photo not from Forest Lake
written by Charles Baughman, June 29, 2011
The photo in this article has no relationship to Forest Lake. It is a screen capture from a video put together by Justin Brantley and Devin Schmitt of the McCaul brothers, Cameron and Tyler, "ripping up a course" as phrased by at least one mountain biking web site, in endangered species habitat on posted public lands. I would no more want to have a beer with people who do this than I would want to have lunch with skilled graffiti vandals. But at least the graffiti vandals are in no danger of contributing to species extinction.
...
written by Zach Sylvester, June 28, 2011
If there were an opening for LEGAL downhill trails, many more riders would volunteer their time and effort to maintaining these trails, and keeping a "good grace" with the community as well. Santa Cruz is an international spotlight in the mountain biking world, yet we only have ONE legal park we can ride and build on. But also, riders need to be more respectful to the owners of the land we ride on. Hell, why not offer to drink a beer with them and talk it over instead of smash their windshields??

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