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  1. #1
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    Caution;  Merge;  Workers Ahead! DCR's draft RMP for Holyoke Range - please comment

    The DCR has recently issued a draft Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Mount Holyoke Range Planning Unit. This RMP covers the trails on both sides of the Notch Visitor Center in Hadley (“Batchelor Street” and “Earl’s Trails”) as well as Mt. Tom. More information on this process, as well as the RMP itself, can be viewed at DCR Resource Management Planning: Mount Holyoke Range.

    This document indicates that some trails, in particular mountain biking trails, are likely to get closed which would be a tremendous loss to our biking community. NEMBA is currently drafting a response to the RMP, but to show just how important these trails are to mountain bikers please consider submitting your own comments as well. We list some bullet points from our comments below that you can rephrase and submit as your own comments. Please stay constructive and positive in your comments.

    The deadline to submit comments is Sunday, March 24th. Comments can be submitted electronically by emailing DCR.Updates@state.ma.us - put “Mount Holyoke Range RMP” in the subject line.
    Thank you!

    Steffi Krug - President, PV NEMBA - pvnemba@gmail.com or knoepfchen7@yahoo.com

    Holyoke Range Bullet Points:
    ● The Holyoke Range RMP does not adequately analyze and present a vision of how recreation fits within the Landscape Designation of a Reserve. Holyoke-Skinner State Park is a highly utilized park. Its location near three major colleges and the population centers of Amherst and Northampton make it a prime destination for many thousands of users each year. It is also an important destination for mountain biking - especially the trails off of the Bachelor Street side as well as those in the area of Military Road and Mt. Hitchcock (AKA, Earl’s Trails).
    ● The areas North and South of the Notch Visitor Center (“Batchelor Street” and “Earl’s Trails”) are very popular among mountain bikers. The usage statistics may not accurately reflect use by mountain bikers as it is much harder to survey bikers (much larger area covered during each visit, less time spent near survey points).
    ● Hiker-Biker harmony is supported by having adequate experience opportunities for all. The goal for the RMP should be a “no net loss of current trails or trail experiences.” If trails are closed, there will be a higher user density on the remaining trails.
    ● What does DCR consider a redundant trail? Any with similar start and end points? Any with similar difficulty? Any with similar topographic experience? Any with similar environmental experience? Many people place the highest value on dense trail networks as they offer the most varied of experiences in the smallest of areas without being repetitious. Unfortunately the draft plan does not define redundancy.
    ● “Redundancy” implies a destination, but mountain biking is not a destination-driven activity. The goal is the experience, the flow and the “feel” of the trails – not arriving at a destination.
    ● Mountain bikers require a greater amount of trail mileage than walkers. Whereas a three-mile hike might be appropriate for a casual hiker, a casual mountain bikers would require ten-miles. Thus, closing down purportedly “redundant” trails could have a very negative impact on mountain biking at Holyoke.
    ● Even if there are two or three trails that end up at similar destination, none of them are necessarily redundant since each trail provides its own experience. Variety of abilities require a variety of routes - kids, beginners, intermediate and advanced mountain bikers will enjoy different terrain and types of trail.
    ● Highly sustainable trails may appear denser because they follow contours and have numerous switchbacks rather than following fall lines. The pitch of the mountain bike trails is significantly lower than for the hiking trails and that should be considered in the trail impact assessment - particularly when considering trail density. Trails that follow the contours of the land will appear dense as a consequence, but will have a lesser overall impact due to lower trail inclination.
    ● When trail closures are considered, all trails following fall-lines and showing signs of erosion should be evaluated, not just the trails favored by cyclists.
    ● Trails “in poor condition” should not automatically be closed but rather be evaluated to assess whether maintenance or reroutes of sections would make this a sustainable trail of value to the recreational community.
    ● Patrons get lost most usually due to inadequate signage. Improving signage and providing maps at trail heads will enhance the trail experience.
    ● “Reserve designation”, as documented in the landscape classification process, is not inconsistent with a recreational trails network.

    Mount Tom Bullet points

    ● Mt. Tom’s status as Priority Habitat makes it a poor choice for a facility designated as Parkland and should be considered for redesignation as a Reserve.
    ● There are no scientific studies cited to support the presumption that mountain biking has a greater negative impact than other forms of trail-based recreation. In fact, there are many studies that have shown that the impact from mountain biking is similar or less than that from hiking. If a trail is required to be closed because of deleterious effects on rare species by bicyclists, it should also be closed to hikers.
    ● Positions taken by DCR and NHESP on the impact of mountain biking should not be left to conjecture or opinion, but rather based on scientific study. Unsupportable positions and opinion intended to restrict usage give the mountain bike community the impression that they are being singled-out arbitrarily.

  2. #2
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    My response:

    "The thought of closing any trails in the Holyoke Range to mountain biking is freightening. These trails offer some of the best mountain biking in the northeast. The variety and quality of trails is specatular. I am proud to belong to a large community of dedicated mountain bikers who ride these trails 2-3 days per week. We take responsibility for maintaining these trails (avoid riding when wet and widening the trails) and are very respectful of other trail users, i.e. hikers. We are acutely aware that irresponsible use of the trails can lead to trail closure. Trail closure would be disasterous to the recreational opportunities this area offers. In addition, it's a travesty that Mount Tom is not open to mountain biking."

    Everybody PLEASE respond. We could lose Batchelor St and Earls if they think only a few care. Thanks.

    Michael Stamm

  3. #3
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    i sent an email about a week ago to them

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    of course the other guys at work didn't bother even though i told them about it!

  5. #5
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    Speaking of which-any estimates on how long before responsible riding will be possible on the South (Bachelor St.) side?

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    DCR's draft RMP for Holyoke Range - please comment

    Not sure ground in belchertown doesn't have snow. Bottom of earls looks dry when I drove by yesterday. Robinson I hear is clearing up I hear.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by angelo View Post
    Speaking of which-any estimates on how long before responsible riding will be possible on the South (Bachelor St.) side?
    I heard Batchelor St is rideable. Robinson needs a little longer, maybe another week or two.

    Stef

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    DCR's draft RMP for Holyoke Range - please comment

    Earls is rideable

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    We can overcome the "police state" by continuing to ride there if these proposals become a reality. Find other places to park and keep riding. I pay enough taxes to this state and intend on getting my money's worth. Besides, most the trails were built by our community. We have imminent domain.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by fazzster View Post
    We can overcome the "police state" by continuing to ride there if these proposals become a reality. Find other places to park and keep riding. I pay enough taxes to this state and intend on getting my money's worth. Besides, most the trails were built by our community. We have imminent domain.
    Eminent domain refers to how the government takes private land for public use. As this land is already government owned, the term doesn't apply.

    No worries, the proposals ain't gonna do sh1t. The DCR doesn't have any manpower to enforce their own rules.

  11. #11
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    I emailed them about two weeks ago. Out of curiosity, anyone know why there's been all the closures on the MM trail. I live out in Belchertown and a large stretch of the trail I could ride right up the road was closed. I've seen these signs in other areas too. Now the "trail" is blazed on the phone poles right down my street re-routing the whole section between Rt. 9 and Gulf.

  12. #12
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    I think the M&M changes are due to the re-classification of the M&M as the National Scenic Trail (NST) and some of the large landowners not being "on board" with the new designation. My understanding is the NST is moved but the old trail corridors were, for the most part, still open but not as part of the NST.
    http://facebook.com/CharlemontTrails
    NEMBA Past President...

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    DCR's draft RMP for Holyoke Range - please comment

    Wow another person on here from belchertown

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    Im from the Hudson Valley & havent heard about this yet -not in Singletracks or NY forums.
    (Hello Smelly)

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by mballard View Post
    I emailed them about two weeks ago. Out of curiosity, anyone know why there's been all the closures on the MM trail. I live out in Belchertown and a large stretch of the trail I could ride right up the road was closed. I've seen these signs in other areas too. Now the "trail" is blazed on the phone poles right down my street re-routing the whole section between Rt. 9 and Gulf.
    Isn't that all Cowles land? I hadn't heard about the news Hado mentions but I first saw closure signs shortly after the 2011 ice storm, so I figured it was related to storm damage.

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    Just came across this slightly older thread. I must say that I have been talking to DCR staff and they claim to have no desire to shut the trails down what-so-ever. These guys are on our side. One said the guy that wrote the RMP is a "big shot" from Boston and has no idea what real management plans entail. But, they did say they were getting word from concerned mtbers that some folks building new trails may be giving everyone that rides Earl's/Bachelor a bad name. And smelly just out of curiosity, didnt they stop trail construction ten or more years ago with support from EPO's and the town of Granby?

  17. #17
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    And DCR only has a 0.5 x 1 mile swath over at Earl's, hardly enough to even concern DCR over there. It's all owned by Hampshire College and the town of Amherst.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wmassthumper View Post
    Just came across this slightly older thread. I must say that I have been talking to DCR staff and they claim to have no desire to shut the trails down what-so-ever. These guys are on our side. One said the guy that wrote the RMP is a "big shot" from Boston and has no idea what real management plans entail. But, they did say they were getting word from concerned mtbers that some folks building new trails may be giving everyone that rides Earl's/Bachelor a bad name. And smelly just out of curiosity, didnt they stop trail construction ten or more years ago with support from EPO's and the town of Granby?
    My take on the local DCR staff up on the notch is similar. I am curious which are the "new" trails in Earle's that are concerning? Haven't been riding long enough for comparison, but I believe all but 2 or 3 trails in Earle's are on the 8 year old maps you can find in the wayback machine.

  19. #19
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    From what I have gathered it is not across the street that folks are concerning themselves with, it is at Bachelor St that new trails are being talked about. DCR's stake is so minimal at Earl's that I don't think they are even concerned with most of the stuff that goes on over there.

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    Ah, okay, thanks. Like you, I had thought construction at B street stopped a while ago, but I haven't ridden in there nearly as much as I have Earle's.

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    construction did stop officially many years ago but certain people have been building new trails out on bathelor st with no authorization and the dcr doesn't like that. that is there problem. They have been working to try and figure out all the people involved and get them to stop. DCR don't mind the trails that have been built now but they don't want new trails being put in. That is what i have heard from talking to dcr people

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by shreddin22 View Post
    construction did stop officially many years ago but certain people have been building new trails out on bathelor st with no authorization and the dcr doesn't like that. that is there problem. They have been working to try and figure out all the people involved and get them to stop. DCR don't mind the trails that have been built now but they don't want new trails being put in. That is what i have heard from talking to dcr people
    And how have you learned of this infomration? Curious? How dare "they" build new trails!

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    Seems like it should be reasonably easy to determine if there are trails that weren't there 5 years ago. Determining who built them is a whole different can of worms.

    I know for Earle's, the amount of the area governed by DCR is pretty small. How about for B street? I can't really blame them for being upset if people are building trails on the land they're responsible for and they don't know anything about it. I may like the trails, but they're charged with representing a lot more people than just mountain bikers.

    But nothing about the RMP is likely to have a big impact on unauthorized trail building (unless they're out there patrolling or putting up cameras). Steffi's bullet points/response covered the problems with it well.

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    Of course, most of the 'new' trails come in two varieties. 1. Re-routes (especially entrances and exits) of somewhat poorly conceived sections of older trails (the IMBA trail being the biggest offender, but the re-design on Raptor, Roller Coaster and Jacob's Ladder are other good examples)-of course, these re-designs are more eco-friendly, more sustainable and more flowy than what preceded them-in any objective sense, they were all needed and appreciated improvements. The DCR neither understands nor cares to understand the value of well-built trails, however. 2. Expansion onto private property abutting the State Forest. This isn't the DCR's concern at all, except that they hate trails that leave or return to the reservation on private property (and they have stated as much in various RMP's here in elsewhere)

    The Pretty awesome trail that Connects Lizard King to Technical Trail, and the equally awesome, and very batchelor-streetesque Yellow Brick RD are the two trails that were 'recently' constructed and don't fit this mold. However, they are great trails, enjoyed by many (maybe even enjoyed by Shreddin22) and worthy of inclusion in any lasting trail system.

    Next time you talk to the surviving original B-Street architects, try to really pin them down on how 'authorized' any of those trails were (only the Technical Trail and the Imba trail really fit the Land Manager/ eager Volunteer cooperative effort...and they are the two worst trails in B-Street or Earl's!).

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    Thanks for clarifying the nature of the "new" trails.

    In my short time riding, I have found information on the architects of these trails (beyond Earle of course) to be elusive. Not that I've tried particularly hard to find out, but I'd certainly drop some thanks and offer to help with maintenance if I knowingly met them. It seems like an under-the-radar thing, perhaps to avoid exactly the type of problems dealing with the DCR that we are running into now.

    Those trail systems are awesome, and I have no argument about the quality of any of the work. I'm sure the new stuff represented improvements (I haven't been riding long enough to see the old and the new). But I don't think countering their RMP by saying that we're better at this and you guys don't care anyway is going to be a winning strategy. I do understand that you're saying this on a Mtbr forum, not as anything official.

    I don't think we have any really good answers on the best approach besides telling them we love the trails as they are. Which is not likely to be enough.

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