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  1. #1
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    IMBA / National Park Service Deal

    We're not there yet. But this is a great step forward in accessing our National Parks. Below is the press release.

    Matt




    IMBA Signs Breakthrough Agreement with National Park Service


    For Immediate Release
    05-02-05
    Contact: Pete Webber, IMBA communications director
    pete@imba.com
    303-545-9011

    If you've ever tried to enjoy a National Park by mountain bike, chances are you've been disappointed. With some notable exceptions, America's premier park system is closed to off-road riding.

    That's going to change with a new five-year agreement just signed by the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) and the National Park Service. For the first time, National Park Service leaders in Washington, D.C., have formally recognized mountain biking as a positive activity, compatible with the values of our National Park system.

    A benefit to millions of bicyclists is the potential opportunity for new access to hundreds of dirt roads in National Park units that have been closed to bicycling. While National Park Service rules require a lengthy process to open singletrack to bicycle use, appropriate dirt roads may be opened with a more straightforward administrative process.

    "This agreement represents a true breakthrough for mountain biking," said IMBA Executive Director Mike Van Abel. "It opens the door for individual park units to partner with mountain bikers and investigate new riding opportunities on a case-by-case basis."

    "The National Park Service is committed to increasing public awareness of outdoor recreational opportunities in the national park system that promote health and fitness," said Karen Taylor-Goodrich, the Associate Director for Visitor and Resource Protection."And mountain bicycling in authorized areas can be an excellent way to enjoy America's outdoor heritage in a manner that is compatible with resource protection."

    As part of the agreement, IMBA and the Park Service will initially partner on two pilot projects to be selected later this year. The projects will bring mountain bikers and park officials together for on-the-ground teamwork

    and serve as models for future collaboration.

    Additionally, IMBA will provide technical and volunteer assistance to National Park units that are interested in improving their off-road cycling opportunities. IMBA programs such as the National Mountain Bike Patrol, Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew and the IMBA club network can now apply their stewardship skills to our National Parks.

    Mountain biking can be a solution to many challenges facing National Parks today. Bicycling gets people out of their cars; away from congested roads, parking lots and trailheads; and out into the fresh air. Mountain biking can also encourage more active exploration of parks and counter the societal trend toward obesity.

    So what does the future hold? While mountain bikers shouldn't expect a revolution of new singletrack in National Parks, the partnership signals an encouraging direction for the future. With enhanced communication and cooperation between IMBA and the National Park Service, mountain bikers can anticipate that cycling opportunities in National Park units will continue to improve.

    The National Park Service manages 384 parks, monuments, battlefields, buildings and recreation areas and more than 80 million acres of U.S. public land. In 2004, National Parks hosted more than 276 million visitors.

    In 2002, IMBA formed a partnership with the Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance program of the National Park Service. Rivers & Trails helps communities build trail and greenway systems, restore rivers and wildlife habitat, and preserve open space. Their work largely focuses on urban and suburban locations, where demand for trail networks is the greatest.

    Visit IMBA's National Park Service Resource Page for the text of the agreement, speaking points, NPS parks with great riding, and other resources.
    About IMBA:

    Founded in 1988, the International Mountain Bicycling Association is a nonprofit educational association whose mission is to create, enhance and preserve trail opportunities for mountain bikers worldwide by encouraging low-impact riding, volunteer trailwork, cooperation among different trail user groups and innovative trail management solutions. IMBA's worldwide network is comprised of individual members, bicycle clubs, corporate partners and bicycle retailers.

  2. #2
    Tree Hugger
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbikeboy
    For the first time, National Park Service leaders in Washington, D.C., have formally recognized mountain biking as a positive activity, compatible with the values of our National Park system.
    .

    Hooray!!!! that is huge. Even if it's just dirt roads for now, it's a great change, and it's nice to see IMBA acheive such a major victory.
    I love mankind - it's people I can't stand. ~Charles M. Schulz

  3. #3
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    Interesting development! I'll be cautiously optimistic.
    There is no food served in Santa Cruz, the rangers just bulldozed it all. - jschwart73

  4. #4
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    Whoa, Incredible!!! I feel good about that donation to IMBA legal defense fund now.

  5. #5
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    That is the biggest advance in riding access in years!

    Wow, I am stoked to hear that. There are some amazing dirt roads in our Parks system and hopefully in a few years a few singletracks will open up.

    Everybody please join or rejoin IMBA!
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  6. #6
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    Dirt Roads?

    I didn't know that bikes were not allowed on dirt roads already. Were motor vehicles allowed? I'm confused. What exactly does the NPS define as a dirt road. I'm used to a dirt road being an unimproved surface normally open to all traffic. Just a dumb old easterner, I suppose, but I've driven what certainly appeared to be dirt roads in some western lands and never gave it much thought that a bike could also not be on this road or am I missing something entirely.

  7. #7
    I am lost, I'm no guide
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    The Department of Interior has different "parks"

    Quote Originally Posted by Rev Bubba
    I didn't know that bikes were not allowed on dirt roads already. Were motor vehicles allowed? I'm confused. What exactly does the NPS define as a dirt road. I'm used to a dirt road being an unimproved surface normally open to all traffic. Just a dumb old easterner, I suppose, but I've driven what certainly appeared to be dirt roads in some western lands and never gave it much thought that a bike could also not be on this road or am I missing something entirely.
    THey have national parks, seashores, preserves and monuments (maybe more?)

    Most preserves and monuments allow for uninproved dirt road driving (the Geology Tour Road in Joshua Tree in California comes to mind) on specific roads. However, "parks" do not allow for off road riding.
    There is no food served in Santa Cruz, the rangers just bulldozed it all. - jschwart73

  8. #8
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    Gets back to my question. What is off road?

    I've been to many National Parks, Monuments, etc. Thinking back, except for some travel across the plains around Jewel Cave and Wind Cave NP, all the driving I did was on hardtop.

    I suppose what I'm asking is were cars allowed on the dirt roads or were the roads in question open only to foot and horse traffic?

    Thanks

  9. #9
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    Thoughts on what this could mean

    I would hope this means that in addition to fire roads and the like, some of the hiking/equestrian only trails might soon be opened up to mountain biking. That seems to be the spirit of the content of the announcement.

    I happen to ride trails on land owned by NPS at Valley Forge National Historical Park. Some of the trails there are open to mountain biking, but there are also many nice single track runs which specifically have no biking signs on them. What I'm hoping for is that this relationship between IMBA and NPS will provide a means by which to open these trails up to MTBers. As with anything else, the success or failure of this will depend on the relationship that develops between the Park Managers themselves and IMBA reps, and the ability of IMBA and the bikers who utilize the trails to maintain the trail system, and prove that bikers, hikers and equestrians can share the land owned by NPS. This is a chance for us as a community to prove the naysayers wrong.

    Just my thoughts.

    Clyde
    'If Wal-Mart sold parachutes, who would jump?' Frank Havnoonian (quoting his father) Drexel Hill Cyclery

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rev Bubba
    I've been to many National Parks, Monuments, etc. Thinking back, except for some travel across the plains around Jewel Cave and Wind Cave NP, all the driving I did was on hardtop.

    I suppose what I'm asking is were cars allowed on the dirt roads or were the roads in question open only to foot and horse traffic?

    Thanks
    "4.30 Bicycles. (a) The use of a bicycle is prohibited except on park roads, in parking areas and on routes designated for bicycle use; provided, however, the superintendent may close any park road or parking area to bicycle use pursuant to the criteria and procedures of 1.5 and 1.7 of this chapter. Routes may only be designated for bicycle use based on a written determination that such use is consistent with the protection of a park area's natural, scenic and aesthetic values, safety considerations and management objectives and will not disturb wildlife or park resources.

    (b) Except for routes designated in developed areas and special use zones, routes designated for bicycle use shall be promulgated as special regulations.
    "

    What that means I think is that unless a road is specifically opened for bikes, they are not allowed. And since so much traffic in National Parks is of the RV variety I expect they routinely disallow bikes.

    Doesn't really answer your question I don't think though, but mostly because the NPS rule to disallow bikes was always an arbitrary and nonsensical one to begin with.
    When the going gets weird its bedtime.

  11. #11
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    wow, getting tourists out of their cars, what a concept....

  12. #12
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    road usage?

    I was at yellowstone national park camping when i was driving across the country and out of campground was a dirt maintenance road. I was dying to get some riding in so I hopped on my bike and started pedaling up the road. after abour 10 mins along comes a big green national parks truck, the driver informs me (very politely) that bikes are not allowed on the road. he didnt say why just that the road was restricted. I turned around and went back to the campground, and have just assumed that mtn bikes are not allowed on any roads due to the inevitable temptation that would occur (your an hr from the road beginning and you spot some sweet singletrack?). Either way, it was on that same trip that I was at glacier national park and saw three road bikers ridng up going to the sun road, pretty impressive...

  13. #13
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    Thanks

    It really does make you wonder what they were/are thinking by allowing RV's and not bikes.

  14. #14
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    Bikes on Dirt Roads

    I've been chased off dirt roads in the Yosemite valley as well. I can't imagine those ever being opened up though with the numbers of visiters each year. We found mountain bikes are the ideal transportation method in the valley -- gee imagine that. Playing dumb has always been very effective in dealing with Mr Ranger Sir -- as long as you are just cruising around sight seeing (not shredding).

    matt

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    Don't remember the details, but some years ago there was a controversy about cycling on the dirt roads along the rim of the Grand Canyon. They weren't open, then the superintendent opened them, them somebody threatened a lawsuit and they were closed again, something like that...

  16. #16
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    I'm confused

    I'm still not clear what the IMBA decision means for riding in Nat'l Parks. I'm also not understanding what a couple people have eluded to about RVs being allowed on roads but not bikes - that doesn't make sense unless the road is very narrow and without shoulders. I think that is the case in Glacier, as you're only allowed to ride the road at certain times of the year. You're taking your life in your hands riding the paved roads in Yellowstone during tourist season too even though it is allowed.

    I think Y-stone does have dirt roads that are off limits to everyone not just bikers. I suspect that was the case for the poster who mentioned being chased off. There are dirt roads in Y-stone that are rideable. You can get from Old Faithful to... well I forget the name but it's a pull-off near the Nez Perce Trail kiosk about 6 miles away on a dirt road.

    If the decision is going to open up areas that truely wouldn't be impacted by bikes I'm all for it. I don't want to see bikes on trails (at least on many trails) in Y-stone or Glacier but that's just the backpacker in me talking. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

  17. #17
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    Dirt Service roads

    Clyde,
    I think even more than IMBA will be the importance of the actual users and how positive the experience is for local land managers. IMBA is great at prying the door open, but it really comes down to us. If we act responsibly as a user group and don't create any major headaches for park managers -- the trail could start to open up. I personally don't think sweet single track experiences in our National Parks are going to be a reality. I think political pressures from groups like the Sierra Club will keep us on the dirt roads. Hey, that is okay. There are far too many walkers and hikers in many of our National Parks to make fast and fun singletrack rides possible. I do however love the idea of legally riding a bike out away from the crowds and having picnic with my family or swimming in a river or camping away from the crowds. My high school buddies and I (back in the 80s) used to spend a week every summer in Yosemite with our mountain bikes and ride everywhere --legal or not.


    Quote Originally Posted by dir-T
    I'm still not clear what the IMBA decision means for riding in Nat'l Parks. I'm also not understanding what a couple people have eluded to about RVs being allowed on roads but not bikes - that doesn't make sense unless the road is very narrow and without shoulders. I think that is the case in Glacier, as you're only allowed to ride the road at certain times of the year. You're taking your life in your hands riding the paved roads in Yellowstone during tourist season too even though it is allowed.

    I think Y-stone does have dirt roads that are off limits to everyone not just bikers. I suspect that was the case for the poster who mentioned being chased off. There are dirt roads in Y-stone that are rideable. You can get from Old Faithful to... well I forget the name but it's a pull-off near the Nez Perce Trail kiosk about 6 miles away on a dirt road.

    If the decision is going to open up areas that truely wouldn't be impacted by bikes I'm all for it. I don't want to see bikes on trails (at least on many trails) in Y-stone or Glacier but that's just the backpacker in me talking. It will be interesting to see how it all plays out.

    I think it could potentially open the service roads that are only open to walkers. Yosemite, where I used to camp and ride with my buddies, has some dirt roads with no motor vehicle traffic that could potentially be open to bicycles. It will depend on the number of pedestrians using the roads already. Again, to use Yosemite as an example may never be able to open anything up due to the congestion everywhere in the valley.

    Sure, it's not singletrack, but it could allow us to ride bikes beyond the normal family and walking crowd. I don't know about you guys --- but I hate walking/hiking when I could ride a bike and get out beyond the walkers and day trippers

    matt
    Last edited by mattbikeboy; 05-03-2005 at 03:01 PM.

  18. #18
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    If they can open up yellowstone to snowmobiles, I would think they could open up parks to bicycles. I would think that snowmobiles have a greater enviromental impact than bicycles. I think it would be cool to ride in the snowmobile tracks!!!

    I would even be thrilled if they opened up the parks "off-season" September-May as a trial-run. I never go to the NPs because I can't recreate there ... If they want my $ inspire me to go visit.
    Ride On!

  19. #19
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    An anecdote:

    Lassen Volcanic NP in northern California was closed to all snowmobiles during the Winter -- even the main paved park road (which is closed and snow-covered from the first storm through June or so). After a hue and cry from local snowmobile clubs the NPS, as a trial, opened the main Park road, Hwy 89, one weekend a month to snowmobiles. The first open weekend the place was packed. Snowmobiles all over the road. The second open weekend saw fewer. Eventually over a couple of years several of the open weekends would go by without a single snowmobile. The NPS again closed the highway to snowmobiles and no one protested. It seems there were many more and better places to ride snowmobiles in the National Forest outside the Park.

    I suspect the NPS lifting the MTB ban will be the same. There will be a flurry of use at first, then gradually dwindling as the 'forbidden fruit' novelty wears off. I have hiked and backpacked many trails in National Parks, and many of them are unsuitable for MTB's, or the ones that are easily ridable are not very interesting. There will always be few hardy souls that will venture on the trails, but the overall impact over time will be minimal. There are fewer crowds and traffic, and much more interesting things to see and do, on the other public lands where bikes are welcome.

  20. #20
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    National Parks usually have some of the best scenery

    Quote Originally Posted by dave54

    I suspect the NPS lifting the MTB ban will be the same. There will be a flurry of use at first, then gradually dwindling as the 'forbidden fruit' novelty wears off. I have hiked and backpacked many trails in National Parks, and many of them are unsuitable for MTB's, or the ones that are easily ridable are not very interesting. There will always be few hardy souls that will venture on the trails, but the overall impact over time will be minimal. There are fewer crowds and traffic, and much more interesting things to see and do, on the other public lands where bikes are welcome.
    I can't imagine getting bored with any national park, yes the crowds can be crazy at times but the crowds usually seem to stay near the paved roads. I can't tell you how many times I was wishing I was on my bike instead of walking in a national park. Imagine how cool it would be to ride your bike into the grand canyon, the enviros will fight it every step along the way, but it is cool to dream. Well no national parks in Idaho so this does not effect my local riding much.
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  21. #21
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    I agree with Smiley and Matt. One of the best ways to see a national park is by bike. We always took our bikes when we went camping in Yosemite and Zion when I was growing up and we rode all over those parks...... on the paved roads of course, but it beat the heck out of the view from a car or shuttle bus (the only way you can see much of Zion And Yosemite valleys now btw)

    These are some of the most spectacular landscapes on the planet and more riding opportunties within their boundaries = good. There must be miles and miles of back roads in most of these parks that see very, very few visitors.

    Just ride.

  22. #22
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    Your point is well taken

    Quote Originally Posted by mattbikeboy
    Clyde,
    I think even more than IMBA will be the importance of the actual users and how positive the experience is for local land managers. IMBA is great at prying the door open, but it really comes down to us. If we act responsibly as a user group and don't create any major headaches for park managers -- the trail could start to open up. I personally don't think sweet single track experiences in our National Parks are going to be a reality. I think political pressures from groups like the Sierra Club will keep us on the dirt roads. Hey, that is okay. There are far too many walkers and hikers in many of our National Parks to make fast and fun singletrack rides possible. I do however love the idea of legally riding a bike out away from the crowds and having picnic with my family or swimming in a river or camping away from the crowds. My high school buddies and I (back in the 80s) used to spend a week every summer in Yosemite with our mountain bikes and ride everywhere --legal or not.

    matt
    And that's exactly why I've volunteered to get involved. I'm hoping to serve as the trail liaison between IMBA and Valley Forge. My understanding from talking to the PA IMBA rep, is that the trails supervisor at VF is very open to IMBA's involvement. This park could be an excellent test bed of the agreement for a couple of reasons. First, it's proximity to DC (where the Park Service resides, and the agreement was signed) and the high profile nature of the park itself could work in everyone's favor. Secondly, as discussed, the park already has an extensive singletrack system on it's grounds. The location of this network of trails is somewhat separated from most of the tourist areas, and does not touch upon areas where buildings, monuments or other items of historical significance are located. Any concern over interference with preservation is minimal. It also happens to be in the same area where a 25 mile long paved bicycle path was built in recent years linking Valley Forge and Philadelphia. It just seems too good an opportunity NOT to fight for.

    On the other hand, the comments about organizations such as Sierra Club or other entities who have land preservation as their primary interest are very much a factor. As you said, it's really up to us, the mountain biking community at large to show that if we are given the opportunity, that we can be good citizens and cooperate in land management and preservation issues on the land we're given to ride on.

    Perhaps I'm naive, and a bit too optimistic, but I'm not going to hold back if given the opportunity. I happen to feel that if these trails are opened up to mountain bike usage, that the community and organizations like IMBA and local bike clubs, can promote a positive and cooperative relationship with all parties involved. Like you said though, the RIDERS NEED TO GET INVOLVED! We need to invest our time in maintaining the trails if we're given the opportunity to use them. We also need to be respectful of any trails they still deem off limits.

    I also know of the adversarial relationship that is sometimes exhibited between hikers, conservationists, equestrians and others. I also want the opportunity to leverage what the Park Service recognizes in the wholesome nature of bike riding and try to bridge some of those gaps. The differences in opinion, motivations and priorities will always be there, but with the Park Services as an advocate, I would hope IMBA can make some headway in promoting a positive image of our sport.

    Anyway, I'm rambling. I just hope that the opportunity that has been presented in this agreement is not lip service. I know that I will do my best to maximize the spirit of the agreement, and foster good will on behalf of the mountain biking community.

    Again, just my idealistic ramblings for what they're worth.

    Bob
    'If Wal-Mart sold parachutes, who would jump?' Frank Havnoonian (quoting his father) Drexel Hill Cyclery

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    Step in the right direction

    I'm optimistic as well. Even if it is just dirt roads; look back at the posts above. If a ranger can drive a jeep on it, why shouldn't you be able to ride a bike on it? If you are in an amazing place, that should matter more than how wide the trail is. And not having to worry about getting clipped by an RV mirror? Priceless

  24. #24
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    I suspect the NPS lifting the MTB ban will be the same. There will be a flurry of use at first, then gradually dwindling as the 'forbidden fruit' novelty wears off. I have hiked and backpacked many trails in National Parks, and many of them are unsuitable for MTB's, or the ones that are easily ridable are not very interesting. There will always be few hardy souls that will venture on the trails, but the overall impact over time will be minimal. There are fewer crowds and traffic, and much more interesting things to see and do, on the other public lands where bikes are welcome.[/QUOTE]

    I really can't imagine the National Parks becoming mountain bike destinations. I can imagine that we will be able to hop on our bikes and ride along the service roads and see much more in less time when we do take the family to see these places. When we used to do our Yosemite trips we would spend the entire day on our bikes. We'd check out the sights, ride to consession areas, ride over to the river to swim, chase girls and do what ever everyone else was doing by car or bus. It often included riding along many of the closed service roads and even a few short cuts along the walking paths. That kind of mobility far exceeded someone in a vehicle and really was a lot of fun for teenagers away from home for the week.

    matt

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by mattbikeboy
    When we used to do our Yosemite trips we would spend the entire day on our bikes. We'd check out the sights, ride to consession areas, ride over to the river to swim, chase girls and do what ever everyone else was doing by car or bus. It often included riding along many of the closed service roads and even a few short cuts along the walking paths. That kind of mobility far exceeded someone in a vehicle and really was a lot of fun for teenagers away from home for the week.

    matt
    Man, you just described my boyhood, family reunion trips to yosemite. I got all nostalgia-ee. We used to ride from our campground down through camp curry to the valley market, or up towards the mirror lake trail head, or would shuttle up to Glacier point then bomb back down to the valley on the road. Once we rode from Tioga pass clear down into the valley. I seem to remember riding some dirt foot paths down in the valley between campgrounds too. It never occurred to us back then that someone might not approve. Fun, fun.

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