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  1. #1
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    Call to Action: Valley Forge

    This is from a thread on the PMBA web site (www.phillymtb.org) and should be of great interest to those of you who would like to fight for the trails in VF to be opened for use by mountain bikers:

    By Keith Phucas
    After more than four years of painstaking work, Valley Forge National Historical Park unveiled the first weighty draft of its General Management Plan for public review.
    The comprehensive document charts the future courses the park could take, and at nearly 500 pages, those attending were hard pressed to find an issue that was overlooked.
    Many of the three-dozen participants had been at earlier public forums at Valley Forge.
    Of the three park improvement alternative plans – “A” “B” or “C” – the park service prefers “Alternative C” that calls for restoring encampment-period buildings, major landscapes, native plant species, Valley Creek stream banks, developing a variety of tours, connecting trails, installing traffic calming measures, leasing some buildings and charging a visitors fee, among many other possibilities. The “A” or “No-Action Alternative” would keep the park the way it is now with little or no intervention. The draft’s overarching theme is that Valley Forge cannot depend on the federal government to fund its
    ambitious vision for the park’s future. Each year, park officials struggle to make ends meet with a modest budget — currently about $6 million annually. “The federal budget really never covered operating costs,” said Deirdre Gibson, chief of planning and resource management at the park. “We’re sharpening our pencils as far as financial management.” A capital investment between $61.3 million and $85 million would be needed to fund “Alternative C,” according to the draft’s Executive Summary. Gibson outlined the draft plan, entitled General Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (GMP/EIS). She said the key to realizing the park improvements outlined is forging partnerships with
    corporations, nonprofit groups and volunteers. “We want to try to make it more of a two-way street,” she said. “More tightly knit with the community.” Though the 3,452-acre park has 28 miles of trails, many are dead ends, Gibson told the audience. “Few of our trails link up,” she said. “We really weren’t managing the (trail) system.” Many groups pitched in to repair park trails in 2006. Some individuals had financial sponsors. Last year, the Sierra Club sponsored working vacations for its members to rehabilitate a steep section of the popular Mount Misery Trail. The members, who spent 288 hours toiling to repair the trail, stayed in Lafayette’s Quarters for a week during the project. Partnerships with REI and Eastern Mountain Sports funded trail clean-ups and reconstruction, though many
    volunteers also donated time on National Trails Day and National Public Lands Day for trail work. For the past two years, AmeriCorps volunteers tackled several trail projects. Other groups include the Boy Scouts of America, and students from St. Gabriel’s Hall and Manito Alternative School. After Gibson’s presentation, Rick Wolf, Carl Dusinberre and others sat at one of six tables set up for public discussion. Barbara Pollarine, Valley Forge’s deputy superintendent, joined Wolf and Dusinberre’s group. Wolf, a West Chester Bird Club member, suggested restricting the use of particular trails. “What about making some trails passive?” He asked. Wolf said he didn’t object to bicyclists on South
    River Trail, but said the “horse people” inflicted damage. Pollarine said some trails were restricted. The pathways have signs marked either “authorized” or “unauthorized;” however, the signs are generally ignored by hikers, bikers and equestrians. “The signs are meaningless to people,” she said, suggesting a major upgrade was needed. The attention given to repairing trails in the past two years has been very encouraging, Pollarine said. “We hadn’t done anything on trails in 20 years,” she said. To slow traffic down, the park wants to add traffic calming measures on routes 23 and 252 that run through
    Valley Forge. Two of the alternatives call for closing Inner Line Drive, Outer Line Drive and Gulph Road to traffic. Though Dusinberre scoffed at a proposal to add more parking to the Washington Headquarters area, which is currently undergoing major renovations, Pollarine said future plans call for removing other lots. “We’re not adding parking, we’re getting rid of it,” she said. Another park priority would restore the flood prone areas, Gibson said. “This is the second year we’ve been sandbagging Washington’s Headquarters,” she said. “Right up to the door.” The draft will be available for public review until April 6. Those wishing to comment on the proposed alternatives can log onto http://parkplanning.nps.gov, or read printed copies available later this month at Lower Providence Community Library, Tredyffrin Public Library, Phoenixville Public Library, Montgomery County-Norristown Public Library, Upper Merion Township Library and at Valley Forge’s Welcome Center.


    Here is a link to the Impact Statement as a result of the studies:

    http://parkplanning.nps.gov/document...cumentId=17583

    We're already behind the 8-ball in that 2 public hearings on the plans were held in February. The close of public comments is April 6th, and some of us are lobbying for a meeting with Mike Caldwell, the Park Superintendent. If you feel you'd like to push for additional meetings regarding opening these trails, please post your comments in the link below once you've read through theb study and the alternatives proposed:

    http://parkplanning.nps.gov/commentF...cumentId=17583

    Joe Transue, Eastern PA IMBA rep, IMBA, and a number of local organizations and interested individuals are focusing energies and resources on having the cycling community's voice heard. Please take some time to get involved. This could be a great opportunity to see the trails opened to MTB and we may not get another chance any time soon, if at all.

    Here is what I wrote in response to the proposal, and to what I had seen in terms of another advocate's comments on the issue:

    "I would also agree that there seems to be a pre-determined outcome that off road bicycling will not be permitted in Valley Forge Park. As an avid cyclist as well as a supporter of the preservation of our natural treasures, I find this unacceptable. I believe the Betzwood side of the park (which has been utilized as a recreational area for the entirety of my 44 years on this earth) contains a number of the trails that can be made, and in fact already are, sustainable as multi-user trails. With the assistance of organizations like IMBA and the Trail Care Crew, as well as the assistance of local cycling, hiking and equestrian organizations and their members, the trails can be made into a great resource for healthy outdoor activities for all to enjoy.


    I would also say that the impact of off-trail biking was overstated in this report, and that further discussions regarding the areas that are sustainable should be held in order to refute those claims with factual information, and examples of how to maintain a sustainable trail system.


    I too am a citizen and taxpayer who fully intends to utilize the park and it's resources in a responsible manner, and would welcome the opportunity to speak at a forum with the Park Superintendent, the Trails Supervisor and anyone else within VFNHP or the NPS who has the responsibility of maintaining the integrity of the land and it's historical treasures. I want my voice heard on this issue as much as anyone else with an interest in protecting the park and it's resources. Valley Forge National Historical Park needs to give fair and serious consideration to opening these trails up for public usage, and an open public forum is needed to facilitate that debate.


    It's been said before, and I'll say it again here, there needs to be a compromise regarding the trail system. Closing the system off in it's entirety to off road cycling is just not an option. It flies in the face of the NPS agreement with IMBA that embraces the sport of mountain bicycling as being consistent with NPS values, and takes away yet another potential resource for healthy activities in a part of the park that has always been utilized as a recreational area for its’ visitors."


    Any additional comments in support of opening up the trails would be greatly appreciated.

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

  2. #2
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    Call_me_Clyde

    Thanks for the heads up and the hard work!

    Let me offer to you and to Joe Transue the help of NEPMTBA (Northeastern Pa Mt. Biking Association) and it's members to aid in any way we can to help!

    I will also pass this message along and discuss it with the members of Hubbard bicycle Club, although I'm sure Larry Fahn will respond here when he sees the post.

    Lee Curry
    NEPMTBA
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    proformance58@cs.com

  3. #3
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    Thanks Lee!

    This has been a pet of mine for a while, and Joe and IMBA have done a lot to support the effort. Unfortunately we've hit a brick wall every time we've tried to make headway. Apparently there are several other local clubs and individuals who have tried to advocate opening up the trails and have met with the same resistance. Hopefully if we corral these local resources and get some support from other advocacy groups and clubs like yours, we'll have an opportunity to make something happen.

    Any thoughts or suggestions would be both welcomed and appreciated.

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

  4. #4
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    Bob:

    We are always willing to help, just inform us in advance of any plans if you need us there and we will work as to make it happen.

    I think with the clubs we have now in NEPA and the rest of the State as well as your area we can all pull from one another while I hope Joe can form a meeting in the summer where all clubs can meet and share ideas!

    Riding and Food would be good also...................

    Lee Curry
    NEPMTBA
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    proformance58@cs.com

  5. #5
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    I think the best thing to do is get all the user groups together. NEPmtba, Hubbard, Philly, DD, Imba, LBC.....and have some sort of meeting w/them. Show up on a busy weekend and show them that WE maintain trails too. Not erode. Let them use this National park as the staple that shows MTB's can be utilized in a good relation with other park users too. Keep us updated. Fahn
    Last edited by LarryFahn; 03-06-2007 at 07:28 AM.

  6. #6
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    Hi, all.

    I was one of the original ringleaders of this "crisis alert", after reading the management plan for VF Park. It was so blatantly and completely anti-off-road cycling, that I almost went anarchist, but I'm going to try the above board route first. ;-)

    I think it might be best to try to get IMBA to organize a meeting with the park officials, and then to rally the troops to get a representative from each interested party (clubs, teams, advocacy orgs, bike shops) to attend.

    In parallel, please, please, please add your comments (try to keep them non-confrontational) to the NPS site. The plan is still open for review, and a huge show of support from the local mountain biking community can still have a significant effect. It did so with BLM, the state park service, and others.

    Thanks for the support!

    - Rick

  7. #7
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    diddo on rick's comments. At first i know steam is coming out of everyone's ears. I know that there are very competent(sp) advocates and this is an opportunity for us to show the NPS what the mtn bike community is all about.

    Also consider Hopewell furnace which seems to have the exact opposite viewpoint. This is probably b/c it's not as affected by urban interaction as VF. We can easily prove that it's poor trail design not user degredation that is the true root cause. In the report it states that there hasn't been a true embrace of the trail system and i've always stated that when any land management does not embrace a trail(enforcement,singnage) and most importantly user involvement the trail system ultimately fails.


    as a first step i will be calling the park superintendant on thursday to have an urgent type meeting to get some more feedback on the specifics on the reasons for the inaccuracies(sp) of the trail assesment.

    I would highly suggest the mtn bike community to be proactive in providing their comments as not only users of the park but as citizens. The answer is somewhere in the middle where a delicate balance of trails that can help the user interact with the park and cause little to no impact. Of course a trail reconstruction plan will need to be implemented. This plan may be different that what the NPS thinks needs to be done but from my experience they should embrace a fresh approach to sustainable singletrack.

    please keep posting any helpful information and i beleive we will have a success at VF.


    a huge thanks goes to call me clyde for his passion for this project and rick b for igniting the mtn bike community and going through the report.

    Our timeline is short but we should be able to create some meaningful dialogue and not a "no thanks" response.

    thanks everyone and in the end it will make our mtn bike community stronger. I ask that everyone bear with my postives and negatives as an advocate as i constantly learn what works and what doesn't.


    thanks
    Joe Transue
    Eastern PA IMBA Rep

  8. #8
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    Joe:

    Who should take the lead on arranging a formal sit-down with the NPS/VF people? You? IMBA national? A club?

    Please advise. The troops are mobilized, now we need clear orders. ;-)

    - Rick

  9. #9
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    My best guess

    Not to speak for Joe, but based on Jenn's last email (I think you were copied, Rick) I believe IMBA is placing it in Joe's hands as the Eastern PA rep as IMBA National have other commitments in the limited timeframe we have to get in front of Mike Caldwell. She has offered up many resources for Joe to utilize in leading the effort as I recall.

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

  10. #10
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    the good and bad is there's no handbook to do this. it gives us the freedom to write the rules as we go. With that said i'm very sensitive not to step on toes but at this point there are current relationships amongst us that i know will produce results. the way i'm thinking is i will call him thursday and set up a meeting in which bob(PMBA), myself(IMBA), yourself(representing FC area/hopewell) and maybe two others to create a dialogue. the goal is to put as much credibility in the local advocates so there is a long term relationship established. I beleive our timeframe is april 16th but hopefully a mtg next week can materialize.

    hope this helps and please provide any feedback for me to do the best that can be done.


    thanks
    Joey

  11. #11
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    Caution;  Merge;  Workers Ahead! Urgent Action Item for Valley Forge

    As some of you know Valley Forge(VF) is at severe risk of closing it's trails to mtn biking. Without going into it more we have a VERY SHORT DEADLINE OF APRIL 6TH to make an impact.

    Action Item:
    We need a gps file of all the trails at VF to help propose a new trail system to the superintendants. I'm sure at this point someone has one so could someone please send the file or contact me at transue@msn.com.


    There will definitely be more to come and keep checking on how to get involved and help.


    thanks
    Joe Transue
    Eastern PA IMBA Rep
    Bob Waldo; VF liason
    610-533-0942

  12. #12
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    talking points?

    I appreciate the fact that any comments we make will have more impact if they are not seen as being "cookie cutter," but for those of us who are too p*ssed off and/or impatient to read 28 MB (!) worth of PDFs, would someone like to offer some "talking points" that we should try to include in our comments? Or direct us to a couple of the more outrageous sections of these documents for us to reply to?

    Thanks.

    Mike
    "Whether it be an abrasion or a mental breakdown, everyone suffers in one way or another." ORAMM Disclaimer

  13. #13
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    Mike, i feel your pain. I don't ride there but it bothers me as well. I will be talking with the local advocates by wednesday and in partnership with IMBA we will be issueing(sp) an action alert with talking points.

    I however don't want to mute anyone's thoughts and it's a free society so if other people want to put their thoughts here it would be appreciated.


    i did learn that the VF problem seems to be a VF problem. What i mean is that they realize the trails are severely impacted not b/c of user impact but b/c of no trail design and no management. Their fault????? at this point who cares, it's our job to help provide a solution to the current problem.

    Are we shut out after april 6th??? i'm getting some info that says no, but we will still proceed with urgency.

    After meeting with Hopewell furnance(National park next to french creek) i made sure that they know how the mtn bike community feels about the VF General Plan. I did however get to impact one of the "writers" of that General plan so i think we are making great strides.

    If a solution is provided the local mtn community will have to put the bikes down for a while and really work together with the NPS to come up with a win/win situation.

    keep the passion coming


    Joe Transue
    Eastern PA IMBA Rep
    610-533-0942
    transue@msn.com

  14. #14
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    In light of the recent posting of "Busted in Betzwood" what ever happened with the effort with the Park concerning mountain biking?

    Its a decent place for a ride (especially if you live 5 minutes away) and could be much better if mountain biking was allowed.

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    in for updates...

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    nada

    The latest Dirt Rag had an Interview with an IMBA guy and he was talking about their focus on National Parks. VF is something of a special case because of it's "historic" designation. But yes it also has great potential because so many folks have access to it and it is very "family friendly" for mountain biking.

    The short answer to your question is: not much, that I know of.

    I think that good documentation of the erosion and general crappy trails at VF (sorry, but railroad ties as waterbars on Mt. Misery do not constitute "trail maintenance") compared to the great work at FC, Wiss, FH/MR, etc complete with a log of the hours that have been put in would be a great place to start.

    Put all that into one package and you have something to start a conversation with. Be it with IMBA, your state rep, hikers, anybody and everybody.

    ht
    "Whether it be an abrasion or a mental breakdown, everyone suffers in one way or another." ORAMM Disclaimer

  17. #17
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    the trails are generally crappy, but have potential and are convenient for many.

    I agree that IMBA probably has better spots to focus on.

    However, what would the consensus be if they closed (and enforced) the main park, where the historic stuff is, and opened the Betzwood side? I think if there was a concerted effort to build and maintain trails there, it could be much better than it's current state.

  18. #18
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    It ain't gonna happen peeps

    Mike Caldwell made it abundantly clear that his primary objective is the preservation of our country's national trasures, and that makes perfect sense. Couple that with what was a pertty significant lack of IMBA support on the last National Trails Day I attended at VF ( 2 years ago?) convinced me to bail on any further efforts on my behalf. I would agree that IMBA's efforts are better spent elsewhere in areas that are more receptive to mountain biking.

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

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    Bummer, I thought the idea of focusing Betzwood side made sense.

  20. #20
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    There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy your mountain bike at Valley Forge National Park. See it as place where you can go to build strength and endurance for real trail rides at French Creek, Marsh Creek, Blue Marsh, Jim Thorpe, and other nearby gems.

    Ride to Philly and back on the River Trail. Pedal from Pawlings Road to Green Lane and do some trail riding there. Hit the miles and miles of paved multi-use trails that cover the park.

    In my opinion, all of those options offer better fitness opportunities than the short, flat, and shabby trails at Betzwood.

  21. #21
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    I'm trying to look for a collaborative approach between the park management, Friends of Valley Forge, IMBA, and the local mountain biking community to arrange for a sustainable trail system on the Pawlings/Betzwood side of the park, along with volunteerism, financial support, and other input to the park. The common "enemy" is the suburban sprawl and development that has been proposed for this side of the park (in the surrounding lands), and we can join together to resist it.

    In any case, I do ride my 'cross bike on the Perkiomen Trail, Schuylkill River Trail, and now, the spur that goes to Phoenixville/Mont Clare. Quite often, actually.

    I also don't agree that there aren't good trails in VF - ya just gotta know where to go. Plenty of challenging sections, most of which could be made into very sustainable trails. Not that I've ever ridden any of them. ;-)

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    We can't stop suburban sprawl without population control, and I'm not going there. Where else are people going to live? The Midwest? At least developers are packing hundreds of people into relatively small spaces.

    I respect your effort to preserve existing trails and park space, but I think it is senseless to create friction within the coalition just so a handful of people can get dirty on their bicycles.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by rmagda58
    We can't stop suburban sprawl without population control, and I'm not going there. Where else are people going to live? The Midwest? At least developers are packing hundreds of people into relatively small spaces.

    I respect your effort to preserve existing trails and park space, but I think it is senseless to create friction within the coalition just so a handful of people can get dirty on their bicycles.
    No, but you can try to resist the construction of a shopping center, hotel and acres of parking lots on land directly adjacent to a national park...

    FWIW, the area in question gets very little use from anyone other than mountain bikers (if you exclude the skeeby same-gender "gatherings" in the woods that go on there). I can probably guess the number of hikers/walkers I've encountered in 10 years or so on the trails at less than 50, and equestrians less than 10.

  24. #24
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    The argument you just made to me is not the same argument you have been making to the coalition.

    In your letter, posted above, you talk about your personal best-interest and the inclusion of off-road riding on the park's trail system. Here, you talk about the best interest of the park and ALL people who enjoy it.

    I whole-heartedly agree with the argument you just made to me, but I think you are missing the point when you glance away from the big picture to talk about off-road riding at VFNP.

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    rmagda58,

    I too do a lot of riding on the paved trail through the park. I've really started to enjoy it. But at the same time, it would be nice to have the option to ride the trails in VF, especially with my kids. It is a great place to introduce folks to the sport.

    And isn't that what the park is all about? Encouraging outdoor activity? With family? In a responsible manner? I mean, c'mon, half of what we are talking about is a strip of land between a multi-use path and a four lane highway!

    Forget the biking, the total lack of ANY trail maint is doing the park no good whatsoever. It totally goes against everything they say.

    Yes, the history of all of this is not good, but I think that there are enough rock solid examples of the benefits for everyone that we (and common sense) can eventually prevail.

    ht
    "Whether it be an abrasion or a mental breakdown, everyone suffers in one way or another." ORAMM Disclaimer

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