PR part 1
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
North Fork Nooksack user built trail closure, BELLINGHAM, WA
Source: Whatcom Trails Co-Op News - Whatcom Trails CO-OP
What is happening?
Beginning on April 2nd the Washington State Department of Resources (DNR) will be decommissioning all user-built bike trails on Slide Mountain at the North Fork Nooksack in Whatcom County.
The work, estimated to cost $23,000, will begin on April 2nd and will be done by the DNR and a crew from Washington Conservation Corps. Work will include closure signage, removal of larger structures, blocking and revegetating trail entrances, and a gate to block all motorized access to Slide Mountain.
Starting April 7th, DNR law enforcement will be patrolling the area and riders found on the trails will receive a ticket of $120 the first time, and will be subject to arrest for trespassing the second time.
Why is this happening?
Whatcom Trails Co-op and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance were informed of the trail decommissioning two weeks ago by DNR. At that time the explanation for the closure was that an individual from a motorized user group was insisting that if motorized use wasn’t allowed on Slide Mountain, then all unauthorized trails must be closed down.
In an effort to learn more about DNR concerns and find a way to address them while keeping trails open, we arranged a meeting that was held Friday, March 23rd. What we heard from DNR was that there was no solution short of complete closure, a position which is made all the more difficult to accept given that much of this area is currently being logged—a scale of impact beyond anything non-motorized recreation could ever cause.
The DNR was represented at the meeting by Region and Division staff and by the statewide recreation manager. The primary concerns expressed by DNR, and our responses, were:
· Unauthorized Trail Construction – Certainly it is true that there are mountain bike trails on the hill and DNR has difficulty managing unauthorized trail areas. However, it is also true that there are hundreds or thousands of miles of unauthorized, non-motorized trails on DNR forests across the state and very little effort is made to decommission or enforce closures on those trails, even those with clear environmental impacts. It is important to note that there are no authorized areas to recreate on DNR land in Whatcom County. Unauthorized areas like North Fork are reflections of the huge unmet need for recreational access.
· Structures – Most "structures" are simple bridges, built to span wet zones or creeks that were constructed in accordance with industry-leading trail building standards. We offered to decommission any structure that wasn't built to address sediment or erosion concerns.
· Sediment / Erosion – The North Fork was closed to motorized use roughly 7 years ago because of heavy sediment runoff from the trails and four-wheeling in or near the North Fork of the Nooksack. Sediment transport is not a real issue for the trails constructed by mountain bikers because:
1. We have no trails near the river.
2. Our trails were specifically routed to avoid creeks and riparian zones wherever possible and were built sustainably to avoid erosion and reduce maintenance.
3. When necessary, bridges were constructed from blowdown (not live trees) for spanning any small creeks or wet zones.
4. Put simply, it would be difficult and unenjoyable to ride a mountain bike in such overtly muddy areas, resulting in a low-quality recreational experience and an obvious detrimental effect on the environment.
· Popularity - Despite our attempts to keep the area from becoming widely known, it has become too popular. Riders are now coming not just from Bellingham but from across the state and even Canada - a testament to the quality of the trail network and the need for such human-powered recreational areas.
What can you do?
Whatcom County residents and business owners:
If you live in Whatcom County and access to outdoor recreation is a quality of life issue for you, please contact the people listed below to voice your displeasure about this decision and ask them for an interim solution which keeps trails open while working towards a formal Recreational plan for the North Fork area.
Seattle/Tacoma Mt. bikers:
Contact DNR staff and Whatcom County Tourism and voice your displeasure with this decision and ask them for an interim solution to be determined while working towards a formal Recreational plan for the North Fork areas. Also, please let them know that you spend money at businesses in Bellingham and Whatcom County because of this trail network.
If you live in British Columbia and ride the North Fork, please email Whatcom County tourism, Whatcom County commissioner and Whatcom County council members letting them know that you ride the area and spend money at businesses in Bellingham and Whatcom County because of the trail network.
The area impacted is represented by legislators in the 40th and 42nd districts—if you are unsure which district you live in, you can look it up here: Find Your Legislator.
Senator Kevin Ranker
215 John A. Cherburg Building
PO Box 40440
Olympia, WA 98504-0442
Rep. Kristine Lytton
310 John L. O'Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
Rep. Jeff Morris
436A Legislative Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
Senator Doug Ericksen
414 Legislative Building
PO Box 40442
Olympia, WA 98504-0442
Rep. Jason Overstreet
422 John L. O'Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
Rep. Vincent Buys
470 John L. O'Brien Building
PO Box 40600
Olympia, WA 98504-0600
· Peter Goldmark – DNR commissioner email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
· Mark Mauren – Head of Recreation - email@example.com
· Steve Jennison – Baker District Manager - firstname.lastname@example.org
Whatcom County Executive:
Jack Louws - JLouws@co.whatcom.wa.us
Whatcom County Council:
· Bill Knutzen - email@example.com
· Kathy Kershner - firstname.lastname@example.org
· Ken Mann - email@example.com
· Sam Crawford - firstname.lastname@example.org
· Carl Weimer - email@example.com
· Barbara Brenner - firstname.lastname@example.org
· Pete Kremen – email@example.com
Whatcom County Tourism:
The release part 2
We are intentionally not crafting a form letter because they do not make the same impact as personal letters. If you care enough about the trails and the area, please take 10 minutes to write something and send it to the appropriate folks above.
Your letter should state what you want and why, and should ask for a response. We've highlighted a set of goals below that you can use in your letter.
This issue is a passionate one for many of us but remember that the goal is to change the outcome not to vent our anger and frustration. Please be honest but civil in your communications.
IMPORTANT: To be even more effective, take an extra 5 minutes to also print out your emails, sign them and send a hard copy.
The primary Issues:
1. There are NO legal areas to recreate on DNR land in Whatcom County
2. No planning process has begun to address recreation needs in Whatcom County despite our continued meetings with DNR over several years. We were the largest user group at all of the recreational planning meetings in Burlington.
3. Closing the trails doesn’t address the issue, rather it disperses the use and creates additional management and enforcement issues.
4. Trails will likely spring up in other areas.
5. Using $22k for closing trails when that money could be better spent on planning or other items.
1. Continued access to the trail network.
2. Conduct a full site evaluation to determine any non-essential structures that could be removed.
3. Conduct a full site evaluation of any wetland or erosion issues. Sean Curran, a certified wetland delineator, has agreed to do a full site survey for Whatcom Trails Co-op pro bono. Curran Environmental Services
4. Within a few months, we’d like to determine the framework to begin the recreational planning process so ALL recreationalists can gain formal authorization for this (and potentially other) area.
1. Complete the formal planning process for North Fork recreation for ALL users. This is the biggest issue and why there are user-built trails all over Whatcom County.
2. Establish the ability to rebuild trails post harvest.
1. Mountain bikers are good stewards of the areas in which we recreate. We've held annual clean-up days in the area and removed tons of trash left by other users. Additionally, the presence of mountain bikers and other responsible users keeps undesirable users away.
2. We’re a low maintenance user group.
a. We have built and continually maintained high-quality trails, using volunteer labor and private funds.
b. We close trails down if necessary during the wet season.
c. Our trails and activities do not interfere with timber harvests. In fact we are one of the few groups that would chose to recreate in a working forest environment.
3. Economic Benefit to local businesses
a. Seven bike shops in Bellingham
b. Two bike manufactures in Whatcom County (Transition and Kona).
c. Restaurants and other businesses in Bellingham and Whatcom County get increased business from riders who use our trail network.
4. Immediate access would provide a legitimate riding area and allow time for a larger planning process th
Thanks for posting this, I have already written a letter, and sent it to everyone listed.
Please print out, sign and mail the letters too. It does make a difference.
Anthony, sorry to have your post pulled a couple weeks ago, but we were hopeful we could work out a solution with DNR to no avail.
That's some amazing work, the trestle blows me away.
It's a complete shame that work has to be torn out, and it's really too bad the folk up at Whatcom DNR did not choose to take the leap to try to bridge the gap in this instance.
I'll grab some letterhead from work, and draft up something tomorrow. Probably from a health perspective. It's unbelievable that in today's world we have to council our patients that 'normal weight' is no longer the goal. Because the average person is obese, and there are so few anywhere near ideal body weight. (only Colorado has fewer overweight people than 'ideal' body weight--i.e. not fat). We have to tell them that they should not be like everyone else, they have to be the exception....that is, someone who is not fat.
Regional Race Manager, Knolly Bikes
Washington State, South Africa
What set this off? An injury or the state putting pressure on the county because of the reconveyance problem?
Clay, no injuries and no tie to the reconveyance at all. The formatting on this thread isn't helping this much.
Originally Posted by gticlay
"Why is this happening?
Whatcom Trails Co-op and Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance were informed of the trail decommissioning two weeks ago by DNR. At that time the explanation for the closure was that an individual from a motorized user group was insisting that if motorized use wasn’t allowed on Slide Mountain, then all unauthorized trails must be closed down."
Repeatedly, a member of the ORV community has thrown mt. bikers under the bus despite us working closely with the local club (Rainier Ridge Rams). We've even received a letter of support from the RRR that they feel this is a terrible move.
The elephant in the room is that there are ZERO places to legally recreate on DNR land in Whatcom County, so all user groups have carved out their own trail networks over the years. Mark Mauren and everyone in the table admitted such, but the reality is they've got no money to manage recreation in our area.
Yet they've got a $23k budget to decommission bike trails?
Originally Posted by ebxtreme
I'll save my comments for the letters....
They should fall under the recreational immunity in WA as long as they don't charge for use, correct? So.... what's the liability problem?
As with many agencies, it's the "threat" of legal action.....the DNR rarely go to court with a lawsuit. They settle. In the 6 years that mt. bikers have been riding the Fork, it's not had a legal issue.
It is sad and ironic how the builders have attempted to keep the area on the DL (however futile) for so long, that the Fork is going public this way.
It sounds like the issue to me is that instead of trying to accommodate all the different user groups in different ways, they would rather just ignore everyone and only deal with situations when people complain or other issues come up.
They dont need to a lot of money or man power to "manage" the situation. That's where groups like Evergreen come into play. You allow groups access to different area, they manage the land within the guidelines set, and the DNR comes in every so often to make sure their guidelines are being followed. It seems to work fine in other counties.
I should be out riding
Honestly, what other user group builds stuff like this in the woods? Moto guys don't build supercross tracks in the woods, and hikers don't build this sort of stuff. Anyone that build what's in those pics and thought it would last is delusional. But, the offer to keep the trails, but remove all but the bridges needed for sediment or erosion issues sounds completely reasonable, and not at all unlike the user built hiking trails that DNR is spending $ on.
I've received a message back from Council member Sam Crawford. He has introduced this resolution for Council to take a look at the next meeting. We will need to show our support. Please note, they will need to discuss and take a vote.
RESOLUTION NO. ________
REQUESTING THE WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES TO WORK WITH MOUNTAIN BIKE ADVOCATES AND USERS TO DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN CONTINUED USE OF MOUNTAIN BIKE TRAILS IN THE AREA OF THE NORTH FORK OF THE NOOKSACK RIVER
WHEREAS, Whatcom County is endowed with an extensive forested mountainous landscape ideal for the pursuit of mountain biking, hiking, and other passive recreational activities; and
WHEREAS, the available land that can be utilized for mountain biking is somewhat limited relative to the forested mountainous areas of the county because of ownership issues, conflicts with neighboring uses, and access to trail networks; and
WHEREAS, Whatcom County has become recognized nationally as a mountain biking ‘mecca’, attracting world-class mountain bikers along with the associated economic input to our community’s prosperity; and
WHEREAS, the significant local economic infrastructure supporting the recreation and sport of mountain biking continues to rely on availability of a variety of locations to engage in mountain bike activity; and
WHEREAS, local mountain bike organizations already exist that have demonstrated the ability to organize and collectively to address trail construction, maintenance, self-policing and impact mitigation; and
WHEREAS, the area of Whatcom County known as the North Fork of the Nooksack River has been developed by users over the past 20 years into a key location (along with Galbraith Mountain and the Chuckanuts) for mountain bike recreation and sport; and
WHEREAS, the Washington State Department of Natural Resources has announced the upcoming closure of the North Fork of the Nooksack River to off-road mountain bike use; and
WHEREAS, the activity of mountain biking as a recreation and a sport can be coordinated with other forest use priorities such as logging, hunting, hiking, winter recreation, fishing, fire prevention, and environmental stewardship to bring about enhancement and protection of the forest landscape for future generations; and
NOW THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED by the Whatcom County Council that we strongly encourage the Washington State Department of Natural Resources to withdraw its deadline to close the North Fork of the Nooksack River to off-road mountain bike use, and instead to engage and collaborate with mountain bike users and advocates in maintaining and continued development of a network of mountain bike trails in that area in a manner that is environmentally protective and compatible with other forest uses.
ADOPTED this day of April, 2012.
WHATCOM COUNTY COUNCIL
ATTEST: WHATCOM COUNTY, WASHINGTON
Dana Brown-Davis, Clerk of the Council Kathy Kershner, Council Chair
WHATCOM COUNTY EXECUTIVE
WHATCOM COUNTY, WASHINGTON
APPROVED AS TO FORM:
Civil Deputy Prosecutor Jack Louws, County Executive
( ) Approved ( ) Denied
Date Signed: ____________________
This is formatted a bit better. Many, many thanks to Glenn Glover and Evergreen's support.
North Fork Nooksack
What makes no sense is that they have no budget for recreation, but can come up with $23K, staff time and enforcement time to squelch recreation.
In reality, they don't need a budget for recreation - they just need to be willing to work with responsible user groups.
I can only look at the situation that I am familiar with, and that is working with Sno Parks. We wanted to build trails and structures and they had no budget or staff, but were willing to work with us. We agreed on a set of build standards and committed them to drawings (thanks to the mad CAD skills of FM and Ortdd) that Sno Parks approved. Took little staff time. We raised the cash to buy tools and materials to build with and we provided the labor. Sno Parks did initial acceptance inspection, which took very little staff time. We worked with Sno Parks to develop a set of maintenance and inspection forms and we jointly perform a yearly inspection of everything we built. Takes a few staff hours every year. A small ongoing staff investment goes a long way.
Trying to stop nnauthorized trail construction on that much land is like playing whack-a-mole. Best for the DNR to provided an agreed upon, legal outlet. Once you have legit building going on, those builders are going to police their own because they don't want to kill the golden goose.
I'll be writing a letter this weekend. Good luck up there.
Great news about the Whatcom County Council voting on this!! Let's all be sure to get in touch and voice our support ASAP in the hopes that they will vote yes.
Thanks for keeping us all updated on the latest.
I don't think anyone disagrees with this take Anthony. These are big boy features and a couple of them took a month+ to build like Thad's truss bridge. The builders and riders look at them as works of art, but any land manager is going to see nothing but liability. We 100% acknowledged some of the bigger features and told DNR we'd decommission/remove any of the non-essential structures.
Originally Posted by ACree
Ironically, the bulk of the structures/trails in those photos are in a zone that was logged in the Fall. So, those structures had trees felled on them during harvest and the trails are currently not rideable any longer....full clearcut. The same is going to happen to a few others in May.
Agreed Woodway. That's the way I have been looking at it too. This sounds so 10-15 years ago during the first go around locally at the Exits... And, the DNR saw where that got them and that's why we're at a better page down here now. Makes no sense at all. Writing my own as well. Keep the faith up there EB et al...
Though I will say that I get the idea of saying no to everyone as well since that sort of thing also happened at Lord Hill a few years back too. Gub'ment agencies find that's the easy way out.
Justin Vander Pol
Actually, we're no better in Seattle at our under-the-radar DH spots.
Originally Posted by Borneo
Meaning: At least the DNR "tolerates" them here. And, I'm no longer convincing a WTA trail crew at Trail College that, "Yes, we CAN ride down this and no, it doesn't need stairs..."
I don't know who it's "Under the radar" to. All the players know and have known for years.
I'll take the current Exit tolerance as a win compared to the NF fiasco.
Justin Vander Pol
NF was tolerated just fine until a few weeks ago.
Originally Posted by Borneo
The answer here is obvious but difficult. Get the MTB trails redesignated as authorized, limited to such use, and official. I know at this point that is far easier to say than do. Sounds like there was a threat of a lawsuit. It can be argued this is what can happen to an area with "gray trails".
This episode shows how the DNR failed to prempt such issues or be cooperative. Likewise the MTB groups in the area should have gained official status a long time ago to have legal trails in the area. But hey it takes two to tango as they say. The motorized user group person while not very admirable from our point of view is arguing a correct legal response to the situation. A selfish, undiplomatic, politically self-destructive response to be sure but strictly speaking a legal one. In essence the DNR feels it is now trapped since it failed to enforce (or chose to ignore) its own rules. Again the the DNR should have responded to the lack of recreation in the beginning by reaching out all of the user groups with a real plan to meet recreational needs.
A question that comes to mind is why the short time line for action on the DNR's part? The unimaginatve action of closing all trails seems to be what the DNR thinks is easiest for the DNR. The citizens of this state deserve better than this.
^^^combitool. The mtb groups were talking to DNR for 5 years. The discussions were kept quiet. Things seemed to be progressing until a short time ago till the head office told the regional office to shut things down - thus prompting this PR. EB - correct me if I'm wrong and I can edit