Battle Creek Mountain Bike Trail News

6/29/2000 - Todd Murray - Click here to contact me.

Note: If you're the kind of mountain biker who believes in being extreme, and you don't care what land managers think, click here to skip over all the wordy stuff.

I was at a meeting at Battle Creek Regional Park earlier this evening with John Moriarty, a natural resources specialist for Ramsey County, and several members of MORC and other interested mountain bikers.  He was there to discuss the situation with the mountain bike trails in the park and to explain what was going on with trail regulation.

Basically, there are some problems with erosion on the slopes facing Winthrop Street.  He pointed out one hill that has four parallel singletrack trails going up, partly because of bikers and partly because of runners.  As a result of the erosion, the trails that go directly up and down the slopes are now closed.  To get to the trails, you will need to take a left after you get out of the parking lot and go south for a ways, until you get to the trail that goes up north and into the cross-country ski trail area.  It's hard to explain it here, but you should be able to see the signs once you get there.  The park district is planning to revegetate the slopes to prevent erosion.  If this is successful, it may be possible to reopen some trails on the slopes, but they won't go straight up and down the hills any more.

One persistent problem at the park is that there are people who insist on cutting their own trails, and there are people who take down signs and barriers that are designed to close off unauthorized or closed trails.  He acknowledged that some people like the really tough technical trails, because they're fun, but the county has a liability problem in case someone gets hurt.  Someone, or some group of people, has cut an "expert-only" trail west of Battle Creek Road and put up hand-lettered signs indicating where it is.  While some people may enjoy it, the only trails that are supposed to be there are those authorized by the county.  To that end, he's willing to work with MORC as the organization entrusted to do trail maintenance.  The county is trying to put up signs to indicate where the trails go (and where they don't go), but there is a real problem with people vandalizing signs.  He put up 40 signs at $16 each, and he's already lost 30 of them.  There isn't much money in the budget to replace signs.

Basically, John's viewpoint is that he's willing to work with mountain bikers to preserve access to Battle Creek Park.  However, if there are continued problems with people riding unauthorized trails, cutting their own trails, knocking down signs, or taking out brush piles designed to close off trails, it would be easy to close the park to mountain biking instead of trying to keep repairing the damage.  There are 3 1/2 miles of trail east of Battle Creek Road and 3 1/2 miles west of it, so it's larger than many other mountain bike areas around the cities.

Unfortunately, after the meeting was over, a few people insisted on arguing with John about why the trails should be regulated the way they are.  They mentioned that they liked the trails as they are and preferred them to be unregulated.  One of them also insisted that he didn't want to be a part of MORC or IMBA or any other organization.  John's opinion was that regulation is here to stay, and he would rather work with members of an organized group than have to call dozens of unorganized people.  Also, there's a reason Hennepin Parks has about the same mileage of horse trails as bike trails: the horse people are organized, and they ALWAYS show up whenever there's a meeting or any other kind of need for their attention.
Here's what I think we, as mountain bikers, need to do to preserve mountain bike access to Battle Creek Regional Park.
  1. Ride only on legal, established trails.  Even though there are sections that may be more technical or more fun or give a nice vertical drop, if they're closed, don't ride them.
  2. Don't cut new trails.  This should be obvious, but some people think that just because it's public property, they can do anything they want.  That's not the way it works.  If you want to carve your own trail, buy your own property and build a trail there.
  3. Don't knock down signs or brush piles indicating a trail is closed.
  4. If you see anyone doing any of these things, or doing anything else that could jeopardize the trails, stop and tell them why their actions are a problem.  Let's face it: Not all mountain bikers care to work with land owners.  I hope that by telling people why they need to take care of the trails, they'll be convinced that they should behave better.

Finally, if you're the kind of mountain biker who acts like life is one big Mountain Dew commercial, and you don't want to have to put up with rules and regulations, and you think you should be able to get away with anything on public property, consider this: Land managers such as the Ramsey County Parks Department have the power to shut down your favorite mountain bike trails.  They WILL shut down trails if they don't like what's happening or if they see people breaking the rules.  If you aren't willing to play by the rules, you're screwing things up for the rest of us.

Comments?  Questions?  Click here to contact me.