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BikeTexas Trail Doctors recently attended ‘scoping meetings’ hosted by the National Park Service in Alpine and Study Butte. The aim of the scoping meetings was to solicit public comment on the prospect of creating new off-road trails for mountain bicyclists in Big Bend National Park.
At both of the meetings the park superintendent described the process that will be followed, and then asked for input from the attendees about “wishes and worries” with regard to allowing off-road cycling in the park. The Big Bend Trails Alliance (BBTA), composed of hikers and mountain bikers, has been very active in advocating for new trails in the park. Several BBTA representatives were in attendance at both meetings to voice their support and address concerns raised by others.
Some of the concerns raised had to do with possible resource damage as a result of new trails and conflicts between mountain bikers and hikers. Ryan and Susan spoke about the goal of developing sustainable multi-use trails. They also informed attendees that mountain bikers as a whole are responsible stewards of the land who regulate their own members and advocate for user education. The mountain bike community has demonstrated the ability to generate volunteer energy that could be harnessed to create new trails that will complement the natural beauty of Big Bend National Park and make the Park more accessible to greater numbers of users.
Big Bend already has 180 miles of rugged backcountry jeep roads and the nearby 250,000-acre Big Bend Ranch State Park has existing singletrack opportunities. However, the National Park does not currently feature singletrack trails open to cyclists. If the public comment period goes well, this precedent-setting project could help other National Park units across the country build and open new singletrack trails.
To build a new trail and determine whether cycling would be appropriate, BBNP must first comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and contract for an Environmental Assessment (EA). Groups such as Bikes Belong and IMBA have joined Texas Bicycle Coalition in making significant contributions to expedite the trail building process. If you would like to support these efforts, please send a tax-deductible contribution to BikeTexas Trail Doctors with a memo “Trail Docs in Big Bend.”