Conference promotes discussion about future of mountain biking in the basin
A year long effort to organize Lake Tahoe Basin mountain bikers began Friday, with the start of the first ever Tahoe Trails Conference.
The conference, a collaboration between the U.S. Forest Service and the International Mountain Bicycling Association, continues though the weekend at MontBleu Resort Casino and Spa and could be the initial step in easing some of the conflict between advanced “free ride” mountain bikers and federal land mangers in the basin.
The conference arose out of discussions between the Forest Service and the mountain bicycling association after the federal agency put out a press release last summer highlighting problems with the construction of illegal trails in the basin, including trails going through sensitive stream areas and disturbing archeological sites, said Forest Service spokeswoman Cheva Heck Friday.
“We were noticing a lot of unauthorized trail building in the forest and a good number of the those trails caused us concern for either environmental resources or cultural resources,” Heck said.
The goal in organizing mountain bikers is to discuss their concerns, approach the Forest Service and figure out ways to allow free ride trail features and possibly downhill trails to be developed in a “sustainable fashion,” said Tom Ward, California policy director for the mountain biking association.
“You can kind of call it the ‘Tahoe initiative’,” Ward said. “This is where it starts.”
The “Tahoe initiative” is part of the mountain bicycling association’s Public Lands Initiative, which started in April. The initiative is an effort to protect bicycle access to public lands nationwide.
The mountain bicycling association has not typically had a large presence in the basin and free ride mountain bikers have typically been underrepresented during Forest Service processes, Heck said.
“What we noted was we really didn’t have any way to talk with the free ride community in an organized manner,” Heck said. “There were no official representatives, everything was kind of occurring behind the scenes and we weren’t having formal conversations. The idea of the conference for the Forest Service is to start a dialogue that will lead to more of a formal partnership to work on creating some sustainable free ride opportunities in the basin and just, in general, making sure our main mountain biking trails are enjoyable and meet our trail building standards.”
Additional mountain biking opportunities could fit well into a recently developed Lake Tahoe Basin Prosperity Plan, which has pointed to a greater emphasis on marketing recreational activities as a way to drive the basin’s economy, said Jeff Cowen, Tahoe Regional Planning Agency spokesman Friday.
“It’s obvious that mountain biking could be explored as one of those activities,” Cowen said.
The TRPA is willing to work with the Forest Service to see how new mountain biking opportunities could fit within basin regulations, Cowen said.
What steps the mountain bicycling association will take will be determined during the final session of the conference Sunday afternoon.
Ward said he expects to visit the basin several times during the next year to continue organizing mountain bikers.
Riders who would like to get involved should contact their local bike shop, Ward said.
For more information on the conference, visit: http://www.imba.com