Notes from the Tahoe Rim Trail " getting along
August 2, 2007
Whether it’s a hiker dodging horse droppings, a mountain biker stuck behind a pack of oblivious walkers, or a rider whose horse is spooked by a speeding mountain bike, many trail users have witnessed first-hand the conflicts between these three groups.
Here on the Tahoe Rim Trail, a number of groups from the U.S. National Forest Service to the International Mountain Bicycling Association have come together to help the Tahoe Rim Trail Association in an effort to minimize conflict. Between a unique set of restrictions and proactive education, association officials say the three groups get along particularly well while circling the lake.
“The user groups actually interact really well on the rim trail,” said Associate Director Erin Casey of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association. “We actually get more compliments than complaints from equestrians and hikers or mountain bikers.”
She credited the relative harmony to the education of mountain bikers by the International Mountain Bicycling Association.
Executive Director Leigh Fitzpatrick of the Truckee Trails Foundation said while each user group will always have its share of bad eggs, the key is making all users care about the trail experience.
“Those three user groups are notorious for pointing fingers at each other for all sorts of things, but it’s a lot more hyperbole than anything based on fact,” Fitzpatrick said. “But I’m a glass-half-full guy, I think we can all co-exist peaceably on the trail.”
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Fitzpatrick said mountain bicyclists are more often the target of pointed fingers than other groups because of their relatively high speeds, and accusations by some that they cause more erosion.
“Erosion is more about the quality of the trail than any user groups,” Fitzpatrick said.
Aside from what erosion may or may not be caused by pedal-powered users, bicyclists are banned from parts of the Tahoe Rim Trail to preserve its wilderness character.
The Tahoe Rim Trail borrows about 50 miles of improved path from the Pacific Crest Trail, which travels 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada.
Mountain bicyclists are not allowed on that section, as decreed in an act of congress, Casey said.
The Pacific Crest Trail, along with federally designated wilderness areas along the Tahoe Rim Trail like Desolation Wilderness and the Mount Rose Wilderness, preclude bicycles as part of a character issue.
Recreation Forester Don Lane of the Forest Service’s Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said the ban on bikes came with the 1964 Wilderness Act.
“It is not a debate of who does more impact; it is a clear intent in the country trying to preserve certain land from mechanization and urbanization,” Lane said.