Public lands mountain biking to be discussed at forum |

Public lands mountain biking to be discussed at forum

Mountain biking is booming in California, and public lands managers will sit down on Thursday in Folsom to gather ideas from trail users on how to plan for mountain bikers in the state’s 18 national forests.

The U.S. Forest Service is calling the meetings, which will be held from Redding to San Diego, “listening sessions.”

They are meant to gather ideas that local rangers can use to plan for and manage mountain biking.

“We’re seeing more and more use of [mountain biking] and so we’re trying to stay ahead of the game,” said Matt Mathes, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest region.

Mathes said two concerns with mountain biking are trail erosion and compatibility with other trail users.

“We’re trying to avoid social conflicts,” he said.

The forums are co-hosted by the International Mountain Bicycling Association, which was founded in 1988 to keep several California trails open to mountain biking.

The association is pushing for more trails and better maintained trails on forest land across the state.

“I think it is an opportunity to partner,” said John Gardiner, the California representative with the International Mountain Bicycling Association and president of Bicyclists of Nevada County. “The Forest Service is so short on staff.”

A partnership of the federal government and mountain biking groups could lead to new mountain biking trails and better maintained trails, he said.

He also hopes that the forums will prompt California rangers to have a unified policy on mountain biking.

“The policy on mountain biking tends to change from forest to forest,” said Gardiner.

Although the mountain biking forums to be held are not considered a formal public comment process, land managers hope to hear from mountain bikers and other trail users affected by mountain biking.

“We’d like to get a good cross-section of all trail users,” said Mathes.

Following the meetings, the Forest Service plans to develop a “mountain bicycle management strategy” that each national forest in the state can use to handle the growing segment of trail users on public lands.

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