Mountain Biking

Opinion: Regarding “Orange County Panel Hears Gripes on Mountain Biking Mishaps” – Laguna Beach Local News – Laguna Beach Independent Newspaper

By Brian Colclough

It’s sad that hikers and bikers feel like they are pitted against each other and some level of “enforcement” is deemed to be the logical response. Yes, we need more rangers and we need more good stewards in the hiking and biking community but any dream that enforcement will solve the real problem is just that “a dream.”

Please read in the “movie trailer voice,” it’s better that way:  What if I told you that there were places where hikers and bikers could coexist in peace and harmony. What if I told you there we’re places with safe well-maintained hiking and biking trails. Would you believe me if I told you this was right in our backyard in Orange County?

For those of us that love the outdoors and experience both hiking and biking we know the truth. The truth is that despite our beautiful surroundings and the ability to be outside pretty much 365 days a year Orange County falls far behind other communities when it comes to having a vision and strategy to embrace the outdoors and build and maintain purpose-built trails. Purpose-built trails and more of them will lead to a better and safer experience for all hikers and bikers.

I am sure someone reading this and maybe even someone from OC Parks or OC government is saying “well wait a minute….Our No. 1 priority is ecological preservation and No. 2 is recreation.” I’d argue that is an easy and convenient excuse for why we don’t have a more robust and proper trail system that accommodates the needs of the community. The reality is that it’s about “preservation” until a builder comes in with a large enough check and then preservation is thrown out the window along with the “frog preservation” signs—you know you’ve seen them—and the bulldozers are escorted in like celebrities on the red carpet.

I’d encourage those in leadership to set aside any personal views and ask themselves how and why are other communities eclipsing Orange County when it comes to bragging rights for the best hiking and biking trail systems? Orange County is not even close. Bonita, Calif., Boulder, Colo., Bentonville, Ark., and King County, Wash., are a few examples of how communities across the nation are taking action and their communities are thriving because of it.

Hikers and bikers using the trails are not the problem. And while yes, there are bikers that flaunt the rules willingly and don’t pay attention, there are also hikers that are careless, wear full headsets, walk on the wrong side of a trail, and walk three- to four-people wide covering the trail creating potential problematic situations. Rather than point fingers and blame each other the proper thing to do is expand to accommodate the demand. Just like we widen freeways, local streets, and even add in bigger bike lanes the common sense approach is to expand.

Until Orange County and the surrounding communities are willing to have more purpose-built trails then hikers and bikers will be forced to use the same trails. It’s the separation that will make the trails more enjoyable and safe for everyone.

If you want to see what safe well-maintained trails look like and experience communities taking action please follow the links below:

Bonita CA Sweetwater Bike Park:

Boulder CO:

Bentonville AR:

King County WA:

Boone NC:

St. Louis MO: 

Brian is a Rancho Santa Margarita resident.

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