Mountain Biking

Opinion On County Project To Build Mountain Bike Trail – Los Alamos Reporter


BY PALLAS PAPIN
Los Alamos

I am writing to express my opposition to the proposed Mountain Bike Flow Trail/NICA competitive race trail and to raise concerns about the mountain bike skills park. I don’t think Los Alamos County should promote a sport that is incompatible with the current use. As a frequent user of our wonderful trail system I routinely meet other hikers, joggers, dog walkers, bird watchers and on rare occasions a mountain biker.  Despite the infrequency of mountain bikers on our trails, I do see the damage they cause. Mountain bikes create ruts in the trails, and this makes erosion worse; as trails become damaged, new trails evolve to bypass the damage. The current users don’t wish for our trails to become unsafe from the tripping hazards created by mountain bikes nor do we want to see the environment wrecked by a cobweb of new trails. The canyon trails near the townsite are highly valued by this community, experiencing nature provides outdoor recreation for all age groups. 

The NICA club wants a race trail geared towards competitive mountain biking for middle school and high school kids. They wish to build the sport by also giving younger kids a place to practice their skills, which is why they are encouraging Los Alamos County to fund and build a skills park. I am not against competitive sports, but I would ask why taxpayers are asked to subsidize this specific sport by building a NICA racing trail for a club of ~ 50 members. I was involved with the dance organizations in town for close to 2 decades. Between DALA and New Mexico Dance Theater we had over two hundred kids taking dance lessons. This is far more kids than are currently involved in the NICA mountain bike organization. Dance classes didn’t come cheap or at the taxpayers’ expense in a town where rental space is astronomical. It is a pet peeve of mine that we support competitive sports with our tax dollars and do little for non-competitive recreation.  The trails through our canyons provide recreation for all age groups, but particularly for adults.  Our needs matter as much as the targeted youth in this town, who have numerous opportunities for physical recreation through organized sports.

My objection to the mountain bike skills park is different. If you remember, the original skate park was not in front of the library, it was located where The Nature Center is now located. Teenagers took it over and their actions weren’t acceptable; graffiti covered the structures and illegal activities took place.  It became a problem because it could not be policed. The same thing is likely to happen to a skills park located in acid canyon, which currently is the proposed site for this. I would rather the county not make the same mistake twice. 

I remember when I was working, there was a group of guys who decided they were going to go mountain biking at lunch time. Within a year there were three individuals with broken collar bones. What plans are there for rescuing kids with injuries and who will pay for it? What about potential lawsuits and liabilities when someone is severely injured? Responsible families may keep their children safe and in control with regards to our trails, but the same is not true for teenagers looking for an exhilarating, competitive bike run.  

My final objection has to do with placing this bike trail through a region known to have endangered species.  The organization hired to work with Los Alamos County have proposed a mountain bike trail using the old Boy’s School Ranch Trail as the preferred location. Despite the need to leave this habitat undisturbed, this is also extremely steep terrain and would be potentially dangerous for both bikers and hikers.  Imagine a hiker on their way up trying to move out of the way of a fast mountain biker coming down.  The trail is narrow and there are even cliffs with long drop-offs. 

I see an alternative route the county could take. Encourage the parents of NICA club members to buy or lease land, develop a skills course, and purchase liability insurance. This is what all the non-competitive recreational organizations do. Thank you for your consideration.