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Paul_Arlinghaus

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 Trail Maintenance at BCSP: Why do mountain bikers maintain the mtb trails?
 
At the public meeting we had some questions and discussions about trail maintenance at BCSP (applies to other State Parks as well).


The question was asked, ďif the Park makes more money from the gate fees from mountain bikers why do mountain bikers have to do most of the trail maintenanceĒ. 



Until 2003, mountain biking was not allowed in State Parks,  early mtb advocates spent  many years talking to Park Managers as well as DNR staff in Indy.  We were offering to build trails for free.  But State Parks already had more trails than they could maintain, so no park manager was interested in adding trails to their park.

 So HMBA had to sign up to maintain mountain bike trails after they were built, in order to get access to build trails in the first place.  The concept of maintaining trails wasnít new to us or the mountain bike community.  We were maintaining the Trails at Town Run, just like local riders were maintaining their local trails all over the State. 

 With respect to other trail users: The equestrians not only pay a gate fee to get into the park, but they also pay for a trail permit for their horse.  While the equestrians donít do the majority of work on horse trails, they do hold volunteer work sessions all around the state.  There are equestrians who are upset that mountain bikers who donít have to pay a trail permit fee, just as there are mountain bikers upset that we have to maintain our trails.

 Hikers are a different story.  Hiking trails are just viewed as a standard part of a park and are expected by the public.  It is not politically feasible to force hikers to maintain their trails or pay a trail permit fee.  I canít argue that this is fair, but life is not always fair.

 There however is the reason why we should embrace the arrangement instead of pointing fingers at other groups.  We do a much better job of building and maintaining great mountain bike trails than almost all park employees would do.  Why are our mountain bike trails so much fun to ride?  Why do people travel from other States to ride BCSP? Because we build them and we know what makes a trail fun to ride.  The same with trail maintenance.  Just one example is that I constantly have park staff tell me trails need to allow a gator to drive on the trail for maintenance access.  If we asked Parks (any park, not just State Parks) to maintain our trails, then they would quickly become double track trails with every log or rock removed (regardless of trail difficulty). 

 Case in point is the Hoosier National Forest (HNF).  The HNF has hundreds of miles of trails open to bikes.  They charge a user fee for bikes and as a result, they do all the organized maintenance.  Do you ride these trails?  Do your friends ride these trails? While there are some hard core old school riders who like riding these trails, they really get very little mtb traffic.

 While no system is perfect, the arrangement HMBA has with State Parks is working pretty well.  While the hikers and equestrians have a lot of trails.  They do not have the quality of trails we have.  They really have no idea how much better their trail experiences could be if their trails were built, designed, and maintained by passionate trail users. 

 The budget cuts to State Parks over the past few years have our State Parks staffs stretched very thin.  So if mountain bikers arenít going to maintain the mountain bike trails, then the State will not be open to adding more mountain bike trails. This is why I am currently leading efforts to maintain trails at BCSP rather than working to build the Hobbs Hollow trail.

 This doesnít even take into account trail difficulty.  If the Park worked on the trails there would be no expert trails.  They would all be one flavor of wide easy trail. 

 Is this perfectly fair?  I donít know.  Each user group has its complaints.  We can burn a lot of energy worrying about the fairness of it all, or put our efforts into building and maintaining more great mountain bike trails.

Kevin, the Assistant Park Manager also spoke about the gate fee generated by mountain bikers.  The fees received at the gate go back into the State Park system's general fund and then are reallocated to each park.  The gate fees do not fully cover the cost to run State Parks.  While HMBA does the majority of the trail work, the Park does help out.  The park staff also support emergency rescues, which are quiet costly.  And as park users, mountain bikers do add to the general cost of running the park.  Park maps, restroom maintenance, etc..


« Last Edit: April 01, 2014, 04:57:21 PM by jasonhilt »
HMBA: Director of Trail Development / Secretary

Shark

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I had asked a couple questions during the meeting about funds (annual passes, gate fees, where they go etc), not sure if I made it clear what I was getting at though.

The park does not track the types of users coming in. They also do not track which users are buying annual passes. Although BCSP might sell more annual passes *because of* the bike trail system in place, that additional revenue does not stay in the park. It goes back to a general fund for all state parks.

It is safe to say that the increase in MTB'ers into the Brown County area has a positive impact to local businesses correct? Food, beer, new local bike shop in town, hotels etc etc. We like to play in the woods, then we like to eat and drink lots & buy shiny toys at the LBS :) Bikers can be great for the local economy, look at Copper Harbor.

BUT.....
An increase in bikers in the park means the park staff have more things to look after, more maintenance (not necessarily trails but bathrooms, picknick tables, parking lots, rescue assistance etc etc) , and more emergency calls (which also affect the local EMS).

SO.....
If the increase in gate fees from bikers cannot directly go to the park or EMS to help with this, what can be done about it?

At the end of the day, we want the local communities, state park/forest officials, EMS crews to be HAPPY and EXCITED that more bikers are coming to town. We don't want to be viewed as a drain on an already short-staffed system.

There has to be a way to help keep MTB-generated income in the areas that we affect.

Thoughts?
- Jeff

Fat is where it's at!......Tires that is.
Moved to Idaho....:) Now I actually *mountain* bike.

LEE3

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I'll add a few thoughts in bold to your post...

I had asked a couple questions during the meeting about funds (annual passes, gate fees, where they go etc), not sure if I made it clear what I was getting at though.

The park does not track the types of users coming in. They also do not track which users are buying annual passes. Although BCSP might sell more annual passes *because of* the bike trail system in place, that additional revenue does not stay in the park. It goes back to a general fund for all state parks. I'm guessing that overall growth in the parks is measured and forecasted.  Infrastructure growth is slow but I would expect it to happen. Luckily we are working with good people that are willing to work harder and be that buffer as growth moves faster than infrastructure. Seems this will just take time and a great deal of dedication from the HMBA to share the numbers that we do know in an effort to help park management sale mountain bikes.  Creating an maintaining strong park relationships is critical.

It is safe to say that the increase in MTB'ers into the Brown County area has a positive impact to local businesses correct? Food, beer, new local bike shop in town, hotels etc etc. We like to play in the woods, then we like to eat and drink lots & buy shiny toys at the LBS :) Bikers can be great for the local economy, look at Copper Harbor. Once again creating relationships is key.  I think the idea someone had with the door decal was brilliant.  I would like to see this decal idea progress or at least be mentioned to a few local businesses.  They could possibly offer a discount to people with an IMBA card...  We need to get the local businesses to know the numbers.  They need to want us to stay in town after the ride.

BUT.....
An increase in bikers in the park means the park staff have more things to look after, more maintenance (not necessarily trails but bathrooms, picknick tables, parking lots, rescue assistance etc etc) , and more emergency calls (which also affect the local EMS).

SO.....
If the increase in gate fees from bikers cannot directly go to the park or EMS to help with this, what can be done about it?  I think we need to ask the EMS workers themselves.  I do believe Columbus Regional Hospital has something to do with Brown County EMS.  This would be a good thing, maybe giving them a little more ease in growing.  Once again, us sharing numbers may help them make the sale on building their training and infrastructure.

At the end of the day, we want the local communities, state park/forest officials, EMS crews to be HAPPY and EXCITED that more bikers are coming to town. We don't want to be viewed as a drain on an already short-staffed system. At a local level we need to always be friends and be thankful.  Acting as partners and providing the staffs with numbers and assistance can really work in our favor.  It was great that during the meeting the EMS official could tell us the exact number of runs but it would be great if we could have said the nominator in the equation.  When growing the infrastructure it is very helpful to know the averages.

There has to be a way to help keep MTB-generated income in the areas that we affect.  (scary thought coming)  We do have put a little faith in the state.  We have to help provide the reason to give us more attention.

Stage 1 is likely a matter of us locals getting organized.

Thoughts?
- Jeff

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Well said Paul. Since life's fairness was brought up I always found it strange people have to pick up dog poo while horse poo is ok not to pick up. While it irks me I know life is not fair. The horses are beautiful to see on the trails. Once again thank you to all for all the hard work put into this great organization. I love the trails.
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timmsteiner

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Out of curiosity, does BCSP keep gate entrance numbers?  I would love to see the change over 10 years time, much of which can probably be attributed to MTB traffic.

Paul_Arlinghaus

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They could tell us the total number of passes sold at the gate, but not specifically how many are many are mountain bikers.

State Parks sees the increased revenue from mountain biking, but the challenge is that as  State Parks generates more revenue, the legislator see that as a reason to provide less funding from the General Budget.

So we have some work to do with legislator to get more funding for recreation.

Paul
HMBA: Director of Trail Development / Secretary

 

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