Worcester, Mass.
May 26, 1996

Mountain bikers celebrate National Trails Day

    Offroad biking will be in the spotlight next weekend during National Trails Day events, and hereabouts Douglas State Forest takes center stage.

    That's where the New England Mountain Bike Association and the Eastern Fat Tire Association will have their fun ride next Sunday (June 2). Trails are marked for riders of all abilities: an easy 8-mile loop, a 12-mile intermediate route with more single track, and an 18-mile technical course for advanced riders.

    Mountain bikers can start riding anytime between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Cost is $10 for adults, $2 for children under 12, with proceeds going to NEMBA's trail access programs and selected trails projects in the Douglas forest.

    All rides start at a forest gate on Route 16, four miles east of Exit 2 on Interstate 395. There will be a limited selection of food and drink for sale at the gate; bring your own if you're fussy.

    For more information, call NEMBA vice president Bob Hicks of Wenham at 508-774-0906.
    TIP OF THE HELMET -- To mountain bikers who helped park employees and an equestrian group put up signs and clear brush on trails in Upton State Forest this spring: Karl Steinbrecher of Upton, Neale Eckstein of Sudbury, Gary Graham of Ashland, Peter Ragone of Marlboro, Paul Moody of Hopkinton and Peter Taylor of Clinton.

    The Upton forest has at least 10 miles of trails, from wide, flat gravel roads to technical hills. Riders can start out on the unpaved Park Road from the forest headquarters off Westboro Road, where trail maps are available.
    Mountain bikers are not united in their opinions of the state's new restrictions for motorized offroad vehicles (ORVs) in the state forests.

    When the Department of Environmental Management proposed banning ORVs except for specially permitted events, NEMBA joined the opposition, saying mountain bikers feared they would be restricted next. In the end, DEM voted to allow ORVs seven days a week, May through October, in nine state forests (Douglas and Upton not among them), as long as each forest gets, by Aug. 15, a signed agreement from a trail user group assuming responsibility for maintenance and proper use of the designated trails.

    The 2,500-member New England Trail Riders Association still has objections, mainly that the policy will squeeze too many riders onto too few trails.

    For the time being, NEMBA's board has voted not to take a position on the policy. VP Hicks maintains that the policy sets a bad precedent.

    But board member Mark Wickersham of Watertown says he doesn't believe "that what happens to dirt bikes will happen to mountain bikes. I feel that the DEM is fair and open-minded and has the difficult task of balancing (each type of trail use) against other uses and park protection." To say that ORV restrictions portend limits on mountain biking "sounds a little like the NRA saying that the ban on assault weapons will lead to an all-outban on guns," Wickersham said. "I just don't buy it."

    NEMBA membership secretary Philip Keyes of Acton points out in this month's NEMBA News that mountain bikers are caught between gratitude to motorcyclists for creating trails and a desire for mountain biking to be judged on its own merits. "Supporting the policy belittles the important work the New England Trail Riders Association has done to make many of the trails that we ride on state lands, while opposing the restrictions on ORVs aligns us too closely with the motor vehicle set and undermines our arguments to many land managers and 'Friends' groups that mountain biking is a 'green' sport," he said.
    Craig Della Penna, author of "Great Rail-Trails of the Northeast," will present a slide show called "Tales of the Trails" at 7:30 p.m. June 6 at Wachusett Regional High School in Holden. Admission is free. Della Penna will focus on the Norwottuck Trail, a nine-mile paved bike path from Northampton to Amherst on a former railroad bed. The presentation is sponsored by the Wachusett Greenways Coalition.
    The state Central Transportation Planning Staff will present its feasibility study for the proposed Assabet River Rail-Trail at a public meeting at 7 p.m. June 5 in Maynard Town Hall, 195 Main St. (Route 62), Maynard. The 12-mile bike path would run from Marlboro to South Acton. For information, contact Roger Duchesneau (568-0794) or Cathy Buckley Lewis (617-973-7118).
    The state Department of Environmental Management has $226,673 to give away, in National Recreational Trails Act grants of $1,000 or more, for projects such as trail construction and maintenance and education programs for trails. Applications are due July 12. Grant recipients must cover at least half the project cost with money from other sources or donated materials, labor or services. The federal money comes from fuel taxes on motorized off-road vehicles.

    The Massachusetts Recreational Trails Advisory Board meets at 7 p.m. Wednesday (May 29) at the John J. Navin Skating Rink, 451 Bolton St., Marlboro, to discuss how to evaluate the grant applications. For more information, contact board chairman Becky Kalagher (508-476-3960) or state trails coordinator Peter Brandenburg (617-727-3180, ext. 655).
    The Mount Washington Bicycle Hillclimb, an eight-mile race up the auto road of New England's highest peak, has been moved up to Aug. 24 this year because the weather can be fierce on the traditional September date. Last year and the year before, the race was canceled because of high winds, low visibility and icing at the summit.

    The race is limited to 400 riders, and early registration is advised. Entry fee is $100. Proceeds benefit the Tin Mountain Conservation Center in Jackson, N.H. For information or entry forms, call Tin Mountain (603-447-6991).
    TIP OF THE HELMET _ To Paul and Rebecca Cooke of Boylston for their first-place finish in the public mixed category of the Mother's Day Two-Person Team Time Trial in Hollis, N.H.

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