Go to any trail work session or meeting on trails -- on building
them, maintaining them, or keeping them open to mountain bikers -- and Peter
Taylor of Clinton is likely to be right there.
The 42-year-old hiker and mountain biker thinks it's selfish to use trails and not help take care of them. Besides, he finds volunteer trail work -- clearing brush, installing waterbars, rerouting paths susceptible to erosion -- just about as satisfying as trail riding.
"Trails don't take care of themselves," Taylor said. "They constantly need to be fixed up, possibly because of erosion, or winter storms cause blowdowns and make trails impassable. We have to be involved ... We can do a little work and have some fun at the same time."
Locally, Taylor has worked on trails projects in Upton State Forest, Douglas State Forest, West Hill Dam in Uxbridge, the Mount Pisgah conservation area in Berlin, and open spaces in Holden. He has served on the board of the New England Mountain Bike Association and stays tuned to groups such as Wachusett Greenways, Friends of the Wachusett Watershed and the Assabet River Rail Trail Committee.
He even joined the Bay State Trail Riders Association, an equestrian group, although he doesn't ride horses, "because they do a lot of trail work and they're not into denying other trail users access. When they work on trails they think of other users besides themselves."
This spring he's been helping the Metropolitan District Commission with its public access plan for the Wachusett watershed, mapping trails in the Quinapoxet River area where mountain biking will be permitted on a two-year trial basis. The area, about 1,000 acres adjoining Holden's Trout Brook Reservation, offers a variety of trails, "from easy logging roads to difficult singletrack," he said.
Mike Welch, Shawn Archambeault and George Bosco also have worked on the Quinapoxet mapping, Taylor said. They're wrapping up their work just in time for this weekend's National Trails Day celebrations, including today's NEMBAfest at Lynn Woods in Lynn.
In the Wachusett watershed, "mountain biking has been a gray area," Taylor said, not specifically allowed under MDC regulations but not prohibited on signs marking MDC property. "All the new signs, instead of just saying what's prohibited, will say what is allowed and what isn't," Taylor said. The MDC intends to issue free permits for mountain biking, which will help the agency track use of the trails, Taylor said.
A longtime member of the Appalachian Mountain Club, Taylor got into mountain biking in the sport's infancy in 1985, exploring in the woods on an old Univega. "Back then there was no NEMBA or anyone telling us the do's and don'ts," he said. "Now you can't go into a bike shop without getting some kind of pamphlet telling you the etiquette -- yield the trail, etc."
Nowadays Taylor rides a dual suspension Pro-Flex, and he has an older Pro-Flex with studded tires for winter riding. Mountain biking "can become addictive," he warns, but he hasn't given up hiking and cross-country skiing.
Taylor is knowledgeable and industrious, said NEMBA board member Bob Hicks of Wenham, and "his presence at meetings and on trail projects has been very positive for mountain biking."
Mountain bike overuse certainly can damage trails, Hicks said, so "trail maintenance work by mountain bike riders is vital as a demonstration of our commitment to keeping the trails we use in good shape" and to head off "the claims of those who resent us."
Some hikers, birders and other nature lovers "feel we intrude upon their hallowed places" and want mountain biking banned, Hicks said. But often land managers "find that these same purists do not work on trails, while the mountain bikers do ... and we come off rather well. And those trails maintained are more fun to ride."
The city of Worcester had a dedication ceremony yesterday <June 7> for two on-road bike routes being fixed up with a $151,720 federal transportation enhancement grant to Worcester and Leicester: an 8.2-mile route from Quinsigamond Village to Webster Square to Tatnuck Square to the Leicester line on Bailey Street, and a 2.8-mile route from Union Station to Institute Park to Morgan Park. The city has installed benches and bike racks, and 15 information kiosks are on order, said Alan I. Gordon, planning coordinator in the Office of Planning Community Development.
The Department of Public Works is making signs for the routes and has scheduled pavement striping to mark shoulders or bike lanes this summer, Gordon said. The city has run out of copies of its "Bicycle & Pedestrian Trails Guidebook" but hopes to print more. To reserve a copy, contact Gordon or project manager Ann Johnson at OPCD (508-799-1400).
The state Department of Environmental Management has about $200,000 in federal funds to grant this year under the National Recreational Trails Act for recreational trails projects such as building and maintaining mountain biking trails or trailside amenities.
Grants must be matched by money, labor, materials or in-kind services from other sources. Applications are due July 18, and grants will be announced in October for projects to be completed by September 1998. For more information, contact DEM trails coordinator Peter Brandenburg (617-727-3180, ext. 655, or firstname.lastname@example.org).
The fledgling Worcester County chapter of the Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts will meet at 7 p.m. June 18 in the Banx Room of the Worcester Public Library, Salem Square. For more information, contact Greg Root (508-476-2760 or email@example.com).
TIP OF THE HELMET -- To blind tandem racer Pam Fernandes of Needham, a winner of the LifeScan Prize for Athletic Achievement awarded by the International Diabetic Athletes Association. Fernandes, 35, who lost her eyesight at age 21, won a bronze medal in the 1996 Paralympics in the 3-kilometer pursuit with tandem partner Mike Rosenberg of Eugene, Ore. She will share the $20,000 LifeScan prize with tennis player Gwen Sikora of Amherst and swimmer Scott Coleman of Boca Raton, Fla.
Pioneer Valley Bicycle Educators is offering Effective Cycling, the adult "refresher course" on road bicycling, in several two- and three-day sessions this summer in Amherst. Topics include bicycle selection and fit, helmet fit and use, basic and emergency bike handling skills, shifting gears, hazards, traffic rules and responsibilities, flat tire repair, minor brake and gear adjustments, bike clothing and tools.
Cost is $70. Instructors are certified by the League of American Bicyclists. Courses begin June 17, July 12, July 28 and Aug. 9. For details, contact Barbara Goldstein (413-253-4001) or Amherst Leisure Services (413-253-4001).
Lynne Tolman's bicycling column archives
Lynne Tolman's home page