A History of Success and Progress...
Mountain biking has never been as good in Boulder County as it is today. The Boulder Mountainbike Alliance has made huge progress with every land management agency over the last 10 years and we still have big visions for the future. Think about a regionally integrated recreational trail system that would allow you to ride from your home to city open space to county open space to forest service lands and beyond! A carbon-free recreation experience that starts at your front door - that's a vision worth fighting for, and it is where BMA is focusing our efforts now that the West TSA is over.
The mountain biking community has proven ourselves the best stewards of the land Boulder County has to offer. We spend more time building and maintaining trail, advocating for the passage of open space taxes, engaging in peer to peer education, partnering with County Open Space (e.g. Hall, Heil) and City Parks and Rec (Valmont Bike Park) to accomplish great things.
We even recently had a constructive relationship with the City's Open Space and Mountain Parks (OSMP) Department - challenging them to get more creative in managing use on their lands and opening up new cycling opportunities in the Marshall Mesa and Doudy Draw area.
... With a Temporary Bump in the Road
Anemone Hill and the rest of the West TSA was in part a disappointment because BMA believes in win-win solutions. We believe that preserving the environment and providing quality recreational experiences are not mutually exclusive goals - in fact they are mutually supportive.
Giants of the environmental movement like Aldo Leopold and John Muir understood that people must experience nature to learn to love and value it. As Edward Abbey once wrote, "it is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it." Mountain biking provides us with a deep connection with nature, an experience our heroes demand we have.
Some environmentalists in Boulder are anti-bike because they believe deep in their bones that man-kind is out of balance with nature. And maybe they are right. Species are in decline, the climate is changing, forests are being eaten by the pine bark beetle and burned by fires.
But the solutions advocated by this narrow group of environmentalists (keep bikes out!) are disproportionate to the challenge they have identified. Mountain bikes are not drilling rigs and trails are not well pads. Our access issues have little to do with the regional and global environmental problems that trouble both of our communities. Mountain bikers are a great partner in conservation efforts, but we fear that bridge has been burned in Boulder - at least temporarily.
From where we sit now, it is reasonable to ask whether it was ever worth engaging with the City of Boulder on bike access in the West TSA. After all, the majority on City Council didn't say no to a trail on Anemone Hill. They said no to bikes. A trail will be built, it will have environmental impacts, it will have parking problems, it will cost money, but it will be open to hikers and equestrians only. The positive value of a near-town riding experience didn't hold water with a majority of city council - they didn't understand that we want to ride to our ride, that our kids need someplace to ride that doesn't involve jockeying with car traffic, that of the over 100 miles of trail in the West TSA, we were only asking for shared access to six.
We came very close to winning reasonable and responsible access, and that closeness is a sign of progress. The Open Space Board of Trustees voted 4 to 1 to give us a 4-5 mile loop on Anemone Hill. Four city council members - just one shy of a majority - voted to give us access to this one small piece of open space. These council members did not just vote yes, they gave passionate testimony on behalf shared access and the recommendations of the Open Space Board of Trustees. We have progressed substantially in educating city officials on the environmental impacts of mountain biking, and several trustees now acknowledge that the impacts from mountain biking are essentially no different than hiking.
We know the unspoken truth - that OSMP staff were split on the issue of allowing bike access. High up on the OSMP totem pole the idea got shot down, but the flesh and blood of the organization has seen that a purely political decision was made. They understand now, better that even before, that this is not about impacts on the resource, this is not about user conflict - this is about maintaining the status quo - no bikes in the West TSA. To city staff that have been open minded, we offer our sincere thanks! We will continue to persuade citizens and government officials that the gap between the conservation and mountain bike communities is narrow.
What Comes Next?
But what do we do now? Do we stick it to the man and start poaching trails? Does BMA give up on the city entirely and focus elsewhere where we have more constructive relationships with the county and forest service? NO! Every single inch of access that BMA has achieved has been done because we have proven time and time again that we are responsible citizens and that we are not going away. We have decided to make Boulder our home. We love it here. We are not leaving.
We were on the cusp of victory in the West TSA - as modest as that victory may have been. We will continue to show up; we will continue to make a difference; we will continue to build and maintain trail; we will continue to demand fair access; we will continue to lead a two-wheeled lifestyle; we will continue to prove that nobody is a better steward of our public lands than the mountain biking community - even when they slam the door in our face.
I and the rest of BMA want to offer our personal and heartfelt thanks to the many, many members of our community that have made a difference. We want to assure you that though we have lost this battle, our vision will win the future. If you are one of the numerous people disillusioned by this entire process, know that we understand. A small piece of our dream has been shattered. But we take heart in the community that we have formed together. It is that community that ensures our ultimate success. It is our willingness to continue taking the high road - even in the face of utterly inexplicable injustice - that has gotten us to where we are at today. And it is that same can-do attitude that will carry us into the future. So chill out, relax, and recover from this madness. Continue to ride. The job is not over yet.
Jason Vogel, President of BMA