Friday, October 29, 2010

Thoughts on North Fork and Wilderness

Photo Credit: Nate Shearer
As with many previous Wilderness discussions, the mountain bike community wants to see public lands protected. In light of the recent threats of natural gas mining and pressure for wind development, we understand and appreciate the desire of the West Virginia Wilderness Coalitionto permanently protect the North Fork from such present threats. We disagree only over the details in how it should be protected.

Since the North Fork already falls within the Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area, mountain bikers would like to see further protection by enhancing the Congressionally designated National Recreation Area legislation. Enacted in 1965, this was the first National Recreation Area to be designated within a U.S. department of Agriculture managed National Forest. If protection could be strengthened to very closely mimic the protections provided by the Wilderness Act (while allowing bikes and mechanized trail work), then North Fork could be a model for other popular mountain bike areas around the country.

Mountain bikers believe in protection based around recreation. We think that the most effective way to protect public land is for user groups to take ownership of the area. Considering the state of the rural West Virginia economy, it only makes sense to continue promoting a National Recreation area compatible with many uses including human powered recreation. Furthermore, mountain bikers are trail lovers who value sustainable, well maintained trails with good alignments. The prohibition against gas powered equipment in Wilderness would have a severe impact upon the trail quality of the North Fork mountain trail. Currently, gas powered brushers are used to cut back vegetation along the trail and thus play a vital role in keeping the trail open for all users.

As the discussion always goes, Wilderness folks and mountain bikers share much in common we both oppose the destruction of our federal lands and want them to remain mostly in their natural undisturbed state. Some areas are indeed good candidates for Wilderness, Dolly Sods south comes immediately to mind amongst many others. However, this is not the case for the North Fork Mountain. The southern end of the ridge is cut off from route 33 by private property. This means that the nearest legal access is coming up from Smokehole. This greatly limits the access for bicycles and forces most of the recreation to the northern end of the ridge.

While we are grateful that the architects of the currently proposed Wilderness took time to consider the desires of mountain bikers and the very real need to keep loop options open (Redman trail remaining open to bikes under the current Wilderness proposal), we maintain our opposition over designating the area Wilderness. The Northern end of the trail is the most popular area for mountain bikers since it allows them to climb up singletrack (Redman Run trail) and then follow the North Fork Mountain trail all the way back to Smoke Hole road.

Our hope is for a Coalition of groups to come together and promote enhancing the National Recreation designation for the area. We welcome future discussion between wilderness proponents and mountain bikers while recognizing that such a discussion cannot effectively take place until the current Wilderness proposal is off the table.

Video Documentation of the North Fork Trail and one of the IMBA Wilderness Awareness Rides

Thanks to the folks from Ohio for filming their time on the trail and documenting the 70 some riders who came out for the ride. People traveled from all over the Mid-Atlantic region to ride an incredible shared-use trail located within our National Forests. The North Fork Mountain trail is indeed a special place for all types of users who have been lucky enough to travel the trail and check out the incredible views from countless rocky overlooks.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Preserve Bicycle Access to IMBA Epic Ride - North Fork Mountain Trail, WV - Oct 17th

Come out for a weekend of Backcountry Mountain Biking in West Virginia.
Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition and Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club join forces to preserve access to human powered recreation on West Virginia's North Fork Mountain Trail. A Pending Wilderness designation could fragment this trail system and keep trail users from adequately maintaining the system for future generations to enjoy. Info about the bill can be found HERE.

The MAIN Event is Sunday Oct 17
Sunday Oct 17th - Wild Ride on North Fork Mountain Trail
10 AM riding from Redman Run Trailhead parking lot

Oct. 16-17 Full Weekend Schedule and additional details

Saturday Oct 16th - Spruce Knob/Seneca Creek IMBA Epic Ride
9:30 AM meeting
10:00 AM departing the parking lot of the Seneca Rocks Discovery Center, by vehicle driving to Spruce Knob. Its about a 2 hr climb by bicycle to the parking lot at Spruce Knob if you wanted to ride up.
11:00 AM relaxing departure bicycling from Spruce Knob into Seneca Creek Potential Wilderness Area. Choices are to ride a loop back to your car at the Knob or finish by descending Alleghany Mtn. Trail to Rt. 33 and riding 5 miles on the road to the visitor center. Followed by a car retrieval mission pre party. Maps will be available.

North Fork Wilderness Awareness Ride Pre-Party
7 PM- 9:30 Gendarme/ Harpers Front Porch Restaurant - Seneca Rocks, WV

IMBA is hosting a pre-party at the iconic Gendarme-Seneca Rocks Climbing School as part of their Public Lands Initiative campaign to protect mountain bike access to the North Fork Mountain in the Monongahela National Forest of West Virginia. This gathering will include a slideshow of the amazing bicycle riding in the Spruce Knob/ Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area along with beverages, food, and light discussion about Wilderness and what can be done to protect our favorite trails so that they remain open to bicycle access.

Please come out to this Wilderness awareness talk to hear from long time IMBA supporters and learn more about IMBA's Public Lands Initiative as well as the legislative status of the North Fork Wilderness Bill in Congress. You can track the Bill here -

These rides will showcase the amazing views and trails in West Virginia's Spruce Knob/ Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area. We need bicyclists to document these wild rides so as to showcase the remote mountain bike opportunities in this area and to further promote these IMBA Epic trails. Wilderness threats to these iconic rides will likely continue into the future. We need to better document mountain bike use and insist that mountain biking and conservation of public lands are compatible.

Sunday Oct. 17th - Save Access to North Fork Mountain Trail IMBA Wild Ride

9:30 AM meet at Redman Run Parking lot
10 AM riding Redman Run Trail to North Fork Mountain Trail and back around to parking lot

This IMBA Epic ride is far too incredible of an experience for low impact-human powered recreation, like bicycles to be banned. Furthermore, the area already enjoys a higher level of protection than the rest of the National Forest due to the National Recreation Area designation.

Again, Sunday’s main event ride will leave from the Redman Run Trail parking lot at 10:00 AM. Bring your camera and be prepared to experience surreal solitude as you ride your bicycle into a truly amazing wild and remote area. Please refer go HERE and click on the "B" on the map to get directions via Google maps to the Redman Run parking area.

BIkes on the Northern Section of the IMBA Epic North Fork Trail

West Virginia Press and Contact the Forest Service

Here is a story written by Michael Gray published in the the WV Highlands Conservancy newsletter "The Highlands Voice" its basically anti-wilderness about North Fork from a hiker/climber.
Word on the street is that it enraged Mollohan's office and gave him more of a desire to push harder for Wilderness

here is the rebuttle from Mike Costello released a few days ago

From the Highlands Voice:
"Contrary to the misguided claims of some wilderness
opponents, the Monongahela Conservation Legacy Act represents a
solid legislative proposal. In a recent hearing before a congressional
subcommittee, supportive testimony was provided by the West
Virginia Council of Churches, conservationists, sportsmen and local
business owners. The Forest Service testified that the agency does
not oppose the legislation, which was drafted with various user
groups and managing agencies in mind."

Ouch...Forest Service does not necessarily support but based on Testimony to Congress does not really oppose. They only pointed out that the only major change in management would concern a prohibition on mountain biking.