Hi, I'm sending you this email because you've sent a civil (or at least non-threatening) email to me about Nisene Marks. I'm generally not a form letter type person, but (like lots of people) I'm really busy these days and this seems like the most economical way to reply. Some of the emails have actually slightly threatened me, so I'm purposely not replying to those. I am, however, trying to reply to them via a Letter To The Editor in the Sentinel. Whether or not they print it remains to be seen. I'll cut and paste it in below. (I should mention that the threatening emails have all seemed to follow a script, as if there's a "write to this email address and make these points" something or other posted somewhere. They are also typically somewhat witty, in an angry sort of way.)

My involvement has been via public input at the workshops and a few follow-up letters (to State Parks as well as those appearing in the Sentinel). I tried to get State Parks to interpret the deed as requiring more protection than they wanted to designate ("natural preserve" is the legal land use term I believe the deed calls for). I always advocated only for keeping the bike restrictions that have been in place, and I have never lobbied for, wanted, or have thought it's required by the deed, to restrict bikes from the fire road (where they have been allowed for 30 years or so). The current restrictions say no bikes on the trails above the steel bridge, but do allow bikes on the fire road.

All my efforts (as well, of course, as the efforts of many other people advocating for hiker only single-track, non fire road, trails) were for naught. State Parks began their process with 3 proposals of a general plan, and with each public meeting they'd backed off on protection. The final plan designated no parts of the park as "natural preserve" land.

The last stand for my attempts to change State Parks mind was at a hearing of the State Parks Commission (or some such name) where, as expected, they rubber stamped the final plan. Public speaking is my most unfavorite thing to do, but I did give it a shot, and I can tell you that no time soon is Clint Eastwood (one of the commissioners at the time) going to call me in for a movie audition.

So what I want you to understand is that I never have advocated to restrict mountain bikes from the fire road. Most of the hikers involved in this who I've met or heard from are also absolutely fine with the fire road being shared. It is plenty wide and plenty safe. There are, of course, a few folks (especially some who are pretty far up there in years) who only hike the fire road, and it has sounded like some of them are happy about the recent ruling.

I did get to know the people who brought the lawsuit, and I did help with some writing for them (nothing in the lawsuit, but appeals for public support and stuff). I'm just a guy writing letters, but the main people in Citizens For The Preservation of The Forest of... do have some political/legal experience and seem versed in environmental type actions such as those brought by the Sierra Club and so forth. I do know that the lawsuit itself (you can get the gist of it by downloading the entire ruling at http://www.saccourt.com/courtrooms/trulings/dept16view.asp - at least I think the huge Word document must contain the lawsuit - it's the one dated 12/9) has the goal of (among other, environmental things) keeping mountain bikes restricted from the single-track trails. This doesn't include the fire road; it is not single track.

When talk came up of the possibility of a judge applying a very strict interpretation of the deed and restricting bikes from the fire road in the deeded area (roughly above the steel bridge), such was immediately seen as a bargaining chip to work a compromise with State Parks. I really don't think anyone associated with the lawsuit wants to restrict bikes from the fire road. The Sentinel has done very poor reporting on this latest wrinkle, sensationalizing the news as usual, and if they were thorough they'd put something in each story about how the courts usually work this way in terms of severe rulings opening the door for compromise. I'll bet dollars to donuts that the final result has bikes allowed on the fire road.

If I had never written a single letter or gone to a single public hearing, I can tell you that the lawsuit still would have been brought to stop State Parks' general plan effort, and the judge's current ruling would still be exactly what it has been.

I know a lot of mountain bikers who love the fire road at Nisene Marks and agree with me that the steep, winding, single-track trails are not conducive to hikers and bikers sharing. I'd think those mountain bikers would be angry at State Parks and the biking associations who lobbied for full access when it was very obvious that such would bring about a test of the deed, and that such a test could result as it has. But instead, it seems that everybody who is just now taking notice (due to the Sentinel's "Bike Ban!" reporting) of this general plan process which has been going on for years are blaming the whole thing on me. Why? I guess because I wrote a recent op-ed piece aimed at getting bikers to realize that the deed apparently does matter and that they should lobby State Parks to cut a deal and keep the fire road open to bikes.

So thank you for writing, and I hope this clears up some misinformation about my opinion and my involvement.


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Email me: Rich Apple