The Sentinel's November 30th article about the possibility of a complete ban on mountain bikes above the steel bridge in Nisene Marks makes a slight mockery of objective journalism as it sounds a battle cry for mountain bikers to rally to the cause of keeping mountain bikes in Nisene Marks.

The side of this lopsided story that's missing is that during the last couple years of public involvement for the development of the general plan for the park, the many people who spoke up in favor of continuing the mid-eighties interpretation of the deed that restricts mountain bikes from the winding, steep, narrow trails in the upper areas of the park were continually disregarded by State Parks. Why? That would be a question for State Parks, which you'll find comfortably in bed with the mountain bike lobby.

Though local hikers were outnumbered perhaps three to one during the proceedings, the one thing we had on our side (besides the simple logic that steep, winding, trails with limited visibility aren't conducive to bikers and hikers safely coexisting) was the deed. The Marks Family didn't just hand over the land willy-nilly; they were careful to take the legal steps necessary to ensure that their gift to the state would be "preserved for all time as a natural preserve" and that "the use of the Property shall be limited to camping, nature study, hiking, and associated activities." (Read the full deed at nisenedeed.html.)

The Marks Family didn't assume they could predict all the possible uses for the land that would come up in the future; they simply stated how they wanted the land to be used. People who visit Nisene Marks know the incredible value in having a place to go to commune with nature.

Ironically, now that it has taken a judge (a wise judge, I might add) to force the State to honor the deed, the compromise made long ago to allow bikes on the fire road above the steel bridge is in jeopardy. Is this the kid with his hand so full of cookies in the cookie jar that he can't get it out and ends up with no cookies? Hardly anybody in the general plan process was asking to ban bikes from the fire road where they've been permitted for so many years. The road is wide and safe, and the few peaceful, introspective bikers peddling slowly and moseying along who could possibly be seen as doing some kind of activity associated to camping, nature study, and hiking are only on the fire road.

Full-on mountain biking is fun, healthy, thrilling, and in many settings an environmentally friendly sport. I actually have two mountain bikes and I do ride some myself.

Bikers advocating to open the single-track trails above the steel bridge in Nisene Marks to mountain bikes should let this one go. Honor the generosity of the Marks Family by respecting how they intended their gift. Respect the unique natural beauty of Nisene Marks by protecting it from further erosion that mountain bikes cause to the steep trails. Allow hikers one last refuge where we can hike in peace without having to worry about being hit by a speeding bike coming out of nowhere.

To keep biking legal on the fire road in Nisene Marks, my advice for mountain biking advocates would be to ask State Parks to try to reach a settlement in the lawsuit that has brought about the judge's ruling rather than appeal it and risk everything. Enjoy the cookies you have.

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Email me: Rich Apple