I guess I should preface this by saying that I've no idea what my rights are in terms of putting these letters on the web. I doubt the Sentinel would care, but if anyone whose letter is included here would like me to remove it, by all means let me know. One letter that isn't here is the one some of these refer to that was printed as a rebuttal to my original Op-Ed piece. At the end of these letters (all of which I very much appreciated) I'll include my rebuttal to the rebuttal, which the Sentinel chose not to publish.


April 19th

Bikers need to take care

I understand the concern about mountain bikes swooping down the trail at a comparatively slow-moving hiker or backpacker.

Having been nearby when the restriction was added to the deed concerning the horses having use of the park, it was because some horse people galloped down upon the donor of said park. All the dignitaries were there discussing the gift near the old mill site. Perhaps in a later year they might have felt just as threatened by someone on a mountain bike.

My observation of mountain bikers is that they are more interested in keeping the front wheel safe than seeing a hiker or the vanishing chipmunk hiding beside the trail.

Sure, because of my work time-limit, I have had my vehicle in places within the eucalyptus tree row signifying the park boundary. I was there just to get the finish flagging placed to mark the proposed trail grade as laid out by Park Surveyor Dale Wilson. This was for my trail workers to proceed the following day. Of course, there were those who felt their privacy was being invaded and attempted to remove all flagging before the work began.

I have not been impressed by having an organized horsemen group in contributing labor in the construction of the potential or existing trails and less by the mountain bikers' contribution in "Trail Day," which has been an ongoing annual effort since the inception of this park and other state parks. Oh yes, there have been individuals who have worked hard to get the existing trails installed and my sincere thanks goes out to all the trail workers.



May 3

Respect Nisene Marks

I am writing in response to Baskin's editorial in the April 20 Sentinel, in which he argues for the use of mountain bikes in Nisene Marks State Park.

The primary issue is not how to get the most use by the most people out of the park. In this case, the issue is what Herman, Andrew and Agnes Marks envisioned for the park.

To quote the deed, they envisioned an "undeveloped park, left in its natural state" as a "nature preserve" and "a place for quiet contemplation." Horses and motor bikes were specifically excluded because they were contrary to this type of experience.

Mr. Baskin's contention that since mountain bikes didn't exist when the park's deed was written, "Therefore, there is simply no inference to be drawn concerning the donors' intent in this regard" is a real stretch. Dismissing the Marks' wishes as spelled out in the deed because they are "unenforceable" does a disservice to the legacy intended by the Marks family. They saw the forest as having its own intrinsic value; people are free to enter, observe and appreciate. They certainly didn't see it as a "toy" (to quote Mr. Baskin) for the mountain-bike crowd.



May 5

Don't shoot the messenger

Contrary to assertions made by Mr. Baskin in his commentary on Nisene Marks State Park (Sentinel, April 20), the "anti-mountain biking folks" in our community are not as he describes. We are not anti-mountain bike, nor are we anti-horse. Many of our group are mountain-bike riders and horse riders. Furthermore, we respect the right of bike riders to ride on fire roads in Nisene Marks State Park as they have been authorized to do since the state acquired the park. However, we also respect the intent of the Marks family, who donated this beautiful area to be protected as a natural preserve.

What we are against is the amount of degradation to trails that has occurred within the park. We don't approve of unauthorized bike trails carved in areas off limits to bikes. We don't approve of damage done to fragile natural resources by unauthorized and illegal bike activities. We don't approve of the speed with which some bikes travel in areas that are shared with humans and horses. I could have read Mr. Baskin's editorial and accepted that we might agree to disagree had the writing not become mean-spirited and personal. Insulting the messenger is a juvenile tactic that undermines public discourse. We don't have to agree, but let's keep the debate focused on the issue.



May 6

Only bikers benefit

Your April 20 headline on D.G. Baskin's commentary read: "Shared-use trails are good for Nisene Marks." Try: "Shared-use trails are good for mountain bikers."

Only mountain bikers will benefit from shared trails. They have already ruined the park for many non-bikers and will continue to ruin it.

When Nisene Marks was given to the state, the Marks family limited use of the property to "camping, nature study and hiking, and associated activities." Now, the proposed Nisene Marks general plan includes mountain biking as an associated activity.

No other activity requires helmets - though we (with octogenarian parents and young grandchildren) may have to wear crash helmets for self defense from bikers.

Baskin says all users will have to be "courteous and considerate." True, but a small percentage of bikers has already chased us and many others out of the park. Experience has taught us to expect rudeness and inconsideration.

Rudeness shows in Baskin's inappropriate lawyer threat (that deed restrictions are not enforceable). He argues that bikes should be allowed because deed restrictions do not prohibit bikes. They don't prohibit marching, either, and marching is associated more closely than biking with hiking.

Finally, Baskin contends that population growth and changing recreational tastes force us to ignore the Marks' family's intent. That's just inconsiderate.

I don't know Rich Apple, but he had it right in his reasoned and mature essay on April 6.

Mountain bikers have trails elsewhere. Leave Nisene Marks to be what the Marks family intended, a "natural preserve."



Now the following is my own letter/op-ed type response to the Baskin piece. The Sentinel wouldn't print it, even when I sent a shortened Letter To The Editor length version...


Shared-use trails are not the issue

The April 20 editorial "Shared-use trails are good for Nisene Marks", stated to be written in response to an earlier editorial of mine championing the position that the deed for Nisene Marks restricts mountain biking from the single-track trails above the steel bridge, certainly calls for a few corrections.

The author says it's obvious I was writing my editorial to "raise passion and prejudice" in response to a letter he wrote to the District Superintendent of State Parks. My reply can only be, "And you would be…?" Really, I don't know who the author is, I haven't read his letter, and being that it was a letter he sent to State Parks, I'm not sure why the author thinks I could have seen it.

I do find it fair to say, though, that my editorial was hoping to "raise passions" about the injustice I see in how the deed is being sidestepped.

The author goes on to imply that some sort of legal analysis has determined that the deed is not legally binding, and that State Parks is honoring some aspects of the deed only to be nice and "honor the intent of the donors." I'm sure this is vastly misrepresentative of State Parks' position. I have been to almost all of the public meetings, and never has anyone from State Parks discredited the deed or implied that it is not legally binding.

There was a telling moment in the last public meeting, in fact, where in answering a question about equestrian usage in the deed restricted area, the District Superintendent stated that the ban against horses was explicit in the deed, so "there's no getting around that." As I heard those words, I found them consistent with my theory that many who are proceeding to reinterpret the deed to potentially open the area up for bikes are doing so knowing they are using a technical loophole in the deed stemming from mountain bikes having not been around when it was written. (This was my interpretation. I do not mean any disrespect to the District Superintendent; he could have had any number of thought processes behind his use of that phrase.)

I do want to assure the author that I am not "anti-mountain biking" or engaged in a "witch hunt" against the sport. I have two mountain bikes myself, and while I must confess to having illegally ridden West Ridge Trail in the mid-eighties (shortly after the deed was first interpreted to ban the then new sport of mountain biking on all single-track trails above the steel bridge), I feel compelled to point out that I quickly figured out that too much of that ride was just too risky in terms of potential hikers, so I stopped.

I am also not against shared-use trails, but I am against them for two reasons in Nisene Marks. First, I truly do believe the deed restricts such, and second, the vast majority of the trails I've been on in Nisene Marks (and I do love hiking up there), present a public safety risk as shared-use trails. Civility and friendliness have nothing to do with it. Visibility, curvature, narrowness and incline do.

The author would probably be surprised to know that as passionate as I am about my views on the deed (see www.richapple.com/nisene.html to read the actual deed) , I am always extremely cordial and accommodating as I scout a poison oak free spot for stepping off the trail for bikers riding illegally in Nisene Marks. And I do acknowledge that sometimes, depending on the luck of where one is on the trail, such episodes can occur without an adrenaline rush of surprise or high risk of injury.

Lastly, I intend nothing personal against any of the people involved in this process. All of the varying people taking an interest in the General Plan for The Forest of Nisene Marks - State Parks employees, hikers, nature-lovers, biologists, wildlife devotees, mountain bikers - all seem to be good people who value the beauty and healthfulness of this beautiful gift from the Marks family.

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