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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Trouble in Paradise

One of my favorite places to ride is Bennetts Pond. Not sure why that is, maybe because before I started riding and was actually living in Ridgefield at the time it was also my most favorite place to run and XC Ski. Bennetts has tremendous potential, especially when you throw in Pine Mountain State Forest and neighboring Ridgefield Open Space, the combined lands have epic riding potential.

It seems though this idyllic setting has attracted downhillers who have taken it upon themselves to build illegal obstacles and possibly threaten mountain biking access to the Ridgefield Open Space portion of Bennetts Pond. This message was recently passed to me:

In regard to our phone conservation regarding bike damage in Hemlock Hills, I'd appreciate it if you could notify mountain bikers to be on the lookout for kids who are damaging a trail in Hemlock Hills (adjacent to Pine Mountain) by installing jumps and apparently otherwise damaging the trail. I haven't seen the extent of the damage myself, but it has been reported by one of our volunteer rangers there. This is on an unmarked trail between the red trail leading to Pine Mountain from Lake Windwing, and the blue trail in Hemlock Hills. We had a similar problem last year on the red trail and had to remove 2 large jumps. If this kind of activity can't be controlled, we might have to close the area to mountain bikes, and I really don't want to do that.
It just so happens that the network of mountain bikers that I am building in this area have already been proactive by nipping this issue in the bud. I received confirmation this evening that the matter has been taken care of. The same problem was happening at Naugatuck State Forest last year in Hamden/Cheshire. In this case we got the word out via the web and it appears that the illegal stunt construction and trail blazing has ceased.

This is a prime example of where the riding community has to set the example of good trail stewardship. Otherwise these activities by those who are inconsiderate of other people's property and land use policy could prohibit our sport from popular riding areas in the future. Remember the motto of NEMBA: Ride the Trails; Save the Trails. When this motto was first developed it's intension was probably promoting trail riding and trail maintenance. Today, we have to take it a step further and get the message out to the general population that our efforts benefit the trails and we can make a difference.

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