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Forest service to shut down mountain bike courses

Gregory Crofton, [email protected]
September 16, 2004

The U.S. Forest Service this week shut down two mountain bike trails on Kingsbury Grade that are steep, fitted with jumps and platforms, but are near creeks and allegedly damaging water quality.

One trail is known as "Jackie Chan." It is located near Burke Creek, north of Kingsbury Grade, and is about 1.5 miles long. The other trail - sections of it are called "Axle's" and "King's" - is on the Nevada side of Heavenly Mountain Resort and runs east near Daggett Creek. It also runs about 1.5 miles.

"The level of damage to resources has become out of control; we can't stand by and let it happen," said Garrett Villanueva, civil engineer and trail planner for the Forest Service. "It's gone over that threshold from not so bad to pretty serious impacts to water quality."

The trails are on land managed by the Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and private property. Both were used mainly by riders with mountain bikes that have suspension similar to motorcycles, according to Garrett Villanueva, a trails expert at the Forest Service.

It is illegal to construct a trail or build structures on national forest land without permission from the agency. Staff at the Forest Service said it works to maintain a system of established trails that provide proper access and minimize impacts to soil and water quality.

"People using (the trails) constructed a lot of features out of sticks and two-by-fours," Villanueva said. "Constructing structures on national forest - that really crosses the line. You can't build stuff on national forest land without permission."

The Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit is working on a new master plan to be completed by 2007 and said it encourages mountain bikers to get involved in the process.

The agency also said that it has considered building or managing an area that would provide more technical mountain biking, but the task would be difficult because steep trails cost more to build and require intense maintenance.

"We're open to providing that kind of opportunity," Villanueva said. "But it's going to take some time and require some patience so it can be done correctly."

The Forest Service said it posted closed signs for both trails and it has law enforcement officers patrolling both areas. A ticket can mean a fine of up to $5,000.

- Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at [email protected]

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