April 15, 2006


Don't Tread on ME

That's my motto when it comes to being a selfish moron about trail use. First, read this nice article about our goals here in Chattanooga:

U.S. park ranger Dennis Curry, right, leads Rachael Lopes, center, and Nat Lopes down the John Smartt Trail on Lookout Mountain. Mr. and Mrs. Lopes, members of International Mountain Bicycling Association, assessed the area for a future mountain biking trail. Staff Photo by Lido Vizzutti

Urban trailblazers
Groups want more paths near urban center
By Kathy Gilbert
Staff Writer

Chattanooga has lots of great scenery, local mountain bike enthusiasts say, but few places exist near the city to go mountain biking, hiking or horseback riding.

"There’s not much trail here," said Jeff Duncan, recreational ecologist with the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program. "But there’s a lot of mountain bikers here, a lot of trail enthusiasts."

In conjunction with area governments and state and federal agencies like the National Park Service and Tennessee Valley Authority, the Southern Off Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) has started building trails within 10 miles of downtown Chattanooga. The goal of the "Singletrack Mind" project is to build and access 100 miles of trails by 2010.

"We want to provide our residents and visitors a wide range of opportunities for hiking and biking throughout our region’s natural beauty," said Phil Pugliese, bicycle coordinator for Outdoor Chattanooga.

Outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and mountain biking are great ways to stay in shape while getting outdoors, he said. Riding a bike is one of the best exercises for the heart and lungs, according to the American Council on Exercise. Large muscles in the lower body are also strengthened and toned. For those with joint problems, biking is often a pain-free activity compared to hiking or running.

Widespread cycling produces a healthier community, said Trey Commander, president of SORBA's Chattanooga chapter. "If someone is riding a bicycle regularly," he explained, "they’ll be in better shape and you’ll see less doctor visits, less insurance expenses, and some of the community funded health care costs will go down."

Currently, mountain bikers have about 60 miles of trails available in the region. Most, though, are an hour’s drive or more from downtown. The 100-plus member SORBA-Chattanooga is trying to open trails closer to home, said Commander. "We're looking to build or open what's called 'multi-use singletrack' trails with a narrow tread, typically 2-feet wide or less," he said, adding that multi-use means open to hikers or horseback riders as well.

Commander said that on July 2, an event at Chattanooga Market called "Singletrack Outdoor Expo" will include free booth space for canoeing, hiking, equestrian and other nonprofit outdoor groups that want to join the trailbuilding effort.

"We want to have trail systems and a trail user community that sets the standard for the South and even the country," Commander said.

Two years ago the National Park Service allowed Duncan to give technical assistance to the group to develop trails locally. Since then, the NPS and SORBA reached an unprecedented agreement with the Tennessee Valley Authority to create 10 to 15 miles of singletrack trail at TVA’s Raccoon Mountain Pumped Storage Plant. A loop road circles the reservoir at the top of the mountain, and the 4,000-acre property is beautifully forested, Duncan said.

The city, through Outdoor Chattanooga, applied for and received a nearly $10,000 grant from Bikes Belong Coalition, a bicycling industry nonprofit, to build trails, Pugliese said. The money will help pay for hand tools, renting machinery to cut trails, and part of a $10,000 bridge across McNabb Gorge at the foot of the reservoir's dam.

Volunteers are needed for the trailbuilding efforts. "If we had 100 people come out and help, we could save a lot of money, reducing the cost of that bridge, and complete the overall project much sooner," Commander said.

About 8 to 10 people are currently working consistently on the Raccoon Mountain trails, said project coordinator Barry Smith. The work is hard, he said, but worthwhile. "It’s fun to explore the area, planning where the trail will go," he said. "And watching it go from nothing to turning into a trail and getting to ride it is a very rewarding experience. It’s kind of an expression, you get to do your own thing."

Email Kathy Gilbert at kgilbert@timesfreepress.com SEEKING SINGLETRACK? Booker T. Washington State Park, 4.5 miles Lula Lake Land Trust, 7 miles Tennessee Valley Authority Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant, 3 miles (so far) Source: SORBA-Chattanooga FOR MORE INFORMATION: trails@sorbachattanooga.org ; www.sorbachattanooga.org ; Outdoor Chattanooga, (423) 643-6887, ppugliese@outdoorchattanooga.com

So on the same day as the article was published SORBA received the following email from one Frank DePinto regarding mountain biking and trails (copied verbatim in case you wonder about the heinous grammar):

..below email also sent to kgilbert, bpetty and donal box (chatt. hiking
club), and bobby davenport (Land for public trust). will also email it to
State Parks and City Recreation.
..(as per article Chattanooga Times Free Press, 'Urban Trailblazers,'
article, thursday, 4/13)
..as a long time hiker i think it disgusting that mountain bikes are
destroying the physical outdoor environment, creating noise and havoc;
destroying the tranquility and spirituality of the outdoors. please mountain
bikers go build your tracks in suburban Cleveland, Red Bank or Soddy
Daisy; but please don't destroy anymore hiking trails as per photo in 'Life
Thursday' showing a sign that does not 'now' allow mountain bikes on a
hiking trail, please keep it that way; don't destroy any further hiking
trails or destroy further forests with more biking trails.
..people that need a 'gimmick,' a mountain bike, to 'enjoy' the outdoors is
a human subspecies that should keep its nose on the asphalt not in the
beautiful, scenic forests of our community, region and state.
I responded to him thusly, copying all those whom he indicated that he would notify:

Thankfully, Mr. DePinto is part of a very small minority of the trail users
community. Unfortunately, these vocal few consistently and inaccurately paint
mountain biking as “creating noise and havoc." While on my bike, interaction
with other trail users has been overwhelmingly positive and on most occasions
hikers have commented that they didn’t even hear me until I announced myself
politely from several yards away.

If the bicycle is, as Mr. DePinto states, a gimmick, well then it is unique in
its staying power, having been around for well over a century. And from which
science text could he support his contention that those who enjoy mountain
biking are a “human subspecies?” This attitude is not surprising from those who
desire to have our country's outdoor places all to themselves. This is obviously
what Mr. DePinto wants since he would gladly have Cleveland, Red Bank or
Soddy-Daisy accommodate off-road biking, presumably away from "his" neck of the

According to a participation study for 2004 by the Outdoor Industry Association,
51 million Americans rode mountain bikes that year. Those considering themselves
“enthusiasts” numbered 11.3 million - the same number as hikers who said the
same. Members of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA)
volunteer more than one million hours annually to trail work projects, often
working alongside equestrian and hiking groups. IMBA is a leader among outdoor
groups in developing sustainable trail building concepts, and prides itself on
successful partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service, National Parks Service,
Bureau of Land Management, and Army Corps of Engineers.

I started enjoying trails as a young Boy Scout through hiking and backpacking
and I continue to do so. I have volunteered hundreds of hours on trail building
projects; many on trails not open to bikes. Most mountain bikers have no desire
to see every trail open to bikes, horses and ATVs, nor do we seek to
unsustainably build trail systems throughout our wild places.

The reality is that mountain biking is a healthy, relatively low-cost and yes,
eco-friendly form of outdoor recreation that is here to stay. Mr. DePinto's
selfish interpretation of the "tranquility and spirituality of the outdoors"
notwithstanding, we need and therefore will have more trails for mountain biking
in the greater Chattanooga area.

Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association
Chattanooga chapter trails director
So the moral of the story is, when it comes to me and trails, DON'T TREAD ON ME !

When Angus was younger and we were taking long hikes through the bosque, it was just like you said... I didn't even hear the bikers coming. Hell, the Rangers were on mountain bikes. It is a lot easier to tell where the equestrians had been, than the bikers.

I agree that the guy who wrote you that letter is more selfish than spiritual.
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