Magazine looks at bikes in wilderness

THE WEST– Should mountain bikes be allowed in wilderness areas? That’s a sore point among both wheeled and nonwheeled advocates of wild places, and one that Wild Earth (Spring 2003) addressed in a half dozen essays.

By all accounts, there’s a “natural affinity between the mountain bike and the mainstream environmental communities,” says Jim Hasenauer, a professor from California who has served on the International Mountain Bicycling Association’s Board of Directors since 1988. But the ban on mountain bikes in designated federal wilderness has so annoyed many mountain bike organizations that they see the conservation community as an enemy. Some, siding with the motorized group, the Blue Ribbon Coalition, accuse the “environmental industry” of “locking out citizens from their lands.”

Part of the debate tilts on whether the Wilderness Act of 1964 specifically excludes mountain bikes. Hasenauer concedes the law bans “mechanized transport,” but he argues that this was defined in 1964 as “propelled by a nonliving power source.” Doug Scott, a wilderness historian as well as lobbyist for several conservation groups, disagrees. He points out that the plain language of the law separately prohibits both “motorized” and “mechanical,” suggesting the two are not the same.

Also disputed is the erosion caused by mountain bikes. Some bicycle riders contend their impacts are no greater than hikers. But Dave Foreman, publisher of the magazine and chairman of the Wildlands Project, says that argument defies visual evidence and common sense. “The basic difference between feet and tires is that tire tracks are continuous and foot tracks are discontinuous. Water finds that narrow, continuous tire tracks are a rill in which to flow. Also, because many mountain bikers are after thrills and speed, their tires cut into the ground.”

Foreman concedes that trails engineered for mountain bikes have minimal damage but asks how many trails meet such standards. “Moreover, I regularly see mountain bikers cutting off cross-country, even on steep slopes, for more of a challenge. They seem blind and deaf to the damage they cause.” Most bicyclists don’t go into the backcountry for contemplation or to experience self-willed land, he adds. “They want an outdoor gymnasium. They’re after speed and thrills.”

Dog rules come to Winter Park

WINTER PARK, Colo. – In comparison to most resort valleys, Winter Park and the Fraser Valley are about as gussied up as a pair of rumpled Dockers. But changes are afoot – the first $1 million home has been completed, a recreation center is being built, and now there are even poop-bag dispensers for dogs.

This is, says Harry Williamson, editor of the Winter Park Manifest, (July 30), evidence that life is changing – perhaps for the worse. “Not only are city folks taking over,” he says, “they are bringing their damn, prissy dog manners with them. City mores are becoming the norm in Winter Park and the Fraser Valley.”

Although Williamson has been a consistently vocal supporter of the Intrawest development at Winter Park, he says the days of dogs in the back of pickups, big-slobbering dogs on hiking trails and construction sites rife with dogs will soon be gone.

Idaho down-valley towns booming

WOOD RIVER VALLEY, Idaho –The two principle towns downvalley from Sun Valley and Ketchum were among the fastest growing in Idaho during the first two years of the millennium. Hailey’s population grew 12 percent, to more than 7,000. Bellevue grew 6.5 percent, to more than 2,000 residents.

The growth in Hailey is due more to redevelopment. Applications for single-family-home permits have actually fallen off. “The trend in Hailey is going to remodels, partly for lack of lots,” said Gene Seymur, who directs a building trades group. However, commercial building is reported to be going “haywire.”

The Idaho Mountain Express (July 16) suggests that a host of problems, including some testy traffic issues, can be traced to bad or nonexistent land-use planning, which resulted in an absence of affordable housing in Sun Valley and Ketchum.

Mountain bikers flood Whistler Mtn.

WHISTLER, B.C. – The Whistler Mountain Bike Park one day this summer recorded 1,115 riders, not including downhill competitors, which Pique newsmagazine (July 19) says is clear evidence of the viability of mountain bike tourism. While the Whistler Summer Gravity Festival was the draw, mountain biking seems to have a steady presence at the resort. One local group, the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association, has 1,000 members.

Study confirms lynx in Yellowstone

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. – Genetic testing has confirmed the presence of a Canada lynx and her kitten in Yellowstone National Park. This news surprised National Park Service biologists, who feared the species might be extirpated, or no longer living, in Yellowstone. Nearby, in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, biologists monitored a small population of lynx during the late 1990s, but that population seems to have disappeared.

Bears force hikers into groups of six

BANFF, Alberta – Recently a grizzly bear followed 20 meters behind a woman who was hiking in the Larch Valley region of Banff National Park. After shadowing her for about 20 minutes, the bear backed off, and she joined another group of hikers. She was, of course, frightened.

But as a consequence, Parks Canada has mandated that hikers in certain areas of the national park hike in groups of at least six people, and horse riders in one valley must be at least in tandems. Such restricted access has been tried for several years as a way of providing maximum public safety while minimizing how much bears get habituated to people. Once habituated, they usually become more bold around people. As is, park officials fret that the bear population is perilously small, given that a certain population threshold is needed to ensure reproduction.

Republican groups gather in Aspen

ASPEN, Colo. – Somebody must not have been told that Vail is for Republicans, Aspen for Democrats. During August, two GOP factions were to meet in Aspen. One was the Republican Pro-Choice Coalition and the other Empower American, described by The Aspen Times (July 31) as an ultraconservative group. The newspaper didn’t say, but Aspen and surrounding Pitkin County are among Colorado’s most reliably Democratic precincts.

Hungarian woman feels U.S. blues

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. – Is America the promised land? Apparently it wasn’t for one Hungarian woman who basically destroyed the apartment near Silverthorne where she had been staying.

Kitchen drawers were emptied on the floor, the glass-topped kitchen table was broken and the microwave destroyed. The woman was found in a bedroom, two kitchen knives nearby.

Through a translator, the woman told sheriff’s deputies she was angry at not having been paid and also a bit homesick. Asking if immigration authorities would be contacted, she seemed to be happy when told that they would, reports The Summit County Independent (July 29).

Aspen’s first Olympian dies at age 67

ASPEN, Colo. – Aspen was eulogizing its first Olympian, Max Marolt, who died of a heart attack while skiing at Las Lenas, Argentina. He was 67.

Roger, one of his sons, said: “The shadows of Aspen Mountain will seem a bit longer now. But if heaven is anything it’s cracked up to be, you can bet that Max is taking a couple of runs today.”

A native of Aspen, Max Marolt joined the U.S. Ski Team in 1954, and after a daring run at the FIS Championships in 1958, he was invited to represent the United States at the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley. Although he didn’t fare as well there as he had hoped, finishing 15th in the downhill and giant slalom, says the Aspen Times (July 28), he paved the way for dozens of locals with dreams of gold medals. Among them was his younger brother, Bill Marolt, who competed at the 1964 Winter Games.

Following a massive heart attack in 1975, he resolved to quit smoking, drinking and working so hard, which included being a county commissioner. However, he didn’t give up politics altogether. In 1995, he was elected to the Aspen City Council. Marolt is to be inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame this autumn.

-compiled by Allen Best





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