Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Shared-use Big South Fork Trail Declared a Success

A year ago the National Park Service (NPS) at Big South Fork established an experiment to determine the feasibly of granting greater mountain bike access to trails that had been traditionally designated hiking-only. Under the terms of the experiment, the park permitted mountain biking on the Grand Gap Loop Trail during the week, while the trail remained hiker-only on weekends. During the pilot program the park sought comments from the public regarding the program.

Big South Fork spokeman Steve Seven stated the pilot program was successful, noting the park had received no negative comments from hikers. The only complaints from mountain bikers was the trail was closed to mountain bike access on weekends.
Due to the success of the program the park intends to open more traditionally hiking-only trails to mountain biking on a time share basis.

The park is exploring opening an extension off from the Grand Gap Loop Trail that leads into Station Camp. If opened this could create a 16 mile loop. (13 miles of singletrack and 3 miles of forest road.)
The parks general management plan also calls for other trails to be opened on a time share basis, including portions of the John Muir and Rock Creek Trails.

If mountain bikers remain respectful and the park receives no complaints it is likely that the time share program will continue to be expanded to other trails throughout the park, possibly allowing mountain bike access to some of the traditionally hiking-only trails on weekends.

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