Mountain bikers scored an access victory last month when the National Park Service agreed to explore opening the long off-limits national park system to knobby tires.
riders won’t be hitting singletrack in Yellowstone or
Yosemite anytime soon, says International Mountain Biking
Association spokesman Mark Eller. The association signed a
five-year deal with the Park Service, which plans to identify two
pilot sites by next year. The sites will be on access roads
currently closed to the public, says Park Service spokesman Al
Five national parks already allow some mountain
biking. Still, the mountain bike association is counting the
agreement as a national coup. "It’s coming from on high from
the Park Service," says Eller. "It’s a doorway opening."
The 32,000-member association is notorious for its push
to allow bikes into wilderness areas, despite their prohibition
under the 1964 Wilderness Act. The association has also led a
campaign opposing new wilderness protection on lands already
crisscrossed by bike trails (HCN, 11/22/04: Freewheeling Wilderness
Proposal Irks Purists).
Not surprisingly, the recent
agreement has raised eyebrows among conservationists. George
Barnes, advisor to the Sierra Club’s recreation issues
committee, worries that once mountain bikers are allowed into the
parks, they’ll fight wilderness designation for the 27.5
million acres of proposed wilderness within the parks system.
He might be right. While the International Mountain
Biking Association doesn’t oppose existing wilderness, Eller
is optimistic about new access: "We think a lot of those areas (in
national parks) that are being looked at for wilderness areas could
benefit from looking at other designations."