Thursday, April 4

When Preservation Goes Too Far

The lone mountain biker can move through the forest so fast and so quietly that you hardly knew he passed. Like the shadow of a lone high cloud skimming over the land, he is like a ghost, his passing not noticed. One moment he comes barreling out of the sun-dappled tunnel through the undergrowth and the next he is gone on down the trail and fades into the forest.

There are so many sublime things I love about riding my bike on lonely roads or far-flung trails. The strongest one is that I love to cover a lot of ground under my own power. I like the feeling of having miles and miles behind me, of having reached a far destination through a journey of inches hard won.

When I lived in Slade, Kentucky many years ago I rode the ole Cannonball a lot because my car was undependable. I rode for utility, but also when I felt trapped in my apartment I would get out on the bike and ride to get away from reality and to clear my head. I had a loop I liked to do from Slade that started in the Middle Fork (of the Red River) valley and climbed over Big Bend ridge where it followed the Sheltowee Trace to the southern boundary of Natural Bridge State Park and then descended into the South Fork drainage down a steep and rocky, semi-technical two track road.

It was on that steep and rocky descent that I first felt like I was mountain biking for real. I enjoyed bombing down that road, fighting the pull of gravity as I also used it, laser focused on not crashing out, with a big ole grin on my face that no one else would ever see…

So when we moved back one of the top items on my biking tick list was to go and ride that hill again; except…I wanted to ride UP the hill and see what kind of mountain biker I’ve become. I didn’t go right away because we moved back during winter (aka, the Season of Mud), but I began hearing snippets of rumors that the Forest Service had “destroyed” the road.

Yesterday I saw a YouTube video posted by local icon Tom Martin concerning the destruction of the road by public land managers. I agree with Mr. Martin in his estimation that the USFS and the State Park has created more ecological damage and has perpetuated more human caused junk being left lying about the woods than all of the recreational trail users combined.

Powell County Judge/Executive James Anderson has been fired up about the closure of the road that he considers a County road. 

In fact, Judge Anderson is so fired up he's taken matters into his own hands. He recently had County road crews open the road back up. The next morning the Forest Service had once again closed the road by digging a massive ecologically friendly tank trap across the road.

Here's what should have happened ten years ago after the Jeep Jamboree organizers did their own excavating on the road: the FS should have shut down the organized ride and AT THE VERY MOST restricted vehicular traffic temporarily.

I've complained before about the destruction on Spaas Creek by the off-roaders, but the FS mitigated that destruction for years by putting in barriers and by "hardening" the road surface. They just didn't keep up maintenance afterward and over time the road has degraded. They (the FS) could look at this as job security. Land managers managing the land in perpetuity? Scandalous, I know!

It seems they would rather close the publicly owned land to the public so they don't have to manage the land that is their job to manage.

They always cry there is no money, but in other parts of the country the same agency (the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service) actually does a pretty good job of managing public lands and balancing preservation (read: timber harvesting) with recreation.

It seems there is a cultural dysfunction within the Daniel Boone National Forest. More specifically, there is a cultural apathy within the Cumberland Ranger District (formerly the Stanton Ranger District) of the DBNF. Other parts of the Forest are managed much more sensibly.

The whole situation is truly appalling.

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