The following is a letter from New England Mountain Bike Association/Greater Boston president Adam Glick:
For over a year, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) has been conducting a fair and open process designed to improve the Trails Policy at the Middlesex Fells. The New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) has been an actively participating stakeholder in this process along with other invited stakeholder groups, such as the Friends of the Fells, Massachusetts Audubon and the Appalachian Mountain Club.
NEMBA strongly supports DCR and the Trail Policy planning process. Thousands of hours have been invested in it at all levels. It has been transparent, inclusionary of all stakeholders and designed to both protect the resources of the Fells and the recreational needs of the Fells’ user groups – as DCR is required to do by law.
DCR held a stakeholders meeting in Tuesday, May 6 to update constituent groups on the status of the draft plan. The draft plan reduces habitat fragmentation by eliminating redundancy in trails, it seeks to address the issue of user conflict and includes many hiking only trails.
One focus of this plan was to correct a decades old inequity that severely restricted mountain bike access in the park. The Middlesex Fells Reservation is the only park in the DCR system that does not provide equitable access to singletrack trails for mountain bikers. While the draft plan falls short of providing this access it does take steps in the right direction by making some trails shared-use. The Friends of the Fells organization is unhappy with this recommendation. They do not like the fact that ANY trails are being changed to shared-use.
Rather than participate in a constructive way they have chosen to subvert and obstruct the DCR process and demand that a full Resource Management Plan (RMP) be performed – a process which will take years and significant investment in time and money. They are using extremist language to argue that the process the DCR has chosen is illegitimate and have defied the rules and guidelines put in place by DCR as part of the planning process.
NEMBA believes in conservation. We perform thousands of man-hours of volunteer trail work on shared-use trails annually across the state of Massachusetts. The Middlesex Fells is a high-use, urban park. It is used for recreation by many different types of users every day. It will always need active, hands-on maintenance by its stakeholders - in concert with DCR - to keep it in good shape. It needs this work now. Postponing this work, as the Friends of the Fells are effectively doing by demanding a full RMP, harms the Fells.
DCR’s approach is pragmatic, reasonable (and consistent with an overall RMP): start with trails. Engage and take advantage of stakeholders like NEMBA and AMC who can bring their large volume of trail conservation expertise and many trained volunteers, as part of the solution.
NEMBA has clearly demonstrated our willingness to collaborate with DCR and stakeholders in the Fells who can be trusted to play by the rules and who have the park’s (and its users) best interests at heart. We hope that the Friends of the Fells can choose the path of being positive, constructive participants in this planning. We urge DCR to continue with the Trails Policy planning process and see it to its fruition.