Friday, November 11, 2011
An open letter to Chugach State Park administrators:
For the past few winters, I have obtained a special-use permit for winter bicycling in the park, and I have complied with all related rules. As a matter of fact, I sometimes defended the use of the permits when debating with friends who felt it was unfair that winter riders were required to obtain and carry the permits when no other user groups were subjected to that burden.
Let’s work within the system, I told my friends. Let’s show park officials that winter mountain bikers can play by the rules, build relationships with land managers, and obtain full access as a user group. Apparently, I was being played for a sucker.
After several winters of demonstrating that winter cycling is virtually a zero-impact recreational activity (especially considering that current “fat bike” technology uses extra-large tires that minimize the imprint of tire tracks on snow) this year’s permit would limit our access to two trails.
Two trails. In the third-largest state park in the nation. A park of nearly half a million acres. Two.
Your e-mail announcing this year’s permits states that, “Your cooperation allows us to continue studying and supporting winter cycling.” Really? You consider this to be support for winter cycling? A more accurate statement might be, “Your cooperation allows us to continue delaying and discriminating against winter cycling.”
Why have cyclists been stripped of access to Middle Fork Trail, a favorite of winter bike riders that is perfectly suitable for this recreational use, thanks to it being routinely windblown with a hard-packed surface? And what, exactly, are you studying? I would sincerely like to know.
Winter mountain bikers are not second-class citizens and, frankly, many of us are tired of being treated as though we are. We own the park, too. We are Alaska residents and tax-paying citizens who have a right to use Chugach State Park for clean, healthy, low-impact recreation.
I will not be obtaining a special-use permit for winter cycling in the park this year. The permit system no longer has any legitimacy.