East Bay Parks can reduce user conflicts through trail design

by Norman La Force, Chairman, East Bay Public Lands Committee

The East Bay Regional Park District is testing new approaches to trail management in response to growing use, plans to open new parks, and requests from specific user groups, especially mountain bike advocates. mountain, for wider access. The Sierra Club is closely monitoring this process and continues to advocate to ensure a safe, enjoyable and environmentally sustainable experience for all.

A major issue for the Sierra Club and many of our partner conservation, hiking and riding organizations is that the Park District is now systematically designing new trails that combine all park users – hikers, equestrians and mountain bikers – on the same narrow paths. This is not an issue on fire roads and wider trails, but we have heard concerns from many of our members, as well as disabled park user advocates, that this narrow approach to trails at mixed use risks increasing conflicts between different user groups in a way that is not good for anyone. It is important to note that once a trail has been opened to all users, it is extremely difficult to limit its uses down the line.

This concern applies to the Park District’s proposed trail design for the new Roddy Ranch Park in eastern Contra Costa County. This former golf course is set to become the gateway to thousands of new acres of open space in the future Deer Valley Regional Preserve, and will also provide nearby outdoor access for residents of Antioch, Brentwood and Oakley. We are excited about this new park and have proposed three small but important changes to the proposed trail plan to ensure safe and enjoyable experiences for all, including:

  1. Added a mowed five-foot shoulder to narrow trails to provide passage space for bikes moving faster than hikers or riders;
  2. Dedicate a trail to a pedestrian-only nature trail for seniors and families with young children; and
  3. Restore native oak trees, where appropriate, to support wildlife and provide shade for park users.

Eight organizations sent a letter to the Park District supporting these recommendations for Roddy Ranch, which have been endorsed by hundreds of people who have signed our petition. The Park District Board responded by making it clear to their staff that they wanted to review the design of the trail before it was finalized. Thank you to everyone who signed our petition. Your voices have been heard.

At Briones Regional Park, the park district is trying to make up for years of lax enforcement that has allowed the proliferation of wild trails, mostly created by mountain bikers. Ten years ago there were 16 miles of wild trails in Briones; Today there are more than 32 miles. These trails have resulted in habitat fragmentation and impacts on wildlife.

The Park District has proposed a pilot project in Briones to test new trail management techniques, centered around the Alhambra Creek Staging Area in Martinez. The current pilot project involves opening a number of rogue trails primarily for mountain biking, while closing or restoring other rogue trails, although the district has yet to provide budget details. or the timetable for these restoration works. The Park District also plans to test day-of-use restrictions by user group, to see if having dedicated hiker/equestrian and ATV days in the pilot area creates a more positive experience for users. trails in this popular area of ​​the park. We are currently reviewing this proposed pilot project closely with other park user groups and have strongly advocated with the park district that members of the public (especially regular users of the Briones Trail) be given the opportunity to give their opinion on the design of this pilot project. project if it is to guide future trail planning.

We continue to believe that there is a place for everyone at East Bay Parks – whether on foot, horseback, in a wheelchair, or pedaling on a bike or an adapted bike. With proper planning and commitment, we can design our parks and trails to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone, while protecting our environment. However, the Board must continue to hear from the public that mixing all trail users on the same narrow trails only leads to conflict between different types of trail users – which benefits no one. .