Almanac

Viewpoint - April 5, 2006

Editorial: Bikers deserve a trail

The San Mateo County Parks and Recreation Department is in the middle of a nasty dispute pitting hikers and equestrians against bicyclists over the use of trails in Huddart Park, just up the hill from Woodside.

Nearly 400 people representing these groups met last month at a packed public hearing to decide if mountain bikers would be given the green light to use a proposed Valley-to-Skyline trail through the park. The proposed trail has become a lightning rod for mountain bike critics, particularly equestrians, who showed up in droves at the hearing to oppose any park access for the bikers, who they say terrorize hikers and scare their horses.

The county Parks and Recreation Commission was meeting to hear comment about a draft master plan for Huddart and Wunderlich parks that includes the mountain bike trail from Woodside through Huddart and on to Skyline Boulevard. The trail would begin at the park's Greer Road entrance, continue on park roads (legal for bikes) to the main entrance on Kings Mountain Road, where it would link to a new trail south of the road along Squealer Gulch as it made its way to Skyline.

The trail is a good idea, and it would not intrude on Huddart horse trails, despite the contention of many of the 34 people who testified, who said they oppose allowing bikes in the park at all. Another 30 will speak this week when the hearing resumes in the supervisors chambers at County Center in Redwood City. At the March 22 meeting, parks director Dave Holland wisely advised the commission to sidestep the issue for now and simply adopt a new master plan without the bike trail.

That was the right move. And we support Mr. Holland's suggestion that the commission appoint a committee to study all the trails in the area before settling on the Squealer Gulch route for bikes. We hope the committee will have strong contributors from the cycling, hiking and horse-riding communities who are committed to compromise. Nothing could be worse than a committee report that excludes one group or another from its fair share of park access.

Probably the best trail solution is to separate the equestrian and bicycling groups as much as possible. Each side has totally contrary objectives when they are on the trail. Many cyclists prefer to ride in groups on single-track routes with steep elevation changes, which can propel riders downhill at 20 miles per hour or more. Equestrians like wider, more level trails and say that when they encounter speeding bikes their spooked horses can throw a rider and cause serious injury. Hikers are easier to please, but most often side with the equestrians in this argument.

Into this volatile mix, toss the town of Woodside, whose Town Council voted to formerly oppose any new trailhead at the park's Greer Road entrance, due to lack of facilities. Woodside already suffers from a huge influx of road bikers, who clog streets and have been known to disobey traffic signs when they visit the town on their weekend rides.

But like it or not, Woodside sits at the confluence of some of the best cycling roads and trails on the Peninsula. The challenge for a blue ribbon trails committee will be to find a balance, so each user group gains a fair share of access to Huddart and a Valley-to-Skyline trail.

We sympathize with horse riders who say they find rogue cyclists on trails that are off limits to bikes, which can put equestrians in a very dangerous situation. But enforcement is up to park rangers and the bike community. As Mr. Holland suggests, the county should strongly consider opening an off-road bike route south of the park. It would give cyclists a route to Skyline from the main Huddart entrance and Kings Mountain Road, and access to park roads if they wanted to reach the valley floor.

Huddart access for equestrians wouldn't change, and the new Squealer Gulch trail should keep rogue bike riders off the park's horse trails.

Somehow, the county parks system needs to provide opportunities to all user groups, even if it means adjusting access for some. And horse riders have to understand that all cyclists are not outlaws, just as cyclists must understand that all equestrians are not demanding exclusive rights to all of Huddart Park.

Comments

Posted by Jim Sullivan, a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 13, 2013 at 6:43 am

Posting this 7 yrs after this article to follow up.
SMCo Parks formed a blue ribbon committee comprised of hikers,mt bikers and equestrians.
After over 30 mtngs and 4+ yrs time, SMCo Parks was folded into Public Works,the blue ribbon committee was disbanded,and not 1 inch of dirt trails have been opened for bicyclists to ride from Valley to Skyline above Woodside.

Now(10/1/13) SMCo Parks is being reconstituted as a stand alone entity , I hope to see some progress in allotting some(a) dirt trails that will allow bicyclist a non auto shared route up the hill.


Posted by parent, a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Oct 13, 2013 at 10:56 am

I agree with Jim. Our kids need more outdoor opportunities. Horses are for the elite only. Bicycles are relatively cheap and a great way for kids to get exercise and enjoy nature. Please open of our San Mateo County to bicycling, especially trails that do not require lengthy drives from residential areas. Thank you.


Posted by Horsey, a resident of another community
on Oct 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm

I find it very frustrating when people write statements like "Horses are for the elite only." Wrong. Horses are for people who love horses and equestrian sports. I know many people who have horses or a horse and yet are not rich. I am firmly middle class and have a backyard horse. Some of the people who move to the rural Southcoast of SM County do so because they CAN have a backyard horse and access to trails.

I have a family member who is a public school teacher (hardly the 1%) who lives and breaths horses and riding. I have a friend who is a nurse (also hardly the 1%) whose hobby is horses and riding.

While I think that trails should be identified that are appropriate for bikes and trails that are appropriate for horses, every time I read someone state that horses are only for the rich, it completely turns me off of your argument...because you are making an ignorant, blanket statement that shows that you really have no clue about horse people. Obviously there are rich horse people (as there are also rich bicyclists) but horses are NOT just for the elite. Now that you understand that, try forming your argument differently.


Posted by jim sullivan, a resident of Woodside: other
on Oct 16, 2013 at 7:23 am

I absolutely agree w you Horsey,
The stereotyping rhetoric from all trails users needs to be left behind.
Then ,perhaps, progress can begin-continue in a meaningful direction on where a dirt trail above Woodside that bicyclists can ride from town to Skyline and beyond could be engineered-built.
I prefer to see the(TIC) similarities between Equestrians+bicyclists:

We both go for rides,
We both sit on saddles,
We both love our steeds
We both generally wear goofy outfits,
We both listen to corny music,

How can we be so far apart on all the other stuff when we have so much in common?

Respectfully ,
Jim


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