Common Ground Committee

At the 2007 California Trails and Greenways Conference a group of nine (9) individuals representing the equestrians, hikers and mountain bicyclists was charged with the task of finding “Common Ground” They were to recommend strategies and solutions to reduce “User Conflict” and report back to California State Parks. The three user groups were to be equally represented so that no group would feel disenfranchised during the evaluation process on the way to reaching consensus.

The Common Ground Task Force (Task Force) agreed the evaluation, development and recommendation process must be transparent and trail evaluation consensus must include representation from each group throughout the process. Only after each users’ needs are equally considered and the safety of park visitors guaranteed, will the escalating user conflict issues begin to be resolved..

For the past many years, the seven (7) member California Recreational Trails Advisory Committee has (CRTC) has been evaluating “User Conflict” on recreational trails, arising from the replacement of the 1945 California Riding (horse) and Hiking Trails Plan by the Recreational Trails Act of 1974. The 1974 law authorized use of non-motorized wheels on trails that formerly restricted wheeled use. The 2002 Recreational trails plan requires trail systems within a regional plan to be multi-use, but is silent on individual trails within the system. Funding of new trails is administered by State Parks. Funding is provided by the Federal Highway Administration appropriated through the current Transportation Equity Act.

The 1974 Act was not accompanied by comprehensive laws or management practices to regulate the change. It did not acknowledge that trail resources were often built as well as maintained by traditional groups. These historic trails enhanced each group’s unique experiences and provide safety for the users in those groups. The decision to allow wheeled use escalated conflict between users.

Members of the Task Force agreed that honesty and forthright discussions were needed to develop recommendations and that “quality user experiences” must first address issues of safety and resource protection. Research was begun to uncover sources beyond those available through the CRTC or IMBA. Members agreed meetings would continue, and that the group would seek out individuals from the mountain bike community that would participate based on their own individual convictions. There was consensus for the following ground rules:

  • Members of the Task Force represent themselves and their individual opinions, and are not held to the policies of an organization with which that member is affiliated.
  • Safety on trails must not be negotiatiable.
  • That impacts to the natural resources must be a consideration
  • The Task Force will not be deterred in its mission by individuals or organizations that refuse to participate.
  • The Task Force will continue to solicit members from the mountain bike community and not restrict that search to members of any club or organization.
  • The Task Force would create a website containing publications determined relevant to the issue of Recreational Conflict, not limited to trail design.
  • Conflict issues between recreational trail uses must be identified and addressed with honesty and integrity.
  • Trail user preferences can be unique to a single user group.
  • Successful solutions to resolve User Conflict need not be limited to trails.
  • The group will report on its progress and findings of consensus in writing

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