Here are the events of the night from my perspective…
I left work early Tuesday so I could get to the meeting early to speak with others and of course, in case I got lost…Well, I went to the wrong area, but I was only 2 miles away thank goodness, so I turned around and arrived still with plenty of time.
I saw Jonathan Kay and Steve Messer already there. Jonathan sits on board of the SoCal High School League and Steve is our CORBA President. Others started arriving and it sure was great to see all these familiar faces and some new ones as well. 3 of the Specialized reps came to see what was going and sat right in the front row. It was noted and much appreciated.
None of us previously had been given an agenda or any rules, no clue how long we got to speak, so we really didn't know what to expect, yet one thing we DID know was that the meeting was to be chaired by Terry Kaiser, who is the President of the California Trails Users Coalition, a multi use advocacy group whom Steve Messer has monthly meetings with.
Once we started piling into the room, we were able to write our names on paper to turn in for a spot to speak. Everyone who wanted to speak did get to speak by the end of the night as long as they put their names in, so I was grateful for that. I wanted to hear from both sides as much as possible.
The meeting got under way, Terry starting to speak, and then a few of the ladies on the advisory board took over including one from Rec & Parks. What was interesting from the beginning of the meeting to the end, I thought that Rec & Parks and any advisory board was not supposed to take sides, but to mediate and listen to the facts. This was not the case at all. They made it very clear of their hostility towards bikers. One of the advisory members even called mountain bikes “skateboards with handle bars”.
The room was packed; I am guessing maybe around 150 people, about half equestrians and half mountain bikers. The tension and sensitivity level was high as well as the rudeness while people spoke. this was only from a small group of the equestrians. The Advisory committee did nothing to stop this. Very disappointing, this never should have been allowed in a fair meeting that is conducted properly. They were equally rude to both equestrians and mountain bikers and I felt should have been escorted out of the room.
The Advisory board started off by quoting part of the lease agreement between the Army Corps and the Hansen Dam. The general plan prohibits cycling on trails as well as other motorized vehicles. They also quoted the LA City law of no mountain bikes on trails. However, Over The Hump was applying for a special permit, not asking to ride the trails there permanently; this was for 1 specific event.
Greg Flanagan, the promoter and race director for the Over The Hump Mountain Bike Race spoke 1st. Greg explained exactly what he intended to do and why permits were not issued yet. He explained that he applied in February and had met several times with the proper people and they said things were moving forward so he had no reason to think a permit would not be issued, only that it was a paperwork formality at this point. Greg explained everything, was very sincere, asked what he needed to do, what they wanted from him and even laid out in the front of the room a plot plan where the race was going to be. No one bothered to look at the plot plan and in the end; it was a mistake on all ends. There was a definite breakdown of communication between parties.
From here the advisory board just started pulling names. One of the gentlemen who stood up and spoke was also on the LA Equine Advisory board. One of the things he said was very cut and dry: “I don’t like mountain bikers”. I will leave it at that. This has been the thinking of many but NOT ALL of the equestrians. These particular equestrians who do think this way, have this picture of us all being cowboys/cowwomen/hell raisers (yes the word hell raiser was actually used by one of them last night) and bombing the trails, being disrespectful and putting their lives in danger. I heard it ALL night.
Now……there were some equestrians that had very legit concerns and were very sincere and respectful as well. The lady who made the biggest impression on me for the night had a beautiful cowgirl hat on with lots of sequins…I must get one of those….any ways…she spoke of their area of trails getting smaller and smaller and smaller. She asked for some compromise and was just as sincere as can be and also really seemed just genuinely very scared to ride her horse with bikes. She never said why the trails they could ride were dwindling, so I would really like to know. I would assume because of more housing developments. If so, this is also a huge reason both equestrians and mountain bikers need to work together, so we keep our trails. I looked around to speak with her after but she had already left. It was disappointing not being able to speak with her.
Another equestrian suggested we all pool our money, buy property so we all can ride at our own private place together. I will also leave that statement alone as well.
The environmental issue came up throughout the night. Which really puzzles me since a light horse weighs about 1000 pounds plus a rider, and a mountain bike weights about 27-30 pounds plus a rider. Mountain bikers also don’t graze on the plants and grass while we ride our bikes. I’m sure not all riders let their horses stop and graze, but my guess is some do. And if an endangered species is actually found and identified, NO ONE gets to go NEAR that trail. No bikers, no hikers and no horses.
The counter of the night for the environmental issues the equestrians attempted to argue was given by a local Hansen dam resident who lives on a horse farm and is a mountain biker, and trail runner. He explained that at any given day, he can go out on ANY trail and pick up tons of cigarette butts and beer cans/bottles. A common problem with some of the equestrians that is not talked about much since it is so detrimental to the environment. I don’t think you will ever see a mountain biker, or trail runner with a cigarette in their mouth riding or running on the trails.
The night definitely got off topic and the multi use trail issue was discussed a lot. The equestrians were concerned that if 1 mountain bike event took place, then the bikers would come back and want to ride there all the time. What they don’t understand and you won’t unless you are a mountain biker, is the trails for cycling are just awful there, flat and sandy. However, for an event, the location is very central, so the venue would work.
I would like to thank everyone that came out on a week night to support having a race at Hansen dam AND to listen to what the equestrians had to say. It is not easy standing up and speaking in front of a very sensitive and somewhat hostile room full of people. For the most part, we were all respectful while speaking our minds. I, Steve Messer and Jenny Johnson invited everyone in the room to open dialogue with us privately as well.
I hope I remember everyone’s names that spoke from the mountain bike community. If I left you out, please feel free to email me and I will add you, because we really appreciate you speaking up. I know it was difficult, because I got up and spoke as well and I was VERY nervous and had to cut my speech WAY down, so I was disappointed I was not able to say some really key things that needed to be said.
Thank you for speaking:
In closing, I remind all mountain bikers of the rules of the trails for horses:
Immediately SLOW DOWN
Greet the equestrian with a great big friendly smile!
Ask how or when to pass safely. Offer to get off your bike.
Pass SLOWLY and steadily, but ONLY after the equestrian gives you the go ahead.
Both GGR & CORBA educate our members on trail etiquette during rides, events and skills clinics all the time. If you don’t already ride with a bell on your bike or your pack, this is another way to let trail users know you are on the trail as well if they can’t see you. You can purchase bells on both GGR & the CORBA site.
You can find the trail etiquette for multi use trails relative to hikers, equestrian and bikers on the both the GGR & CORBA websites here:
GGR Girl Wendy E