Archive for the ‘Santa Monica Mountains’ Category

NPS and BLM Announce E-MTB Rulemaking

Thursday, April 2nd, 2020

NPS, BLM E-bIke Rules Announced

Today, April 2, 2020, two federal agencies under the Department of the Interior announced their proposed rules governing the use of electric mountain bikes. Their publication in the Regulations.gov (expected in the coming days) will start a 60 day comment period.

The National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management were required to update their regulations to accommodate e-bikes under the Secretary of the Interior’s order 3376. That order directed agencies to create a clear and consistent e-bike policy on all federal lands managed by the Department. The rule would also support Secretary’s Order 3366, to increase recreational opportunities on federal lands.

“The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposes to amend its off-road vehicle regulations at 43 CFR part 8340 to add a definition for electric bikes (e-bikes) and, where certain criteria are met and an authorized officer expressly determines through a formal decision that e-bikes should be treated the same as non-motorized bicycles, expressly exempt those e-bikes from the definition of off-road vehicles.”

In our initial reading of the BLM’s draft rule and the NPS draft rule, there are few surprises.  They generally encourage local unit managers to allow electric bikes, used only in pedal-assist mode, to be ridden anywhere bicycles are allowed.  They allow local unit Superintendents to open or close trails to e-bikes on a case-by-case basis, with the preference being open.

“The proposed rule would direct authorized officers to generally allow, through subsequent decision-making, Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes whose motorized features are being used as an assist to human propulsion on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed, where appropriate. The authorization for Class 1, 2, and 3 e-bikes whose motorized features are being used as an assist to human propulsion to be used on roads and trails upon which mechanized, non-motorized use is allowed, would be included in a land-use planning or implementation-level decision.”

The proposed rules define and allow for the use of class 1, 2 and 3 e-bikes, much the same as the classes enacted in California state legislation AB1096. Similar classes have been advocated for around the country by People for Bikes and the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association (who have now merged).

The rule removes electric bikes–only while ridden in pedal-assist mode for Class 2 and 3–from the classification of OHV or motorized vehicle.  Presumably then a Class 2 or 3 e-bike ridden without pedaling and by throttle control is still considered motorized, though this isn’t explicitly stated.

The BLM and National Park Service rules have not yet been published on Regulations.gov, which will start their 60 day comment period. Once published in the coming days, to provide your own comments go to regulations.gov, search for: NPS Rule RIN 1024-AE61, or the BLM rule: RIN 1004-AE72. Follow the instructions there to provide your comments. They request information from the public on the potential social and physical impacts of e-bike use on public lands, and will give much more weight to “substantive” comments citing studies, legislation, reports, or other items of substance.

In CORBA’s territory we don’t have US Fish and Wildlife Service lands, but that agency is also updating their e-mtb rules. Their draft rules will be available for comment under Docket Number: FWS-HQ-MB-2019-0109, also from regulations.gov.

Once we’ve had a chance to review the NPS and BLM rules and discuss it with our members and MTB advocacy groups, we’ll post our analysis and our comments for review.

In the meantime, we encourage everyone interested to weigh in with your own comments.

 

 

Pedaling through a Pandemic

Monday, March 23rd, 2020
Cheney trail, one mile from the trailhead

Illegal overflow parking 1.1 miles from the Sunset Ridge trailhead yesterday.

These are unprecedented times. We’ve all been constantly bombarded with reminders to avoid social contacts, maintain social distancing, and shelter at home. Those orders came with the caveat that it’s OK to get outside and get exercise, as long as that can be done while maintaining appropriate social distances.

This past weekend was the first under the “Safer at Home” orders currently in effect for Los Angeles city and County.  I feel very much at home on a trail, as do most of you. The instructions to shelter at home and only leave for exercise or to provide or access essential services, sounded to me like an invitation and a perfect reason to hit a local trail. It sounded like an invitation to the entire community.

This led to some serious crowding on our local trails this past weekend.  It is impossible to maintain appropriate social distancing, which includes physically separating individuals by at least six feet, on a two-way trail less than four feet in width. Trails are social, and many groups were seen heading out together onto trails. Many trailhead and park parking lots were closed, but this didn’t stop people from parking outside established parking lots, often illegally, and accessing the trails anyway.

Since it seems the public are unable or unwilling to recreate in a way that maintains social distancing, we recommend avoiding all singletrack trails. In fact, as of Saturday, March 28, all trails in Los Angeles County are closed, with the exception of trails on federal land in the Angeles National Forest which remain open. The following official closures are now in effect (subject to change):

  • All organized club rides, races and events have been canceled.
  • Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/MRCA have closed all their parks and trails to the public.
  • LA County has closed all County trails and parks to the public, including the Pinecrest gate access to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road.
  • La Canada Flintridge have closed all their trails, including Cherry Canyon.
  • City of Monrovia has closed the Hillside Wilderness Preserve and all trails.
  • State Parks have closed all park and trailhead parking lots and facilities such as bathrooms and visitor centers at Malibu Creek State Park, Topanga State Park, Will Rogers State Park, and Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook
  • The National Park Service has closed all park and trailhead parking lots and facilities such as bathrooms and visitor centers in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Soltice Canyon in Malibu is closed to all entry. NPS Trails will be closed from 2pm Fridays to 6am Mondays until further notice.
  • The Forest Service has closed all campgrounds, visitor centers and developed recreation sites, throughout Region 5 (California).
  • LA County DPW have closed Big Dalton Canyon Road, Glendora Mountain Road (north of Big Dalton Rd to East Fork Rd) and Glendora Ridge Road (Glendora Mountain Rd to Mt. Baldy Rd). These roads will remain closed until the emergency order is lifted.
  • City of Glendale has closed all park, trails and fire roads including the Catalina Verdugo trail and trails in Deukmejian Wilderness Park and the Verdugo Mountains.
  • The City of Los Angeles has closed all parks, trails, skate parks, and public amenities, including Griffith Park and all beaches.
  • The City of Palos Verdes has closed all parks, trails, and open spaces.
  • Conejo Open Space Conservation Authority has closed all parks, trails and open spaces in their jurisdiction.
  • The City of Pasadena has closed the Rose Bowl Loop
  • The Forest Service has closed many trails, campgrounds, trailheads and recreation facilities as listed on their forest order.

It isn’t just mountain biking trails that are affected. The City of Santa Monica and County of Los Angeles have closed all beach parking lots. Portions of the Marvin Braude Bike Path around Venice and Santa Monica have been closed. The Ballona Creek bikeway, and LA River Bikeway and other County bike paths have been closed. The Pacific Crest Trail Association has alerted all through-hikers to cancel their 2020 plans.

While we understand everyone’s need to get out and exercise, enjoy our cleaner air and reduced road traffic, your health and the health of everyone in our community takes priority.  If trails continue to be crowded, we can expect more trail and park closures, over and above the closures already in effect.  We strongly advise adhering to official guidance from State and County public health departments, and/or the land managers themselves, though it can be difficult to decipher:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) https://tinyurl.com/tllxvcc

California Department of Public Health (CDPH) https://tinyurl.com/uw57yjx

Ventura County Health Care Agency http://www.vchca.org/agency-divisions/public-health

Los Angeles County Public Health http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/media/Coronavirus

While it’s now recommended just to stay at home or ride the streets near your home, if you choose to ride any of the few trails still open, here are some general guidelines:

  • Stay home if you’re sick. Period. It goes without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway – if you’re sick, or you’ve been in contact with somebody who is, you need to stay home.
  • Only ride open trails from open trailheads.  Agencies are monitoring the crowds on trails, and some trails (including all Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy trails) are now closed to all users. If we can’t maintain social distancing on trails, expect more closures. Check with the agencies if you’re not sure.
  • Maintain your distance. AT ALL TIMES maintain the safe, responsible social distance we’ve all come to know – keep 2-3 bike lengths between riders, on the trail and off the trail.  Don’t fist bump, etc., rather stick to air-fives and sharing content online. Allow ample passing room for other trail users. Ride only with your housemates/family, or those with whom you already have close physical contact. 
  • Find a lesser-used used trailhead. People are heading out in record numbers.  If you’re fortunate enough to know of more remote, lesser-used trailheads, please plan your ride so that you start there. Refrain from driving to trailheads wherever possible.
  • Ride to your ride.  If you are able to ride to a trailhead, do so.  Keep the cars off the road, out of the gas stations, and away from congested areas.  Balance this with avoiding crowded trailheads.
  • Slow it down.  Now is not the time to push your riding skills.  The last thing you or the rest of the community wants right now is for a rider to wreck and end up in a hospital, adding more strain on our EMS system and taking up valuable resources.  Plus, you’ll also be able to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors for a longer period of time if you slow your roll.
  • Take care of business before heading out.  Many public restrooms are closed – make every effort to make sure nature doesn’t call while out on the trail.
  • No snot rockets.  We get it, and usually we accept it – but if you need to blow your nose, use a hanky.  If you do need to sneeze, do it into your elbow.
  • No sharing.  Now is not the time to share gear, food, drinks, or tools.  Sorry. If you have a mechanical issue, sanitize tools and gear before sharing and again before taking it back.
  • Protect yourself.  Bring a small “to go” packet of hand wipes, disinfectant spray, and maybe even some soap to use with your own water.  Hopefully you won’t need this, but just in case you do it’s better to have it than not.

With all this in mind, think before you ride, keep it local, and don’t put yourself or others at risk. All of this will pass, and we’ll be planning group rides and trailwork events again soon.

 

Edit: Updated 3/23/2020 at 3:00 pm to reflect additional road closures.
Updated 3/23/2020 at 8:00 pm to reflect Cherry Canyon closures.
Updated 3/25/2020 to reflect City of Glendale closures
Updated 3/27/2020 to reflect City of Los Angeles and Palos Verdes closures
Updated 3/28/2020 to reflect COSCA closures
Updated 4/3/2020 to reflect Forest Service and Big Dalton closures

 

 

 

 

 

Dead Cow Trail Closed by NPS

Saturday, March 7th, 2020
Dead Cow Trail, 2017

Dead Cow Trail (pre-Woolsey Fire)

The National Park Service has closed Dead Cow trail in the Cheseboro area of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The trail runs between Paolo Comado and Sheep’s Corral. They also closed an illegally constructed trail in the vicinity, which had its own safety concerns and negative impacts to the area.

Dead Cow has been gradually degrading over the years, making it one of the more technical trails on National Park Service land. It is also in dire need of maintenance and safety improvements. When an uptick in injuries and accidents was seen over the last year, NPS rangers attention was drawn to the area. They inspected Dead Cow trail and discovered the unauthorized trail in the vicinity.

This closure is the direct result of a few rogue mountain bikers, who, without concern for the impact of their actions or its repercussions for the mountain biking community, illegally constructed a trail in the vicinity of Dead Cow. This took place as nearby neighborhoods were still in recovery from the Woolsey fire, and the area’s chaparral was especially vulnerable post-fire.

We condemn this action, and cannot condone any rogue or illegal trail construction on public land. It affects our ability to ask for new trails, and hurts both our image and our relationship with land managers.

CORBA has reached out to the National Park Service, with offers to help inform the public of the closure, and to help do needed maintenance on Dead Cow trail. The areas impacted by the illegal trail will also need rehabilitation and restoration.

The closure stands until further notice, and people who ignore the closure are subject to citation. For mountain bikers who desire jumps, berms and other park-like features, join our Dirt Church maintenance at Sapwi Bike Park every Sunday morning, and help us get to stage 3, with expert jump lines and other features.

Please stay off Dead Cow trail, and spread the word.  Watch for upcoming volunteer work days in the area.

February Skills Clinic photos posted February 3rd

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

On a sunny and warm day, we had a large turnout of 15 participants who were eager to learn (or brush up on) the basic skills of mountain biking.

The Basic Skills Clinic is always held the first Saturday of the month at Malibu Creek State Park.

You can see the photos in our February photo gallery.

SMMNRA Visitor Survey Results Released

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

This week UCLA’s Luskin Center for Innovation published the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Visitor Survey results. This new report builds upon previous visitor surveys and user counts, conducted in 2002. The data are needed to help guide management of the SMMNRA. A Briefing on Diverse Park User needs is also available.

Of specific interest to mountain bikers, is that this data will be used to inform and refine the ongoing Santa Monica Mountains Interagency Trail Management Plan development, which will help guide the respective agencies’ management of existing trails and construction of new trails. The Trail Management Planning process began in 1998. You read that correctly, 1998.

CORBA has for years been advocating for a change in use of trail designation in State Parks, where mountain bikers have the least singletrack trail access relative to the trail miles available to hikers and equestrians. CORBA has a list of trails we’ve formally requested to undergo a change in use. The State’s own policy requires them to respond to these requests. These changes are needed to improve connectivity, decrease congestion on some crowded trails, and further disperse recreational cycling. Our change in use requests date back to the 1990s, and not a single trail has undergone a change in use in that time.

California State Parks underwent a multi-year, multi-million dollar Programmatic Environmental Impact Report to supposedly streamline the change in use process. So far, the only outcome of that study was to retrofit the Tapia Spur trail–which was already open to bicycles–with pinch points, implemented so poorly that all but expert cyclists have to dismount to negotiate some of them.

State Parks have told us to wait for the Trail Management Plan to be completed, which will supposedly identify trails suitable for a change in use to allow bicycles. They have been telling us that for more than 15 years.

While we welcome the report, the surveyors acknowledge that cyclists and equestrians were the least likely to stop and take a survey. The report states that mountain bikers were the 3rd most observed user type in the visitor count, at only 7.7% of visitors. It’s important to note that the survey is of park visitors, not necessarily trail users. It includes respondents who were not necessarily there for trails, but were counted as hikers since they were on foot.

Due to this, and since the survey sites included many trails not open to bicycles, the results seem skewed to undercount cyclists. Any mountain biker or gravel grinder can attest that on trails where bicycles are permitted, bicyclists account for much more than the 7.7% of users reported in the survey. The report states that mountain biking participation has decreased from the 2002 survey. We know this is not true.

It isn’t surprising that 75% of mountain bikers who took the survey were male. That’s an improvement over the 86% male participation in 2002, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

Another important aspect of the survey are the demographics of park visitors. The data highlight social inequities in who has access to the park. The survey acknowledges LA County’s Park Needs Assessment, and corroborates some of that study’s findings. A majority of visitors were higher income, caucasian, educated, and english-speaking. It’s clear that the economically disadvantaged, and non-english speaking populations are far less likely to visit the National Recreation Area, and have a more difficult time doing so. They travelled further, and spent more time to get there.

CORBA’s Youth Adventures program is one way that we are helping to counter that inequity. About twice per month, at-risk youth who would otherwise have no access to the National Recreation Area are taken on a guided interpretive mountain bike ride.

The release of the survey results is an important step forward. Even with it’s acknowledged flaws and perceived inaccuracies, it is needed to guide all park infrastructure development, not just trails. For that we must continue to wait for the Interagency Travel Management Plan. After 22 years we’re hoping to see that plan sometime this decade.

Happy New Decade! A 20-Teens Retrospective

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

CORBA has a lot to be proud of this last ten years. It feels like the twenty-teens was the decade in which mountain biking really came of age. The sport has grown and we’ve seen tremendous changes and challenges. Mountain bikers are no longer a newcomer to the trails, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

There’s no denying the explosive growth of mountain biking last decade. We’ve all seen more people on trails, and more of them on bikes than ever before. I’ve met more riders with less than five years experience than in any five-year period before the last. Conversely, we’ve seen relatively few new trails constructed in that time. The trail supply is not keeping up with the demand here in Southern California. The agencies and volunteers can’t keep up with maintenance of the supply we already have. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed in ten years, and has gotten worse with agency budget cuts and increasingly severe weather. It’s why we ask you to come out and give a morning back to the trails once or twice a year. You’ll appreciate them so much more after a morning of trailwork.

Let’s take a long look back at what has changed and been accomplished last decade.

(more…)

Summary of Backbone Trail restoration held on November 16, 2019

Sunday, November 17th, 2019

The Backbone Trail between Mulholland Hwy and Etz Meloy Mtwy saw about 20 volunteers from CORBA and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council on Saturday to prepare the trail for upcoming winter rains. The area had burned during the Woolsey Fire a year ago that consumed all the chaparral on the hillside, and there was no brush overgrowing the trail. We focused on building rock retaining walls to support the outside of the trail where water would flow down from above and cross the trail. We also cleaned out drains that had been silted up.

CSUCI students clean out a drain at a switchback.

Three first-time volunteers from CalState Channel Islands joined the CORBA crew in building rock walls and digging out drains. They did a great job!

Thanks to all the volunteers who came out to help. You can view more photos in our photo gallery of this event.

November Skills Clinic photos posted November 4th

Monday, November 4th, 2019

There were only four participants in this month’s Skills Clinic on a very chilly day in the park.

The Basic Skills Clinic is always held the first Saturday of the month at Malibu Creek State Park.

You can see the photos in our November photo gallery.

Fall Volunteer Trailwork Opportunities – Santa Monica Mountains

Saturday, October 5th, 2019

As a trail enthusiast, we hope you’ll be able to help us out during our fall trail work program! We have four events scheduled between now and the new year. At all these events, lunch will be provided to volunteers as a way to thank you for helping!

The first event is the Annual Fall Conejo Open Space Trail Work Day, taking place on Saturday October 19th at 7:30 pm. In years past we’ve had turnouts of over 150 people to this event, but recently the numbers have been dwindling. We hope you’ll be able to help us have a really good turnout so we can get lots of trails fixed up!

This year we’ll be fixing up trails damaged in the Hill Fire last November and then by the heavy winter rains.

Please help us plan for the the amount of trails we can fix up and prepare for the coming winter rain by signing up in advance online at https://cosf.org/events/register/ . And you can find more details here https://www.meetup.com/CORBAmtb/events/265216169/

Remember, at noon the volunteers will be treated to a lunch and prize-giveaway!

Subsequent work days will be on

We hope you’ll be able to join us for one or more of these work days. It’s only through volunteer help that we can repair trails from fire and rain damage to keep them in great shape for riding!

National Park Service lifts ban on E-Bikes

Friday, August 30th, 2019

Today, August 30, 2019, the National Park Service has released a revised policy on electric pedal-assist mountain bikes.

The new policy allows electric pedal-assist bicycles to be used wherever muscle-powered bicycles are allowed. The policy requires each National Park unit to update their park compendium within 30 days. The policy allows Park Superintendents the flexibility to close or open trails to pedal-assist bicycles as deemed appropriate for park management, resource protection, or other reasons.

The policy prohibits class 2 throttle-controlled electric bikes from being used unless in pedal-assist mode only.  Class 3 electric bicycles remain prohibited.

While this policy allows the NPS to open trails to e-bikes, we don’t expect all trails in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area to be immediately opened. The SMMNRA is a joint powers authority, and this policy doesn’t affect trails outside NPS boundaries, such as trails on California State Parks or Mountains Recreation Conservation Authority managed lands.

CORBA has remained neutral in the electric mountain bike debate, as we recognize there are both potential drawbacks and benefits from allowing their use. As local policies are updated, we’ll post here and on social media.

Here is the policy announcement: NPS E-bike policy-PM_19-01