Off-road biking in ARP moves ahead

Badges with bikes identified pilot program supporters.

Badges with bikes identified pilot program supporters.

On July 28, after two and a half hours of discussion, the 5-member Sacramento County Recreation & Parks Commission, which advises the Board of Supervisors, unanimously approved the implementation plan for a pilot program to allow bicycling on unpaved maintenance and fire roads in the Woodlake and Cal Expo areas of the American River Parkway.

The approval is conditional; the commission asked staff to return with more detail about how the program will be monitored and funded before final approval is granted. Barring any challenges to the commission’s decision, off-pavement bicycling could begin later this year.

The pilot program has been part of the American River Parkway Plan since 2008. Sacramento County Parks staff began work on implementing the program earlier this year. The American River Parkway Advisory Committee, which advises County Parks staff, endorsed the plan in June.

Mountain bike advocate Bob Horowitz being interviewed for TV news about the pilot program.

Mountain bike advocate Bob Horowitz being interviewed for TV news about the pilot program.

According to the commission chair, last night’s meeting at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center in Ancil Hoffman Park attracted the largest public audience in at least 3 years. More than 20 bicyclists testified in support of the implementation plan, by far the majority of those who spoke.

Equestrians and environmentalists expressed concerns about details of the plan and cited safety concerns about the risks of sharing a few short trail segments with bicyclists. Several wanted to debate the merits of the pilot program itself, which wasn’t up for discussion.

Here are our big takeaways from the commissioners’ discussion:

- The commissioners recognize that they represent the entire community, including bicyclists, and appreciate the desire of bicyclists to be able to use this part of the Parkway. Several said they saw the pilot program was an opportunity to cultivate a new generation of Parkway users.

- This is a pilot program meant to test and evaluate the best ways to manage impacts, safety and compliance. Not all impacts can be anticipated and fully mitigated now but will be evaluated during the pilot phase.

- Commissioner Dick Barbar, who prior to retiring helped develop the Bureau of Land Management’s policy on mountain biking on federal land, endorsed the concept of trails shared by bicyclists, equestrians and hikers (which is federal policy) and said the pilot program is the opportunity for all users to learn how to work together and cooperate.

Next steps for the program include a final implementation plan revised to meet the commission’s conditions of approval. We expect to see the revised plan brought back to the commission early this fall.