Proposals that would restrict or close selected riding access for mountain bikers in the Shoshone National Forest have stirred angst amongst regional riders.
They are banding together to question the plans before the public comment period ends Jan. 12.
Riders claim the Forest is poised to take unnecessary action under its Land Management Plan, while Forest officials say they are merely balancing the needs of all trail users, including mountain bikers, horseback riders and ATV travelers.
One part of the plan would add 35 miles of approved biking trails, while another would subtract what some say is 28 miles of existing trails.
Mountain bikers say they could well lose access to places they are long used to riding.
John Gallagher of the Park County Pedalers said the Shoshone non-motorized trail plan is really responding to issues that have occurred elsewhere, in Utah and Colorado, where participants in the different activities have overlapped.
“It’s ridiculous,” Gallagher said of applying policies from other states to the Cody area for what he calls no purpose. “The only reason we’ve been given is they are trying to get ahead of a non-existent problem. That doesn’t happen here. If there’s problems, close them (trails). But
they’ve not pointing to that. There is really no good reason.”
Kristie Salzmann, a Shoshone National Forest spokeswoman, said officials promised Gov. Matt Mead they would look at overall mountain bike use in the Forest and also was undertaking examination of trail use in light of “growing (mountain bike) use in the United States. It is changing in many national forests around the country.”
At issue may be whether or not mountain bikers can ride off-trail, or cross-country, anywhere in the Forest. That would include eliminating legal use of riding where it has been allowed in years past.
Some of the trails would be closed only to mountain bikers, but would remain open to hikers or horseback riders.
“We are a very big horse Forest,” Salzmann said.
Salzmann said compromises on trail use in the Shoshone National Forest may be necessary for the common good, restricting certain user groups to some areas and different kinds of trail users to other ones.
“It is a change,” she said. “There are always going to be questions. Our goal is to make it fair for all user groups. We all have to compromise with give and take.”
(Lew Freedman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)