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"Sierra Responsible Riders"

posted Nov 12, 2014, 3:56 PM by Tony Burgess
Another article lifted without shame from The Sheet - Mammoth's best source for printed news.  11-7-2014  By Evans, dodgeball star from the Black Velvet Sheets.

Now before you delve in you may notice the slight snub made by Pierrel concerning his statement of "no voice" or "no reasonable voice".

We don't mind his opinion but he should know that 8-10 years ago several of us were in the thick of it - defending our riding opportunities through full participation in the route designation process to no avail.  Some things come down to "politics" and that's a game the MMC does not play.

Also, the first rule of eastern sierra single track is that you DO NOT talk about single track.  No one wants to be responsible for losing a 'crown' jewel.

That said, we support SRR, and if they make any progress on the re-opening of banned single track then we pledge our resources of volunteer power and/or cold hard cash from the MMC treasury.

“Sierra Responsible Riders” gears up for action

Approximately 45 people were at Mammoth Rock and Bowl on Tuesday for the first meeting of Sierra Responsible Riders (SRR), a local dirt bike advocacy group and riding club.

Locals Mike McCarthy, Frederic Pierrel and Darren Twilegar have been riding motorcycles together for years. About six months ago they started discussing the reduced riding trails in the area. “There can be a lot of negative connotation with dirt bike riders. That’s just not what we are about,” McCarthy said.

According to McCarthy, the trail system has changed dramatically over the last few years. “It was unrestricted and wide open for a long time,” he said. “Now the Forest Service is actively trying to manage the trails, and unfortunately it’s resulted in them reducing the number of trails specific to off road vehicles.”

McCarthy said there wasn’t much of a voice or at least “any reasonable voice” at the Forest Service meetings 8-10 years ago that started the process. He wasn’t involved at that point, but Pierrel was.

“Back then there was no voice,” Pierrel said. “Nobody would answer about where the single tracks were so nothing has been put on the map from the get-go.”

“We wanted to get people together who have a common interest and to try and unite the riders to get a common voice so that we can speak to the agencies about land use,” McCarthy said. The group plans on “getting involved” with the Forest Service in recreation planning for OHV use, creating a trail network and taking responsibility for upkeep, much like the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA) group does for hiking trails.

Starting an advocacy group “wasn’t something I sought out to do,” McCarthy said. “I just realized it was time to actually start doing something about it instead of sitting around and complaining about the reduced riding opportunities.”

“The Forest Service has said their resources are limited, so it’s part of the reason that they are hesitant to do a lot of things,” he continued. “But when you walk in with a partnership and the ability to back that up with a group of people, you have a better chance of reaching common ground.”

McCarthy, Twilegar and Pierrel started Sierra Responsible Riders, sending out a few emails and texts, along with a few flyers at the post office to gather people on Tuesday. Word spread fast. “I didn’t know if we would have five or thirty people show up,” McCarthy said. “We also heard from several people who are interested but couldn’t come on Tuesday.”

In addition to simply meeting other riders, in town, McCarthy introduced the proposed changes to the dirt biking trails around Mammoth. He began speaking with the Forest Service several months ago, he said, as they are currently revising the Forest Plan for the Sierra, Sequoia and Inyo National Forests. As part of this update, the Mammoth and Mono Lake Ranger Districts are proposing changes to motorized trails on Forest Service land from Mammoth to Lee Vining.

Technically called the Motorized Transportation System Modifications project, the plan proposes adding 10 miles of roads and trails and removing 4.5 miles on several parcels of land, including a connector trail from the geothermal plant to the Lookout Loop, a popular area for riders that has “few legal motorcycle trails,” according to the proposal.

“It’s an opportune time for input and hopefully we can walk in with a strong voice,” McCarthy said. At the meeting on Tuesday, most of the riders hadn’t heard of the proposal, so McCarthy “gave people the information so that they can digest it,” he said. He then asked people to email him their thoughts in order to draft a formal SRR comment, due November 15 as part of the 30-day scoping period by the Forest Service. He encouraged riders to send individual comments as well.

“We want to walk in with a reasonable position that opens the door for discussions,” he said. “Right now there’s a very limited system of single track for motorcycles. Obviously there are competing parties—mountain bikers want trails and hikers want trails. But we’re lucky. We have a pretty big forest here.”

Pierrel continued, “We’re not a bunch of punks from the Motocross who come for a week. We want to make the point that we are responsible and we’re all here for the nature.”

After seeing the turnout on Tuesday, McCarthy said he plans to incorporate SRR as a non-profit soon in order to better attract potential grant funders in collaboration with the Forest Service.

“The Forest Service is about engaging the stakeholders. They’ve incrementally taken steps in the right direction,” he said. “The reception we’ve been given is great there and they’re encouraged to have someone to talk to representing [the dirt biking] community.”

The public comment period on the Motorized Transportation System Modifications draft proposal closes on November 15. There will be an informational meeting about the larger Forest Plan Revision open to the public at the Tri-County Fairgrounds on November 20 at 6 p.m.