Public Works gives bikers OK to use reservoir lands Agency will permit riding pending tests on erosion

August 06, 1996|By Kathleen B. Hennelly | Kathleen B. Hennelly,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Instead of banning mountain bikers from reservoir lands, the city Department of Public Works has decided to allow them to dTC ride there until more studies can be done to determine if biking is causing erosion and runoff into the water.

The department hasn't set a deadline for making a final decision. Last winter, agency officials proposed a ban, but relented -- if only temporarily -- after bikers protested.

Bikers, meanwhile, promise to do their part to protect the land.

"We're happy to do trail maintenance and pick up litter that isn't even ours; we told them that we are an environmentally responsible group," said Roger Bird, president of the Maryland Association of Mountain Bike Operators, which says it has more than 350 members. "We are willing to be responsible for the land and we're happy that they haven't banned us. I just hope that they hear us."

The department said that bikers have had a destructive influence on trails around reservoirs, including Loch Raven north of Baltimore.

Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the Department of Public Works, said that the quality of raw water arriving at the treatment plant has deteriorated in the past few years. But, he said, the quality of the processed water leaving the plant is still high.

Bird disputes criticism of bikers, saying that mountain bikers cause very little damage. He said it is ridiculous to single out bikers as the sole cause of erosion.

"First of all, the area where we ride can be up to a mile away from the water," said Bird. "Second, I think that the impact from mountain biking on environmentally sensitive areas is minimal, especially when you consider that there are people riding horses, motorcycles and hiking all around that area too."

"Another reason there might be runoff," said Bird, "is there is a lot of equipment down in that area, new homes are being built, there are dogs, horses and pesticides from the golf course. If we are contributing, so are they."

Kocher said that the department wants to compromise with the bikers and has shown that by not banning them. But he is skeptical of their claims of low impact. "Say you have a grassy slope and a muddy one, made muddy from bikers, which do you think will cause runoff?" said Kocher.

Although some people have suggested that bikers could stick to permanent bicycle trails in parks, bikers say that would be unfair and cause problems.

"If they are concerned at all with biker safety," said Bird, "they would know that there are more serious accidents on packed trails than there are on dirt trails. Plus, there's a reason the sport is called mountain biking."

Pub Date: 8/06/96

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