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Mountain bikers gaining support.

State officials want to keep mountain bikers off the singletrack trails in the Ware River Watershed.

New England Mountain Bike Association members have been talking with state officials in an effort to gain access for mountain bikers on the restricted trails in the watershed, which stretches through Rutland, Oakham, Barre and Hubbardston.

Officials are also concerned about unauthorized trails that have been created in the 23,000-acre watershed, and they plan to dismantle the trails and enforce the ban on mountain bikes, NEMBA said.

"For the last 30 years, residents have been mountain biking on this trail network without realizing this activity has always been banned. Bicycling is only allowed on roads and rail trails. Hikers, on the other hand, are permitted to walk anywhere they choose throughout the Ware River Watershed regardless of the presence of a trail,'' NEMBA said in a news release.

Members of the Wachusett Chapter of NEMBA have been leading the effort.

The state Department of Conservation and Recreation website on the Ware River Watershed says the following: "The primary purpose of DCR water and surrounding lands is drinking water supply. Public access, therefore, is carefully regulated and controlled to protect over 2 million people's source of drinking water.''

According to NEMBA, there are at least 20 miles of singletrack trails in the watershed. Only three of the trails are recognized by the Division of Water Supply Protection in the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, NEMBA said, and the three trails are the Midstate Trail and two trails dedicated to horseback riding.

State officials have expressed concerns over the presence of mountain bikers on these trails as well as the creation of additional unauthorized trails, NEMBA said.

The mountain bike group offered to provide solutions to curb unauthorized trail building and riding by working with the state agency to create a legitimate and sustainable trail system for mountain biking, hiking, trail running and cross-country skiing. However, the offer was declined.

NEMBA said that state officials plan to wipe out the trails and enforce the ban on mountain bikes.

"NEMBA feels that the best course of action here would be to recognize bicycles as a valid trail user and work with, rather than against, those aligned with the agency's mission of maintaining the highest possible water quality,'' NEMBA said.

The bicycling group contends that mountain biking and hiking have similar environmental impacts and should be managed together.

"The recreational analysis done by DCR in the Resource Management Plan (RMP) for the Middlesex Fells Reservation states that 'with respect to these two recreational impacts, these two recreational uses have similar impacts and should be evaluated similarly,' '' NEMBA said.

According to NEMBA, providing access for mountain bikers on singletrack trails would be beneficial to area residents looking for recreational opportunities.

"The current policy unjustly excludes mountain biking on trails as a legitimate activity in the watershed, and the lack of authorized trails for hiking and mountain biking have created a recreational vacuum that is currently being fulfilled by creating unauthorized trails. We feel strongly that by working with NEMBA and our dedicated volunteer base, DWSP can actually improve Ware Watershed water quality further by fixing or closing current unsustainable trails and providing new trails that are properly designed and built away from sensitive areas,'' NEMBA said.

According to NEMBA, the group met with state Rep. Anne Gobi, D-Spencer, on Thursday, and she offered her full support for NEMBA's effort to gain access for mountain bikers in the watershed.

Cross the line

The best cyclo-cross racers in the country will line up at Roger Williams Park in Providence this afternoon.

The KMC Cyclo-cross Festival wraps up the New England Holy Week of Cyclo-cross, which includes six races over 12 days.

Cyclo-cross stars scheduled to compete today include national champion Jeremy Powers, six-time national champion Tim Johnson, four-time national champ Jonathan Page, national champ Katie Compton, Ted King, Shawn Milne and many more. In addition to the United States, there will be top riders from Canada, Europe, New Zealand and Australia.

"I think it's a foundation piece in North American 'cross. I've seen it grow into such a great event, and for more than just the racers,'' said Johnson, a member of Cannondale CyclocrossWorld.com team.

With more than 10,000 spectators and racers expected, the event is considered the biggest cyclo-cross event on the East Coast. The event -- formerly known as the Providence Cyclo-Cross Festival -- was first held in 2009, is internationally sanctioned by UCI and is on target to be the first American venue to host the World Cup in 2015.

Cyclo-cross is a 30- to 60-minute race on a bicycle similar to a road bike, but the tires are a little wider and have more tread for traction on the often-muddy terrain. The course usually has grass, gravel and asphalt sections, and includes barriers such as hurdles and steps that sometimes force a rider to dismount and carry the bike over the obstacles.

The bowl-like landscape at Roger Williams Park, which hosted the Cyclo-Cross National Championships in 2005 and 2006, not only offers a great course layout, but also spectacular sight lines for watching the races.

The amateur racing begins at 8 a.m., the elite women race for 40 minutes beginning at 3:45 p.m., and the elite men race for 60 minutes starting at 5.

Contact Mark Conti

at mark.conti@telegram.com.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Oct 5, 2014
Words:900
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