More forest trails set for motorcyclists?

2012-09-07T09:00:00Z More forest trails set for motorcyclists?CYNDY COLE Sun Staff Reporter Arizona Daily Sun
September 07, 2012 9:00 am  • 

Firefighter and motorcyclist Patrick Burns was disappointed in May when the Coconino National Forest officially closed most of its 1.8 million acres to off-road motorcyclists, all-terrain vehicle riders and most other drivers.

Motorcyclists received 18 to 20 miles of single-track trails in Fort Valley while quad riders got the barren 14,000-acre Cinder Hills north of Doney Park.

"We just felt very shunned, I guess, and forgotten about," he said, after groups had lobbied the forest heavily to keep trails open.

It was part of a national U.S. Forest Service proposal to limit erosion and other impacts from off-road driving, and it also meant planners had to come up with new provisions for people who hunt, camp and gather firewood using vehicles.


Partly in response to comments from folks like Burns, the Coconino National Forest is now considering building or reopening some 73 miles of trails for motorcycles and ATVs stretching south from Flagstaff's airport to Munds Park between I-17 and Lake Mary Road.

"I think it's a great thing. With the new rule, they took away hundreds and hundreds of single-track trails for motorcyclists, and this is a way to hopefully get some motorized trails back," Burns said.

Riding on a narrow, winding trail in the woods is a lot different than driving down a gravel road -- the option now most available to motorists of all stripes.

"It's more challenging: It's kind of like mountain biking on a single-track mountain bike trail," Burns said.

Others have different views on the matter.


One conservation group that has been tracking the changes said it supports using existing routes near the airport, but it doesn't want new trails built near Munds Park.

"Most forest visitors (both local and non-local) value quieter, more natural experiences. There are many user-created trails in the ... project area, and it is unclear how creating new trails will prevent the ongoing proliferation of illegal routes," wrote Cyndi Tuell of the Center for Biological Diversity. "Campers will be subjected to continuous noise and dust that results from the increased motorized uses in the area."

The Coconino National Forest plans to make a decision on the trail perhaps this winter, and begin building next summer if approved.

No cost estimates are out yet, and funding is a question.

Mike Dechter is the person on the Coconino National Forest receiving phone calls, letters, emails and visits from people with various views on the new restrictions, and he's the one proposing the new motorcycle and ATV trails.

"We did a full noise analysis," he said. "We also ensured that trails were built to get people away from the community rather than ride along the community."

Dechter carries a file of letters about 1 inch thick, talking to each district of the forest about what could be changed or clarified, and returning phone calls.

He's catalogued 500 different ideas, complaints, suggestions or questions the public has raised on the travel restrictions overall to date -- from suggestions on the type size on the maps, to certain roads that should be closed, opened or identified more clearly with signs.

"Please open the roads back up soon!" one letter reads.


Dechter has spent a majority of this summer explaining the nuances of where a hunter could use a vehicle to retrieve an elk (mostly west of Lake Mary Road), and where one must walk.

About half of the people he meets in the forest now know there are some new restrictions on where they can ride.

"Overall, we're having pretty good compliance," he said.

This comes after public service announcements, handouts, and public meetings with the Forest Service and volunteers meeting cars coming in at heavily used forest roads on holiday weekends.

One letter to Dechter suggests the Forest Service close more camping areas along a certain road to protect a meadow.

Reads another: "I love how you take our money to maintain our lands but don't let us use them. Great plan, NOT!!"

And there are often questions about how far off the road a car camper is allowed to travel (300 feet on specified major roads, otherwise 30 feet).

The Coconino National Forest will print new maps to fix errors every few years, but the plan must undergo a much greater and longer environmental analysis to open or close a number of routes across the whole forest.

Cyndy Cole can be reached at or at 913-8607.

Copyright 2015 Arizona Daily Sun. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(13) Comments

  1. doneypprk
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    doneypprk - September 13, 2012 8:28 am
  2. doneypprk
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    doneypprk - September 13, 2012 8:19 am
    We bought our home in Doney Park because the property backs the beautiful
    forest and access to OHV TRAILS / CINDERHILLS! When we purchased the home, the back
    of our property was in the OHV area. Well much to our dismay, Labor Day holiday weekend FOREST SERVICE CLOSED THE PIPELINE AND ALL ACCESS TO THE OHV. The new map now shows our property is no longer in OHV area. REALLY! WE ARE VERY UPSET ALONG WITH A BIG MAJORITY OF DONEY PRK HOMEOWNERS! WE CAN THANK FS for depreciating our home VALUES!
  3. flagsceptic
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    flagsceptic - September 10, 2012 6:59 pm
    Nice comments eb!
  4. eb
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    eb - September 08, 2012 10:37 am
    Bigfoot, hikers wanting to keep me from using my motorcycle on singletrack negatively impacts me. You're right, it is not so hard to understand that. Let's limit the amount of non-motorized areas. S Kavenger, the illegal trails will disappear when replaced by legal trails and decommissioned as is the plan with the Kelly Motorized Project.
  5. eb
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    eb - September 08, 2012 9:27 am
    What the Center for Bio. Diversity does not realize is that if you shut everyone out of the forest except for hikers, then the love of the outdoors will not be passed on to younger generations by the population as a whole. Then you'll have less people using the woods. Less people using the woods makes it easier for the public lands to be taken out of the public's hands. And who is getting a quiet nature experience on a tract of land next to an airport and adjacent to an interstate?
  6. eb
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    eb - September 08, 2012 9:21 am
    Good article Cyndy. Thank you for providing a balanced view of this issue. The CBD is off base as studies quoted in the FS' Environmental Assessment on this issue show that camper/OHV conflict decreases with OHV trail designation. Also, illegal routes decrease when there are designated routes. One only needs to go to Colorado to see that. Most people want to be law abiding, but not if they feel that the laws are unjust.
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    AMSUFF - September 08, 2012 5:06 am
    The "closed" trails around the airport are still being used every day. Some of the trails around the airport are build across private property. If you stop these riders and tell them they are on private property they just laugh and ride away. As always there are a handful that ruin it for the majority.
  8. Dugggg
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    Dugggg - September 07, 2012 3:12 pm
    The real problem with the new Travel Management Rule is that it turns 99% of every National Forest into wilderness---totally closed to all motor vehicles. Has anyone here actually tried camping within 300 feet of a forest road? How about just 30 feet??? The Forest Service needs to stop taking dictation from the Center for Biological Diversity, and instead place *reasonable* limits on the millions of responsible motorized recreationalists who enjoy the forests without destroying them.
  9. S Kavenger
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    S Kavenger - September 07, 2012 1:59 pm
    Of course, but trails simply disappearing is the exception to the rule. Most impacts, particularly from illegally built, poorly considered trails, are longer lasting. Renegade trail building is an ever present problem from trail riders and more legal trails need to be built for this user group. The mechanical wear effects are significantly different for motorcycles than they are for horses or mountain bikers and they necessarily require higher construction standards and more regular maintenance.
  10. AlanOr
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    AlanOr - September 07, 2012 12:51 pm
    So let me get this straight. The Forest Service closed hundreds of miles of motorcycle trails, now they are going to build more. Just curious, but why not just re-open some of the ones that they closed? Alternatively, why not just give the motorcyclists permission to ride on a few of the illegally constructed mountain bike trails?
  11. NotASheep
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    NotASheep - September 07, 2012 11:44 am
    It will be limited by "space" that's the whole point - give motorcyclists a place to legally do their thing. Please don't tell me motorcycles, on an approved trail, cause more damage to the forest than livestock, wildfires, logging, cars and trucks on roads, target shooting, global warming, subdivisions, etc.... I can show you places where a motorcycle trail used to exist 3 - 4 years ago and you can't tell it was ever there - and these weren't well planned and thought out trails
  12. NotASheep
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    NotASheep - September 07, 2012 11:39 am
    This trail system is a great idea. Mountian bikers, horses, and hikers have hundreds of miles of trails to recreate on in the Coconino Forest. The Fort Valley trail system is open to everyone, including motorcycles, but this creates user conflicts and does not meet the demands of singletrack motorcycle enthusiasts. The forests of every state in the west have hundreds of miles of motorcycle trails, except Arizona. These trails allow for safe recreation, and bring $ into local communites.
  13. Bigfoot
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    Bigfoot - September 07, 2012 9:58 am
    any use of the forest has to consider its impact on other users of the forest. If your use negatively impacts others, it should be limited by time or space. What's so hard about that?
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