To the editor:
People have inhabited the Adirondacks for hundreds of years, sharing land and properties, but when people are asked to share public trails, they are up in arms. While the trails belong to everybody, some people think that they belong to specific groups, such as only hikers or only cyclists. Controversy surrounding who is allowed to access the trails has been circulating for years, each party claiming they should have the right of use. It is important that both groups share the trails, helping to strengthen the community.
Not too long ago, mountain biking was largely discouraged in northern New York, due to fears of cyclists taking over the woods and causing ground erosion and making trails less hiker-friendly. To help combat this problem, a local group called BETA, (the Barkeater Trails Alliance) has been building and maintaining trails all around the Lake Placid and Wilmington area. Although COVID has put a halt to some community activities, BETA has still managed to get together small teams that have been working on trails through the pandemic, committing themselves to the betterment of the trails. Despite this group, many individuals still conceive negative notions around off-road biking, for their own reasons. There was a perception that cyclists would plow others off of the trails, and because of this mountain cyclists got a bad reputation. Cyclists, on the other hand, are hesitant to allow hikers on the biking trails because hikers would get in the way and cause disruption to riding.
Personally, mountain biking has been a significant part of my life, ever since I got to stand on the top step of the winner’s podium in eighth grade. Working at a local bike shop in Lake Placid, I have had extensive experience with people and how they perceive mountain bike riding and hiking in the area. Although the people visiting the shop may be biased, it is obvious that mountain biking is really important to a variety of local and visiting citizens. I understand that trail erosion and societal perception are very serious issues, however, with the help of BETA and the cooperation of both hikers and cyclists, I think trails should stay open for both parties.
Off-road cycling not only brings cyclists to Lake Placid but also helps support the local economy and local communities. Many of the people vacationing in the Adirondacks are athletes and with them comes valuable business that helps fuel the economy. I think mountain biking is essential to the Adirondacks, helping to strengthen the community and get people outside. Even though many of the trails need to be shared with hikers and walkers, the simplicity of sharing the trails is worth the benefits that they bring to the Adirondack community.