Home / Editorials / Multi-Use Conflict and Trail Overuse in the Middlesex Fells

Multi-Use Conflict and Trail Overuse in the Middlesex Fells

The Middlesex Fells is a 2,500 acre nature reserve just north of downtown Boston. Full of trees and rocky outcroppings, it provides a welcome respite to trail runners, hikers, dog walkers, horseback riders, and mountain bikers who want to get outside an play for a few hours. I hike in The Fells several times a week and have been going there for years.

But big changes are afoot in The Fells today. For years, it was largely neglected by the urban Boston population and used primarily  by locals from the surrounding towns of Malden, Medford, Stoneham, and Winchester. That changed quite noticeably this year with a large influx of new users, many of them mountain bikers.

While mountain biking has been permitted (or ignored) in the Fells for as long as I can remember, mountain bike use was limited to designated trails that had been hardened with gravel and mineral soil in the park. However, this year mountain bikes were permitted by the park overseer, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) on trails that had previously been reserved for hikers, runners and dog walkers.

The result has been somewhat devastating. The trails that had been formerly limited to pedestrian traffic are suffering from widespread trail erosion and compaction issues, there’s pervasive tree root damage where roots cross the treadway, and a noticeable increase in the number of new “bootleg” trail or short-cuts throughout the park.

Additionally, there is a noticeable increase in the amount of  pedestrian – mountain biker animosity in the park, including a war of words between the various organizations that represent park users including The Friends of the Fells (see also Fells Forever.org) who want to ban all mountain biking from The Fells, NEMBA – the New England Mountain Biking Association, and the DCR.

New Yield Signs in The Fells
New Yield Signs in The Fells

The Case for Mountain Biking in the Fells

Despite the overuse impacts that we’re experiencing in The Fells, I believe that opening up the park to mountain bikers is a good thing.

  1. The Fells Trail system has been neglected for years with virtually no trail maintenance or development projects. The arrival of mountain bikers heralds the first major investment in maintaining, rerouting, and hardening the trail system by the DCR in years. This is a very welcome change.
  2. NEMBA has a proven track record of conservation investment in The Fells. They are a very well organized organization with considerable expertise in trail construction and have demonstrated a willingness to mobilize their membership on volunteer trail maintenance projects that benefit the entire Fells community.
  3. The vast majority of mountain bikers I meet in The Fells are courteous and friendly. As a hiker, I have far more conflicts with unleashed dogs that jump on me, bark at me, and their owners who leave their dog’s feces on the trail and in the woods. If the presence of mountain bikers leads to more leashed dogs in The Fells and more responsible owner behavior, that is a good thing.
  4. Multi-use trails for hikers, horseback riders, mountain bikers, runners, and dog walkers are commonplace across the United States. Why should The Fells be any different? How do those user group co-exist and protect the outdoor areas they share?

Overuse Impacts

If you walk along the Reservoir Path in The Fells, you can’t help but notice the overuse impacts and erosion of the trail system. This is one of the main pedestrian paths that were opened up to mountain bike use this year.

That said, the Reservoir Path was in no shape to be used as a mountain bike path in the first place. The surface of that trail is largely made from compacted soil and lacks the gravel, cinders, and mineral soil found on the Mountain Bike Loop (Green Trail) that already exists today.

We’d be fooling ourselves if we thought that the overuse damage to the Reservoir Path could be reversed. Trail impacts like this are not reversible. The only option is to move forward and continue the rerouting that the DCR has implemented so far, together with adding more durable gravel and mineral soil to existing trails to make them capable of withstanding heavier usage.

The sooner this happens the better.

Dog Feces in the Sheepfold
Doggy Bags Left in the Sheepfold

Conservation and Education

What is the future of The Fells and how can we make sure that future generations can enjoy it?

I believe that the answer lies in education and not increased regulations, which the DCR has no funding to enforce anyway: the DCR does not have funding to support adequate ranger coverage in The Fells and existing rangers do not have the ability to cite miscreants with mandatory fines.

Education about what? I’ll spell it out:

  1. The need to stay on trails that have been hardened for heavy traffic. Creating bootleg trails leads to erosion and habitat destruction. If we want to preserve The Fells we want to avoid these impacts.
  2. The need to dispose of waste properly, including picking up your dog’s poop and carrying out all trash for disposal outside the park.
  3. The need to respect others’ experience of the park by keeping your dog leashed and under control, not to use your cell phone in the park where it might disturb others’ experience of solitude, and the need to yield to people who want to pass by you on a narrow trail.
  4. The need to leave the park as it is by not altering the landscape or trees, by not building cairns or painting graffiti on rocks, and by not removing flowers or plants.

These are simple guidelines and most people will adhere to them if they understand why they’re important. But you need to teach them – you can’t just paint them on signs. People need to be shown why they are important.

I can’t emphasize this enough, we need to start a wholescale user education program in The Fells to complement the trail hardening that is underway. That means training trainers who are part of the user communities – bikers, hikers, runners, dog walkers, and horseback riders – that we need to reach. If we employ this method all the users of The Fells can co-exist peacefully and become stewards of The Fells for future generations.

What do you think?

 

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51 comments

  1. On the east end of the Northshore Trail on Lake Grapevine near Dallas, mountain bike use got so heavy that the Corps (it’s a Corps of Engineers maintained trail) finally cut a parallel trail for ’em so they could all cycle in the same direction on the now one-way, parallel trails. Better for them and a *lot* better for us hikers, too. Yeah, the mountain bikes *do* tear up the trails. But, at least the mountain bikers don’t want to pave the trails with eight foot wide concrete sidewalk like the city did on the south-east shore.

    Good luck with ’em, Phillip! :-)

    • Thanks for sharing that story John – wish we had that kind of money to throw at he problem. Lack of state and federal funding is a contributing factor to our little crisis.

      To paraphrase Rodney King “I wish we could all get along.” I think it’s possible if people can back away from their personal feelings of entitlement and consider the future of the park. When people in the park are in conflict, it ruins the experience of being outdoors.

      • I do not believe the issue is a lack of funding as much as it is a lack of priorities at the state and federal level. For this, we are ALL to blame because we do not make our wants/needs known. Rather than demand accountability from our elected officials, or vote them out, we leave the business of politics to politicians. That is akin to leaving the business of blood to ticks.

        The state does not have the manpower to patrol (they used to), because they don’t have funding. They do not have funding because we have not demanded it.

        First thing first.

  2. I appreciate your observations, however I disagree that the trail conditions witnessed on the Reservoir Trail are somehow due to new bike traffic this year rather than poor trail design in the first place. I would also disagree that biking is more taxing than other uses to the trail- as the DCR indicated in the new RMP there is no evidence to support this claim.

    I do however agree with the overall point of your article which is that there needs to be trail maintenance (and re-routing of some trails like one that you showed which runs straight down the fall-line) as well as a healthy respect for the rules that have been adopted.

    • Glad we’re having a dialog Andy! I will grant you that the issue isn’t whether mountain bikes are having a greater impact than other uses, but I think we can agree that there are overuse impacts on the existing trail system and that the trails need to be strengthened to accommodate ALL users.

      I am hopeful that we can find some way to help facilitate the DCR’s transformation of the park together.I wish I could find some organized group that I could work with to move the user education agenda forward – that seems to be a huge missing piece.

      Again – thanks for the comment.

  3. With an increased number of users comes increased forms of trail use, such as bikers, horses, etc. Different type of traffic can create different types of trail abuse.

    What we have done in parks around the Madison area is limit the type of traffic to specific trails. At a trail head, you create a fork going left for foot traffic only, and a fork splitting to the right down another trail that has hardened surfaces for bikers and horse back riders. Hikers have the right to use any trail they wish. The tread from an off-road bike tire is designed to dig into soft surfaces for traction. That is why trail maintenance and proper trail design goes a long way in preserving trails.

    It is sad really that your state doesn’t have the proper funding to take care of everything. But really, I don’t think there is a single state in the U.S currently that has enough funding to properly patrol, maintain, built-out every trail in every county! Like you stated, proper trail etiquette and education is the answer to preserving these remote areas where government agencies don’t have the time or manpower to take care of for us.

    One thing I just remembered. We have a few designated bike trails linked between parks and along city streets cutting through to downtown that requires bike users to pay either a daily or annual trail use fee. I think it is something like $20 a year, so it is negligible cost for an individual to pay. But the fee goes a long way in removing debris, downed trees, and snow removal from parking areas. Just a thought, not sure if your state has anything similar to this or not.

    • Have to disagree a bit. With the exception of trails that receive heavy equestrian use, the goal for most trails should be shared-use. By and large, most trail interactions are positive and shared-use works well in most cases. There are certainly some cases where for safety, etc., single-use makes sense but that is the exception.

      Also, what about hiking boots? The tread on my hiking boots is designed to dig into soft surfaces, too, just like my MTB tires. Funny that. Feet and tires have comparable impact. Correct trail design (contouring, proper outslope, compacted surface of mineral soil, etc.) is what makes a trail durable. There is no difference between how you should be designing a trail tread for hiking vs. biking. What is important is the location of the trail and managing the impacts of water. Screw either one of those up and you will have problems that have nothing to do with the type of trail users.

      • I have to agree about shared use in the Fells. Space and budget restrictions prohibit 2 tracks. We need one common trail.

        As for hiking boots, fewer and fewer people wear them, especially in an urban setting like the Fells. The entire lug sole argument is moot.I don’t own a pair of hiking boots. I see more runners in the Fells than hikers anyway. Way more.

  4. I haven’t been to the Fells but it sounds like a high volume place. I do a lot of mountain biking in Central MA and in general our trails which are usually specifically only or mainly used for mountain biking (lots of singletrack switchbacks that go nowhere fast) are extremely well maintained, much more so than any local hiking trails I’ve used (with the exception of Blue Hills).

    The only areas of any MTB trail I see with any wear at all are usually at the bottom of hills from breaking and some muddy sections. Aside from that I’m generally very impressed with the MTB community, more so than hiking (excluding AMC trails) and dog walkers and especially equestrian riders who leave huge piles of horse poop EVERYWHERE.

    I think in general the average MTB rider has far more appreciation for a nice trail than Jo Schmo walking his dog.

    • For sure. I’ve been really impressed with the NEMBA group rides I’ve come across in the Fells. Plus, mountain bikers avoid the trails when it is raining to avoid creating mud-pits. No doubt we can all learn from their example if we are willing to listen.

    • I am first and foremost a MTBer but I do love hiking. Philip, thanks for a balanced look at your issue, it would have been easy to blame the bikes outright! Education is always a great start, hardening the trails is another smart move, and i feel that ownership is key. I have been helping to create a recreational area near my home in Maine that was saved from development a few years ago. The gentleman in charge is 80 and an avid hiker, we met for the first time while enjoying the newly marked trails in our own ways. We hit it off and he immediately invited me to help with the new trail system, I feel like these are my trails now too and I work hard to keep them open for hikers and bikers.

      • I think you’ve hit on a couple of key points – the power of interpersonal relationships and common cause. You and your land owning friend made the effort to find common ground and you did it face to face. We have a lot of upset people over this Fells issue. I just wish people would work on finding common cause together. There’s been enough fighting and harsh words. I’ve talked with a senior NEMBA officers and many other bikers in the fells. I know they feel a sense of stewardship for the Fells and I really respect that. We have a common cause.I hope we can follow your example and work together.

  5. “While mountain biking has been permitted (or ignored) in the Fells for as long as I can remember, mountain bike use was limited to designated trails that had been hardened with gravel and mineral soil in the park. However, this year mountain bikes were permitted by the park overseer, the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) on trails that had previously been reserved for hikers, runners and dog walkers.

    The result has been somewhat devastating. The trails that had been formerly limited to pedestrian traffic are suffering from widespread trail erosion and compaction issues, there’s pervasive tree root damage where roots cross the treadway, and a noticeable increase in the number of new “bootleg” trail or short-cuts throughout the park.”

    That the trail you are writing about has been ridden by mountain bikes for years (illegally) and it’s inaccurate to say that it’s current condition is due to a policy change and new influx of riders.

    The trail for the most part is in the same condition it was last year, and the year before that, albeit a little worse each year. The reason it’s in it’s current state is that nobody has been taking care of it! All trail maintenance has been repeatably blocked by the F.O.F. over the last several years and it hasn’t been until this year that NEMBA has been allowed to get in there and do anything. The FOF sure as hell doesn’t do much trail maintenance.

    As far as I can tell, the biggest problem with the Fells are the “Friends” of the Fells and their divisive and counter productive political games. We need a new friends organization that represents all users.

    • I walk there almost every day and I am a US Forest service trail maintainer in the White Mountains. Believe me when I say that the rate of erosion and compaction of the reservoir path has increased significantly this year. However, I can’t say whether that’s due to mountain biking or just overuse by increased usage.

      Regarding FOF. I think they represent far fewer people you think. It’s unfortunate that they’ve been so uncompromising during this entire debate. I think they could play a significant role in educating the user population on how to take care of the fells in cooperation with NEMBA, but sadly they (FOF) seem hell bent on self-destruction.

      I think we’re on the same page. Thanks for leaving a comment.

    • I have to agree – the Friends of the Fells vs NEMBA is somewhat like the current political GOP vs Democrat climate – with unproductive “my way or the highway” stand. The “Friends” simply refuse to coexist, hating Mountain Bikers more than they love the Fells. To be fair, I’m sure most members of the FoF are reasonable and realistic, but a small core of FoF members in charge use highly charged inflammatory rhetoric, often deploying gross exaggeration to outright lies to make their case. It’s sad because the FoF and NEMBA both mostly share the same concerns, and the park would benefit greatly from cooperation, not confrontation. One thing the FoF need to realize is this isn’t Wyoming. This beautiful park is only 5 miles from downtown Boston – the 9th largest metropolitan area in America. The standards of protection they wish to apply to the Fells as a wildlife preserve are nearly impossible for an urban area. The best we can do is work (together) to minimize the impact all those inevitable users.

  6. I’ve only been riding in the Fells a short time so I can’t speak to the history of the trails of the trails there but the future looks positive. Continued communication and cooperation will bring about the changes needed to harden the trails for high use. Have you thought of attending a NEMBA meeting? i’m sure they would love to work with someone like your self on the issues you bring up.

  7. “I walk there almost every day and I am a US Forest service trail maintainer in the White Mountains. Believe me when I say that the rate of erosion and compaction of the reservoir path has increased significantly this year.”

    No, you are wrong. I have been riding there for over 20 years and pay particular attention to the condition of all the trails. I am also a trained trail maintainer. The trail is in the same condition it was last year, albeit worse due to lack of regular maintenance.

    Furthermore bike use in the Fells has dropped significantly, due to the availability of other places to ride and the potential for negative encounters with other users.

  8. Trail care in the Fells has been lacking for many years. The DCR led a series of workshops in the past 2 years to begin to address the issues of trail care, equitable trails access for all users and updating some rules and regulations. They, with a lot of community involvement, have made good progress in addressing these issues. Water and water run off are probably the most damaging for badly designed trails. Improved trail care and design will lead to a much improved user experience for all involved. As a hiker, dog owner, mt biker and bird watcher, I look forward to being able to improve the Fells trail system for all involved.

  9. Hiking boots, running shoes, cross trainers, light hikers, etc. all have textured soles for grip. It’s not just a lug sole thing. They all have impact and all have tread. My point is that tying to argue that any one type of use has less or more impact is silly. Just design and build good trail to begin with and impact issues largely go away. From any type of user.

  10. Fells are great but would be better if Mountain bikers would respect hikers and other users, and not create Illegal trails, and stay off the hiking only trails. I doubt that will happen though. And 2.) if the DOG WALKERS would KEEP THEIR DOGS ON THE LEASH except in the designated dog park area t Sheepsfold where its off leash. I see too many dogs swimming in the reservoir which is meant as a public water supply backup in the event of an emergency, and too many dogs off leash which pose a threat to hikers. Please KEEP YOUR DOGS ON A LEASH. the trails in general are well marked, how anyone can say they are not well marked is beyond me. They are blazed on all the major trails and plenty of intersection signs. I have never gotten lost. The park is great. So what if you can hear 93? Its a CITY And we have a BIG PARK in the middle of a CITY / Suburban area. How many cities can say that? I doubt you’ll find a big park in the middle of Greater Houston Texas or Los Angeles California? The fells are a great resource to have and we’re lucky to have such a large park with many recreational opportunities in the Metro Boston area. I would advocate for a couple more mountain bike loop trails though if they would stop creating illegal trails and stay off the Skyline and Reservoir trails. Maybe the DCR could make new mountain bike trails for mountain bikers, if the NEMBA groups would agree to keep off the white/orange trails. and try to get the word out to their members. We need to work together to save the fells. Imagine if the fells had not been saved it would have been housing developments, shopping malls, and factories along that entire stretch up to Stoneham. I would highly recommend the fells, but please USE This resource wisely and Respectfully. KEEP DOGS on leash and only ride mountain bikes in designated areas. Thank you! Enjoy the Fells!

    • dieta –

      Agree that respect amongst users would help the situation. After 30 years using the park I must say that the disrespectful (in all groups) are the minority.

      The majority of illegal trails are created by men seeking men for anonymous sex, not mountain bikers. Mountain biking is a trail-based activity – much easier than bushwhacking.

      The Orange/Reservoir trail is open to multi-use as of 2012’s Resource Management Plan. Also the White trail shares tread with the Orange and with the Mountain Bike Loop at several points. It is easy to get confused and continue on the white when you meant to stay on the Loop.

      I think all users should know and respect the rules laid out in the RMP – available here
      http://www.mass.gov/dcr/stewardship/rmp/rmp-midfells.htm

      • What evidence do you have that most illegal trails are created by homosexual men or are they just convenient people for you to blame? The Fells are so full of trails, both old and new, that you can’t even tell what is legal or illegal, new or old, open or closed. Blaming all this on a handful of male park users seems out of line to me and more divisive than constructive.

      • Earlylite – this is well-documented, including in the RMP, and easily discoverable through observation as well.

        One of the RMP’s goals is to reduce the spiderweb of trails in that part of the park and replace them with a couple of clear paths through the area – defragmenting the habitat and letting it recover.

      • You just wrote “in that part of the park.” but earlier you seemed to imply that homosectual men are responsible for all of the bootleg trails in the park. Which is it? I’m not gay, but I also don’t want my web site used for homophobic bashing.

      • Earlylite:

        The RMP found that illegal trails are particularly problematic in the Dark Hollow Pond section and the cause is the gay cruising and sexual activity that is concentrated in that section of the park.

        For the record I am pro-gay rights but anti-anybody having sex (gay, straight, whatever) in a public park. I think we can agree on that?

      • Yes – I am against having people having sex in the park.

        I would also add that it is my opinion that dog walkers from local communities abutting the park are responsible for many of the illegal trails in the park.

  11. For the record, the Friends of the Fells are NOT against mountain biking in the Fells. We do advocate appropriate and safe use of this nature reserve by all users.

    • Respectfully disagree with Bryan’s assertion. Friend of the Fells behavior has been to consistently oppose mountain biking in the Fells. Search Google for their Executive Director Mike Ryan’s writings on the subject and decide for yourself.

  12. Bryan:

    For the record, the Friends of the Fells have opposed all changes in trail use except for those that fit your organization’s preferred uses. For example, you illegally blazed new trail for your Dark Hollow Pond trail, which the DCR has admonished you for. You especially target mountain biking. Seems like a pretty coordinated effort across several sites owned by your members.

    Small excerpt from your website http://www.fells.org

    “For the first time since creation of the Middlesex Fells Reservation, its managing agency is destroying historic trails that for nearly a century have served to protect nature and enhance visitor experiences. This destruction follows a new policy of unbridled expansion of mountain bike use throughout the Reservation.
    Mountain bike riders cannot negotiate rock steps, so DCR destroyed them on the Reservoir Trail. This is the second section of rock steps demolished by DCR to render the Reservoir Trail convenient for bikers.
    Sacrificing safety
    Instead of benefiting the overwhelming majority of visitors who experience the Fells on foot, DCR policy now promotes changes to hiking trails to expand bike access trails that will serve only a minority of vocal visitors. …”

    Your executive director Mike Ryan:
    http://www.wickedlocal.com/melrose/news/lifestyle/columnists/x117475065/Mike-Ryan-State-agency-destroys-Middlesex-Fells-legacy

    You and Ryan are extensively quoted on http://bikesvnature.org, owned by Friends member Steve Gyurina.

    And the author of this pro-gay sex in the woods/anti-MTB website apparently has your home phone number:
    https://sites.google.com/site/fellsmsm/pines

    • Can you explain to me why it is relevant that the author of the MSM site has Bryan’s home number? I have it too. What exactly are you implying?

      • The evidence is circumstantial, I’ll grant you, but there seems to be a coordinated effort amongst the Friends of the Fells and these other sites. Very similar rhetoric and positions. Too similar to be coincidental, I would argue.

        There is precedent for this, where the Friends of the Fells disavowed Gyurina’s wheeled-locusts anti-bike site but then were found to be the organization that purchased the domain name.

        Even without the outside connections, the leadership of the Friends of the Fells has made it clear through words and actions that they are anti-biking – despite Bryan’s claims to the contrary.

      • Some executives of the Friends of the Fells definitely give the appearance of being anti biking. However, I think the feelings among the members and within the leadership team are mixed and considerably more moderate than some executives would have you think.

        Net net, I don’t that the current state of the “he said she said” dialog is particularly useful or interesting. Time to move on and fix the place for all users to enjoy. I would ask yourself what you can do to help the DCR improve the park and contact Mike Nelson who is the head district ranger with an offer of funding or manpower. He is a very reasonable guy and looking for community involvement. I am already involved and would hope that you step up too.

      • I think this is a good place to leave it – no argument with anything you’re saying.

        Unfortunate that the executives are not reflective of the membership at large. but what are you going to do. The reason I commented at all is that their attitude/tactics are damaging to getting the work done.

        I have been and continue to be involved with doing work in the park. We’ve been able to fix some real problems this season and hoping for even better year next year.

        Hope to see you out there soon.

  13. Malcolm and I created the reservoir trail back in 1983 first as an alternative to the Skyline Trail. Malcolm spent twice as much time on it than I did, but I did much of the heavy work swinging the mattock and axe. The Skline trail was beginning to show wear and tear from overuse and mountain bikes were only beginning to use the trail. I know I rode my bike on it once or twice before I decided it was a bad idea.

    Unfortunately, mtbs were ruled out-bound on the Reservoir trail as well as the Skyline trail, and a culture of disregard of the rules began known as “freeriding’ developed. Both the Skyline and Reservoir trails suffered overuse more from mtbs riders than from foot traffic. The problem with mtbs and the Skyline trails is not only that it is too fragile for mtbs, but also that so much hostility was directed at mtbs everywhere in the Fells that they started riding down hikers on the Skyline trail. It was an ugly situation in the western Fells.

    The mtbs had established two loop trails in the eastern Fells by 1990 using red and blue plastic tape tied around trees. I thought it was good solution to spread mtbs use across the entire Fells thereby reducing heavy mtb use on the Skyline trail. I told MDC staff about the tape, hoping to legitimize the trails and fix any problems with them in the eastern Fells.

    They did not know about the tape and went out the next day and tore down all the tape because of “water” issues. I know of no decent hiking trail that does not cross a stream or wet area. “Decent” is defined as straight and fast for a hiker. Mtb riders were furious with the MDC and threatened the MDC about dangers to mtbs on the existing hiking trails in the eastern Fells. The MDC tried to close almost half of the hiking trails in the eastern Fells, even some of the oldest and best hiking trails.

    For certain, some parts of the Fells have too many trails. Overall, the Fells has far fewer trails per acre than the Blue Hills.

    Conservation of rare and endangered plants requires care traveling through the Fells. Some of these trails in the Fells had different purposes and different destinations and took into account different levels of strength of different hikers. Some trails had already been there for over a hundred years; some were hardened by the CCC over seventy years ago, some were rerouted by the Boy Scouts or Malcolm after the Second World War and the building of I-93. Issues with plant conservation were settled decades ago, and the few trails in the Fells kept as much of the Fells as possible under observation, another one of the purposes for building the Reservoir trail given other conditions that developed after the mounted park police were withdrawn from the Fells.

    A hiker has a different purpose and destination from a dog walker and also a rider of a mtb. A hiker will tire out over the same trail faster than someone riding a mtb. Sometimes a hiker will encounter a difficulty during a hike like being drenched in the rain, pulling a muscle, developing a painful blister, or developing some other uncomfortable situation and may need to get back to their car as quickly as possible. They may already be hours from their car when the need suddenly develops.

    A trail with many twists and turns because of rerouted sections of the trail will be most unpleasant to a needy hiker. Ugliness has spread from the west to the east in the Fells and apparently will continue for many decades to come.

    Trail policy is still being set from above without full consideration of conditions on the ground and the full needs of all types of users.

    • Tom – I feel your pain. Sadly, the situation in the Fells has deteriorated so badly that DCR couldn’t turn it around even if they were empowered to. At this stage, I think the only way to fix the Fells is to remove the DCR from oversight for the park, something that I think they’d welcome if it became politically feasible.

  14. mt viking vs mt biking

    There is no reasoning with mtbrs. They are the most selfish, epitome of entitled group that has ever come along. All other trail users care about others, nature, wildlife. Mtbrs. care about mt biking & their ride. They should be banned from trails everywhere where there is a threat to other trail users, wildlife, damage to trails, etc.
    I have personally had 20+ years experience, right on the trails with them. Most of these guys are horrible, nasty individuals. They hate everybody for being in their way. Well, guess what, “we hate You more”
    Go ride the Portal Trail in Moab, & ignore the signs.

    • mt viking vs mt biking – I apologize on behalf of all mountain bikers for any animosity you may have encountered ever anywhere. Perhaps I should also apologize on behalf of all motorists, waitstaff, and municipal workers you have encountered as well, because your negativity likely follows you wherever you go. I’ve always made the effort to be polite and considerate when riding, most trail users I meet in the woods do the same.

  15. I WOULD BE FINE WITH MOUNTAIN BIKERS if THEY WOULD ADHERE TO THE RULES LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. THE MAIN PROBLEM IS 10% OF THE MOUNTAIN BIKERS WHO DO NOT ADHERE TO THE RULES ARE THE BAD APPLES AND RUIN IT FOR EVERYONE ELSE. MAYBE IF OUR FELLOW MOUNTAIN BIKING CROWD WOULD EDUCATE THOSE WHO CONTINUE TO DISREGARD THE NON BIKING AREAS AND CONTINUE TO MAKE BOOTLEG / ILLEGAL TRAILS that this is WRONG and should not be undertaken and maybe teach them to respect other trail users would be a good idea. Then maybe we could all get along. Until that happens though I don’t see it happening. That said 90% of the mountain bikers I come across are friendly and following the rules, its the 10% we need to work on. And DOG USERS PICK UP AFTER YOUR PETS…DONT LEAVE YOUR POOP BAGS around I don’t WANT TO SEE THAT!!!! ITS DISGUSTING!!! and POLLUTES OUR RESERVOIR AND ENVIRONMENT. PICK UP AFTER YOUR PET AND KEEP YOUR PETS ON A LEASH. I am SICK OF SEEING DOG OWNERS WALKING THE TRAILS WITH THEIR OFF LEASH DOGS ! THIS NEEDS TO STOP AND PEOPLE NEED TO START GETTING TICKETS/FINES FOR LEAVING POOP BAGS AND KEEPING THEIR PETS OFF LEASH IT IS SCARY AS A HIKER WALKING TO SEE SOME DOG RUNNING AHEAD OF THEIR OWNER AND YOU THINK THEY ARE ALONE – -AND NOT SURE IF THE DOG IS FRIENDLY I GET NERVOUS. LUCKILY I HAVE NOT HAD A BAD EXPERIENCE YET BUT PEOPLE SHOULD HAVE COURTESEY AND KEEP THEIR DOGS ON THE LEASH ON THE MAJOR TRAILS> THANK YOU.

  16. I would be open to more mountain biking trails if the mountain bikers would STAY OFF the SKYLINE and RESERVOIR TRAIL

  17. I’ve concluded that mountain bikers are fairly benigh and courteous, but dog owners are the biggest issue in the Fells. Dog waste and antisocial dog behavior is out of control in the Fells. The DCR should be held accountable for lack of enforcement.

    • I just wish they would stay off the Reservoir trail (ORANGE) and SKYLINE which are clearly marked no mountain biking. I’ve seen damage to the no mountain biking signs from bikers trying to remove them. I woudl be open to the DCR opening some other trails to mountain biking maybe the cross fells trail and some other trails but the resevoir and skyline should be HIKING only. most mountain bikers are fine, as I said its like 10% who ruin it for everyone else .I almost got run over once by a large group of mountain bikers who whizzed by me who never even called out they were approaching……..I was also taking a picture of a PEREGUINE FALCON right at eye level on a branch on a trail and I literally had to warn a biker to stop who was about to whiz right by a bird of prey which could have gotten agitated from the bike whizzing by and who knows maybe could have attacked one of us. Lucjily he stopped and told me thanks for stopping him that it was a once in a lifetime experience to see the bird up close. I’ve actually asked bikers for the time and directions before and a majority of them are nice people and I don’t have a problem with them. I just have a problem with people who disrespect the rules in general. You are right though I have more of a problem lately with the dog owners who disregard the dog laws of the fells. 1.) DONT LET YOUR PET SWIM IN THE RESERVOIR 2.) DONT WALK YOUR PET OFF LEASH IN THE FELLS —-(its scary for people who are hiking to come across an unfamiliar dog…..off leash, you dont know how thye will react withou the owner around) and 3.)DO NOT LEAVE POOP BAGS AROUND AND PICK UP AFTER YOUR PET. The fells should have more dog poop depositories at least at key intersections at the trails and maybe some more trail map kiosks around the fells like they have at Wompatuck park they have these nice small trail maps of the park with you are here @ Wompatuck.

      • The Orange (Reservoir) is legal for mountain biking (it is designated shared use) per the 2012 Fells RMP. White (Skyline) is not legal for mountain biking. There will always be a small fraction of recreational users of all types (hikers/bikers/dog walkers) who disregard the rules – nothing anyone can do about that anywhere. Frustrating certainly, but the flip side is that the majority of trail users get along and follow the rules. We can’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

  18. Reservoir Trail is legal for mountain biking, i.e is designated as a shared-use trail for all users. 90% user compliance is doing pretty good I think. 90% = an A- in school. I think there are a lot of activities, recreational and otherwise, that would be thrilled with 90% user compliance with posted rules & guidelines.

    Translation: don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.

    • Okay, well then I’d just ask that bikers slow down on the ORANGE TRAIL AND call out when approaching hikers …..bikers go too fast on the narrow parts of the orange trail. I was almost run over by a group of 10 mountain bikers who whizzed by without giving me time to get out of the way. I was a bit pissed off but didn’t say anything since I was of course outnumbered. Hikers feel like they can’t speak up to these large mountain biking groups when they are breaking the speed rules and other things because they are nervous because they feel outnumbered. Im just asking that bikers slow down on the orange trail as they are very popular with hikers and famileis with small children asw well who use the orange trail

  19. I’ve hiked the Fells for the last 15 years and haven’t come upon a dog hostile to people. I’m aware of what the rules are but the bellyaching about keeping dogs on-leash in the middle of a huge forest seems a little sad.

    • It’s not the dogs that are the problem, it’s the obnoxious dog owners who think that they have more rights than people and that they can let their dogs run free and harass others.