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Proposal to Build Singletrack Bike Trails in Smoky Mountains National Park: Comment Now

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Singletrack mountain bike trails in US National Parks are exceedingly rare, and only recently have park superintendents even entertained the idea of cyclists venturing off road. This month the National Park Service (NPS) is considering a proposal to construct mountain bike trails within a managed area known as Section 8D of the Foothills Parkway transportation corridor. Groups opposed to the plan are already lining up, penning op-eds like this one at NationalParksTraveler.org.

The good news is mountain bikers also have an opportunity to weigh in online through August 19, 2020. If you’re reading this right now, don’t put this off; open the form in a new tab right now and send off a quick note in support of the plan.

Now, for more details about the project and some of the back story. The Scoping Letter provided by the NPS is very thorough and outlines why the project is being considered, and how any negative impacts will be mitigated. The document notes:

While more than 800 miles of trails exist in the Park, less than 8 miles are open to biking and there are no by-design mountain biking trails. Most of the Park’s trails are in areas managed as wilderness where bikes are not permitted. The Foothills Parkway corridor, which is within the Park’s transportation management zone and is not managed as wilderness, could provide visitors new opportunities to experience the Park through mountain biking.

The letter goes on to note that modern mountain bike trail design “is both environmentally and economically responsible, taking into account long term maintenance.” It explains how mountain bike trails are different from hiking and equestrian trails, and that bike-specific trails have features that are designed “to reduce the potential for trail widening, control speed, and prevent shortcutting or off-trail use.”

Three options are presented, including Alternative 1 as shown above, and commenters should state a preference for one or more of the options in their comments.

The online comment period closes August 19, 2020. Access the comment form here.




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