The San Mateo County Parks Department and Coastside Mountain Bikers are working together to standardize mountain biking trails in Quarry Park despite philosophies about trail use that are sometimes at odds.
Parks Director Nicholas Calderon said the new standards for mountain biking trails in the park, which are likely to be based on existing international, national or state policies, would provide a framework for evaluating existing and new trails for safety and environmental impacts. Those standards would then inform the county’s decision to modify or even decommission any trails that don’t size up, Calderon said.
The effort comes in response to new, unauthorized trails that have appeared in the park over the past few months. Those ad hoc trails led County Parks to post notices informing users that the trails weren’t up to par with county standards and asking users to stop building new ones, Calderon said.
“We really needed the broader community to understand that those are not our trails, we aren’t authorizing those trails, and we can't guarantee they are safe,” Calderon said.
Ric Barker, executive director for Coastside Mountain Bikers, said the group is working with County Parks and encouraging adoption of international mountain biking standards. The group wants trail ratings and signage and to take an active role in maintaining Quarry Park for recreational bikers. Barker said he doesn’t support decommissioning any trails, and would rather find middle ground in retaining and modifying current trails, most of which he said predate County Parks’ ownership of the land. His hope is that this process will help the parks department evolve its view of mountain biking.
“The sport of mountain biking has evolved,” Barker said. “... The mindset, it needs to come and evolve as well. We’re working with them on that, to find some middle ground in retaining all of these trails.”
Barker said Coastside Mountain Bikers have offered to help build and fund any new signage and modifications to the trails. With generations of mountain bikers who live on the Coastside, the group helped design and fund the incoming pump track and teaches trail ethics and good behavior to its members.
Some of the factors that go into rating and authorizing a trail, Calderon said, include its width, the line of sight, elevation change, any features like jumps and how it transitions into another trail.
“One thing we’re concerned about is when a single track trail intersects another trail or a fire road,” Calderon said. “We never want that to happen. That's a very unsafe condition.”
Barker said he is most concerned with getting users off of wide fire roads, which are dangerous to ride downhill while hikers and other users are moving uphill. While the group’s reach is limited, it is encouraging users to comply with the county’s request to not create new trails in the park and respect the authority of park rangers. Calderon said that as soon as the notices were posted, fewer people have been riding unauthorized trails.
Calderon said he hopes the adoption of the trail standards is the start, and not the end of the conversation. While Quarry Park is the only county park that’s going through this process, Calderon said the process could inform decisions elsewhere in the county. And as Quarry Park changes, Calderon said he hopes to monitor and revise the standards and trails to best meet community needs and safety.
“It's a living process,” Calderon said.