Granite Bay Bulldozed
If you haven't seen it on social media or KCRA News (Segments 1, & FATRAC response), State Parks recently bulldozed a very popular, though unsanctioned, biking area in Granite Bay State Recreation Area with zero associated efforts to improve the trail system in our area. For years Parks has underdelivered on their responsibility to provide adequate recreation opportunities for our biking youth.
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FATRAC's Public Statement:
Statement by the Folsom Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition (FATRAC) on the Bulldozing of Unsanctioned Jump Trail in Folsom Lake State Recreation Area (FLSRA)
FATRAC is extremely dismayed by the recent bulldozing of dirt jumps in FLSRA that were largely built, and treasured, by our area youth. While we understand the jumps at Granite Bay and near Browns Ravine were built without permission, FLSRA’s decision to use heavy machinery to access and remove these jumps was both unnecessary and destructive to the environment they seek to protect. Furthermore, FLSRA’s actions only serve to highlight the many shortcomings of California State Parks’ overall management of its public lands.
The jumps existed for several years in very small and secluded areas of FLSRA’s 20,000 acre boundary. They did not cross any sanctioned trail nor interfere with other activities such as hiking and horseback riding. Youth and adult cyclists would generally ride cross-country trails in FLSRA and stop for a few jump laps before continuing with their ride, often getting in many miles and hours of riding. In that time, friendships were formed, skills were developed, mental and physical fitness were built, and the outdoors were greatly enjoyed. Bulldozing this small patch of land in FLSRA without any planning for an alternative is short-sighted and does not address the ongoing issues of a trail system that is at maximum capacity. It removes the incentive for local kids to get off their electronic devices, go outside, and engage in self-motivated, healthy activities. Kids now have one less place to go and engage in the outdoors.
Folsom Lake SRA removed an asset without first engaging any local bicycle organization such as FATRAC in possible alternatives, even though FATRAC has worked with FLSRA in the past to help maintain and alter trail alignments to reduce erosion. Unfortunately, it has been our experience that California State Parks is governed by arcane trail management policies and practices that do not reflect the current demand and needs of diverse trail users. New trails have not been built in the Folsom or Auburn SRA’s since the late 90s and very early 2000s when “Sweetwater” and “Connector” Trails were built. State Parks’ outdated policies, lengthy planning/decision-making processes, and layers of red tape limit any new trail development – let alone jump lines and bike-specific trails – and have made even basic trail maintenance nearly impossible.
The Road and Trails Management Plan (RTMP) for Folsom SRA has been stalled for over 5 years as evidenced here: https://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=28192.
FATRAC, as a part of the Folsom Trails Advisory Group, has been trying to work through the State Parks official “change-in-use” process for over 20 years to convert the “Browns Ravine” section of trail to allow bikes and is still waiting for State Parks to make a decision, that was due shortly after their 2001 public meeting on the matter.
The Auburn SRA General Plan was completed in June 2020 after several delays and years of public input, but new trail construction and trail improvements cannot move forward until further planning including a RTMP is completed, and that effort has not yet started.
The California Department of Parks and Recreation owns and manages 1.6 million acres of public land but leans heavily towards conservation over recreation, even in State Recreation Areas, as we have seen in FLSRA. Any youth-friendly amenities such as bike jumps and bike- specific trails are prohibited in practice, if not in official policy. As a result, FATRAC and other bicycle organizations have turned to cities, counties, local parks districts, and federal agencies who are much more receptive and nimble to design bike trails and features. This should not be the case. Mountain biking is second only to hiking in the number of trail users in the United States.1 Youth and adult cyclists are a legitimate user group that fuels local economies and are deserving of amenities like every other park user group. We are willing and able to develop mutually beneficial options that are environmentally friendly.
FATRAC has participated in countless meetings with State Parks staff both locally and at the State level with little movement forward. We held hope in the Parks Forward Transformation Initiative only to see little change or forward progress from that process. We were hopeful that SB 204 (Pavley, 2015) would increase partnership and volunteer opportunities, to no avail. With a few exceptions, the State Parks system fails to leverage the partnership opportunities that will bring volunteer and funding resources to build and maintain park amenities to meet the needs of California’s growing diverse population.
During the pandemic, visitors have flooded the great outdoors and many have caused far worse damage than kids with shovels. Deferred maintenance and outdated trail designs have contributed to significant erosion and associated safety issues throughout FLSRAs sanctioned trails; yet those in charge of maintaining the trails chose to mobilize bulldozers to remove a small, isolated jump trail that was safe, sustainable and beneficial to a huge portion of the community. Meanwhile, youth have been shut out of sports and other activities, in-person learning, and connections with friends, accentuating already dire mental health outcomes. According to the California Children’s Trust, children’s self-reported mental health needs have increased 61% since 2005. Nationally, suicide is now one of the leading causes of death for children, outpacing cancer and car accidents.2 While more traditional youth team sports are an incredibly important and beneficial alternative outlet studies show that nearly 70% of youth leave team sports by the age of 13.3 Bicycling is nature’s antidote—a lifelong healthy outlet that builds self-esteem, physical and mental health and increases social activity. Adolescents who bike are 48% less likely to be overweight as adults; cycling improves self-confidence and tolerance to stress, while reducing sleep issues and tiredness.4 Bicycling is also an equalizer-- accessible across all ages, skill-levels and racial and socio-economic backgrounds.
We urge California’s policy makers and State Parks to revisit its current policies and practices and expedite planning and development for bike- and youth-friendly activities in collaboration with local and statewide cycling organizations. It’s time for the California State Department of Parks and Recreation put the “R” back into recreation.
For additional information contact
2 https://cachildrenstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/PolicyBriefReimaginngChildWellBeing.pdf 3 https://www.outsideonline.com/1925856/dont-let-youth-sports-hijack-your-life