At last night’s MORC board meeting, there was some interesting discussion about the pros and cons of MORC taking a public position on the addition of a paved trail along the MN River Bottoms in Bloomington. (See my previous 5 blog posts about advocacy related to the MN River bottoms issue going back to last July.)
Wearing my citizen/taxpayer hat, I’m personally against adding a new paved trail between 169 and Cedar as I think the maintenance costs would be outrageous. But I’ve been arguing that it’s best for MORC to not publicly oppose it right now till we know more.
I wrote back in November:
The MORC Board hasn’t taken a formal position yet, as it’s not yet known whether the US Fish and Wildlife Service will allow two trails through the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. I think it’s a safe bet that if only one trail is allowed and the DNR wants it paved, the MORC board will encourage mountain bikers to organize in opposition to the plan. If two trails are allowed (paved and natural surface), we’ll work to preserve the existing multiuse trail as much as possible, while collaborating on shared facilities like bridges and trailheads.
And as I noted back in August when I met with Parks & Trails Council Executive Director Brett Feldman, if the new paved trail does get funded by the 2014 Legislature, it doesn’t mean that it’ll get built. It’ll just start the public engagement process. There will be plenty of opportunities for MORC and area mountain bikers to weigh in and try to influence the outcome. I’ve also argued that for MORC to take public stance in opposition now runs the risk of appearing to be NIMBY-ish and alienating two agencies who support a second paved trail there and who’ve been supportive of mountain biking in the past, the Parks & Trails Council and the Parks and Trails Division of the MN DNR.
I heard two opposing arguments last night at the MORC board meeting. (I’m not going to attribute the arguments to anyone as A) I didn’t take careful notes; and B) I haven’t gotten permission. I’m a MORC board member first and a blogger second on this issue.)
- There could be an advantage in the legislative process for a contrary position from a significant stakeholder to become known early, as a committee reviewing the trails on a funding request list might just decide to delete the trail from the list to avoid the controversy. Also, the public position statement could be worded positively in content and tone, ie, listing all the reasons (recreation, environment, economic, etc) why the status quo is preferred.
- MORC’s relationship with the Parks and Trails Division of the MN DNR is not likely to be adversely affected by opposing a second paved trail as A) there’s no DNR land in the Metro area that’s likely to be considered for mountain bike trails; and B) any future possibilities for mountain biking on DNR land around the state will hinge mainly on the success of Cuyuna Lakes and not on what happens with the MN River Bottoms.
These are good arguments. I’m thinking about them. Attach a comment below if you’ve got some reactions or chime in on the discussion thread in the MORC Forum titled Should there be a paved trail in the River Bottoms?