When it comes to talking about a possible new mountain bike trail in Moran State Park and about the bigger picture of human impact in wild places, environmental planner Andrew Fielding is the man to talk to, which is why he appeared at a meeting on Orcas.
The session, on July 21 at the Eastsound Fire Hall Meeting Room, was held to get feedback from islanders about the trail. It was also a chance to discuss Washington State Parks’ long-term management options at Moran State Park as Orcas Power and Light Cooperative transitions away from the current utility corridor there. Parks has received a proposal from Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance for formal development of a trail that will follow the alignment of the power line corridor. The developed trail would use an existing trail and the power line access road.
Fielding said the next step for the park is to a hold an internal meeting to discuss recent comments, costs and the operational impact. He added that obtaining the permits will be the most time consuming aspect if parks moves forward with the trail.
At the meeting islanders voiced concern about mountain biking trails that intersect with hiking paths.
Fielding said parks will install fencing in areas to slow down biking traffic around pedestrians. There will also be signage to help the two activities converge.
The issue of environmental concern was also broached at the meeting. For instance, what happens if mountain bikers take shortcuts and damage vegetation?
“Cutting corners on the trail damages vegetation,” said Fielding.
Parks discourages people from taking shortcuts by piling up brush and branches in specific areas. He added that another issue is that all trails cause erosion because of the removal of natural vegetation. Ways to combat this degradation include proper planning for the trail line and hardening of the surface, which can sometimes include a bridge or boardwalk.
Parks will also have to form a plan to deal with noxious weeds. According to Fielding, hiking and biking “make it hard for native plants to establish and make it really easy for none-native plants to grow.”
Depending on what weeds appear on a new trail, Fielding said, there is a variety of control methods from hand-pulling to herbicides.
To comment on the proposal, go to www.parks.wa.gov/881/Moran-Mountain-Bike-Trail-Proposal-Plann.