Exactly three weeks ago I attended a meeting at Foothills Christian Church regarding trail advocacy in San Diego.
The topics of discussion all involved either:
- the removal of trails in San Diego County,
- the addition of trails in San Diego County.
The local marines were in attendance as one of the meeting issues involved mountain bikers receiving citations and getting their bikes confiscated for riding on our local military base. The unincorporated portion of San Diego was represented by County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, while the City of San Diego also sent a representative. Several other people sat at the front table, including Kevin Loomis, president of the SDMBA (San Diego Mountain Bike Association). Mountain bikers were also represented by myself and roughly 500 of my fellow riders.
While the Marines showed no flexibility (just offering to post more signs), the majority of speakers talked about creating more legal trails within the city and county of San Diego.
Several times Kevin Loomis announced something to this effect, “We want San Diego to be a world renowned mountain bike destination. People will come to San Diego just for the mountain biking.” I was excited to hear Kevin say this, as I have often had those same thoughts myself. Why not? Our weather allows us to ride year round, something very few places can claim. However, as I sat there amongst my peers, reality once again set in … the reality of where we actually stand today.
Great weather is not enough. To be a world class mountain bike destination we would have to have some world class mountain bike trails. As I see it, San Diego County offers only one track anyone would consider epic or world class … the Noble Canyon Trail. None of our other trails come close.
Some of the destinations I have visited … Moab, Sedona, Tucson, Tahoe, Hurricane, Crested Butte, Fruita, Oakridge, Downieville, Helena … all have several top notch trails. And many of these places have more trails under construction.
What kind of trails am I talking about? Let’s just look at what makes Noble Canyon such a great trail.
Well, Noble Canyon offers:
- Length … 10 miles
- Width … singletrack
- Rock obstacles (difficult enough to challenge even the best of riders)
- Incredible views
- Changing climate zones … trail segments pass through pines, oaks, sagebrush, and cactus
- Remoteness … no cars, semis, housing tracts nearby
- Opportunities to ride fast
- Streams to cross
- Great weather
Now, not all epic trails have the exact same features as Noble Canyon. Many have the similar characteristics … and many have more.
We do have many short pieces of legal trail with some of these epic trail characteristics (Martha’s Grove … 1.7 miles, E-Ticket … 1.2 miles, Los Gatos … 2.3 miles, etc.) and while the trails in Laguna Meadow are nice, I am not sure too many serious mountain bikers would consider them epic trails. Cuyamaca is a beautiful location but most of those rides are on dirt roads.
In contrast, just taking the Arizona and Black Canyon Trails within the state of Arizona has at least 700 miles of Epic Trail. California’s answer to these trails is the Pacific Crest Trail, which (of course) outlaws bikes for its entire length (Mexico to Canada) even though San Diego’s portion of this epic trail passes through private land and non-wilderness areas.
While Kevin pleaded with us to not to build or ride illegal trails (tracks not built by an official organization) I was suddenly struck with this thought … what trails do I ride? Are they legal?
After scrolling through trails in my head I came to this conclusion … although many of the trails I ride are not marked with “No Trespassing” signs, most were probably built by mountain bikers on private land. I do not hold anything against these trail builders … they were just trying to create some of those epic type characteristics that our minimal selection of legal trails possess.
In conclusion, top mountain bike destinations attract riders from all over the world. I know people who have either completed or are in the final stages of planning mountain bike trips to New Zealand, Puerto Rico, Switzerland, Guatemala, Hong Kong, the Pyrenees, the Andes, and more.
The people at these destinations have figured something out … “If you build them (great trails), riders will come (and spend money … lots of money).”
We have a lot of work to do to make San Diego a world class mountain biking destination. I have no doubt my fellow mountain bikers are willing to volunteer their efforts (we have shown we like to build trails). All we need is to be pointed in the right direction.
I will be attending the IMBA (International Mountain Bike Association) Trail Building seminar this Saturday. I am hoping many of my fellow riders join me.