Your comments needed! Trails plan for Missouri's National Park allows just 1/6 the mountain bike access of most Missouri trail systems

A MoBikeFed analysis of the proposed Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) trails plan shows that it opens just ONE-SIXTH the amount of trails to mountain biking as do other similar trail systems in Missouri. Furthermore, the current proposal lacks two key trail connections required to make a complete, contiguous, and connected 280-mile section of the Ozark Trail mountain bikeable.

The Ozark National Scenic Riverways
The Ozark National Scenic Riverways includes parts of the Current and Jack's Fork Rivers, in south-central Missouri near Eminence. The area has the potential to host an excellent mountain biking trail system.

  • The public comment period on the ONSR trails plan is open until Monday, January 15th
     
  • You can leave your comment in support of more mountain biking connectivity in ONSR here
     
  • More information and background in our previous Advocacy Alert here
     
  • You might make these basic points in your public comment:
    • The ONSR trails plan allows only 1/6 the mountain bike access of similar trail systems across Missouri.  This will leave Missouri's large and active mountain biking community very underserved and shows that ONSR is not using standard criteria for determining mountain bike access.
       
    • Mountain biking is a relatively low impact activity and people who mountain bike are very appreciative of the trails and supportive of our public lands. 
       
    • There is no defensible reason to exclude mountain biking from such a large proportion of trails in the park, when hiking and equestrian use (which is far, far more destructive of trails and the environment) are both available on far greater trail mileage.
       
    • Of primary concern is allowing sufficient mountain bike access to connect two disjoint sections of the Ozark Trail where mountain biking is already allowed.  This will create a connecting mountain bike trail and road system of over 280 miles miles, which will be impossible to create without the ONSR connections.
       
    • Generally ONSR should evaluate mountain bike use of every trail segment within ONSR boundaries and disallow mountain bike access to trails only when there is a very specific and justifiable reason to exclude mountain bike access. A careful analysis of this sort will almost certain allow mountain bike access similar to that found across similar trail system in Missouri (72% mountain bike access vs the 11% allowed in Alternative C).

The Data: Mountain biking is allowed on 72% of Missouri trail mileage, but only 11% of the most generous ONSR proposal

The current Missouri Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan is the most comprehensive analysis of allowed uses of Missouri trails to date.  The analysis (p. 84) found that

  • All of the trails (except for two water trails) are designed for hiking and walking (947 trails, 1,302 trailheads, 3,082 miles);

  • About half allow biking (457 trails, 2,228 miles); . . .

  • 134 equestrian trails provide 1,439 miles of trails for horse lovers;

Putting those numbers together, mountain biking is allowed on 2228 of 3082 trail miles across Missouri. That is 72% of trail mileage.

By contrast Ozark National Scenic Riverways Roads & Trails Plan Alternative C--which is the alternative that allows for the most mountain biking trail mileage--allows mountain biking on just 11.2% of all trails within ONSR

Discussion: Why more mountain biking trails in ONSR are needed and justified

Statewide in Missouri, 2228 of 3082 trail miles (72%)  allow mountain bike access.  Allowing mountain bike access on 72% of ONSR trail mileage is a reasonable proportion based on this empirical data, and a goal percentage that is strongly supported by the Missouri Bicycle & Pedestrian Federation. Significant deviations from this norm established by other land use management agencies across Missouri will require explanation based on very specific and unusual circumstances for each trail excluded from mountain biking use.

Note that ONSR Alternative C allows mountain biking on just 11.2% of all trails within ONSR--far below the 72% norm.

By contrast, ONSR Alternative C allows equestrian use on 36% of trail miles--which reasonably close to the statewide norm of 47% of trail mileage allowing equestrian use.

In short, the ONSR trails plan meets the needs of people who hike and ride horses.  But it is far short of meeting the needs of the large population in Missouri and the Midwest who mountain bike.

The very, very low percentage of trail where mountain bike use is allowed is a very significant outlier in comparison with the statewide norm.

The fact that, even in ONSR Alternative C, the proportion of trails open to mountain biking is so low in comparison to the amounts open for hiking and equestrian use indicates that ONSR is not properly gauging the interest in mountain biking in Missouri and that even Alternative C will vastly underserve the population’s needs.

Additionally, the large proportion of statewide trail mileage open to mountain biking indicates that, in the judgement of land managers across the state, a very large proportion of the state’s singletrack trails are suitable for mountain biking and that concerns that might restrict mountain bike users from all but a tiny percentage of area trails are unwarranted.

280-mile connected mountain bike trail system possible in Missouri--IF ONSR's Trails Plan allows it

Additionally, key connections to a possible 280-mile completed connected mountain bike trail and gravel system, using much of the existing Ozark Trail, is possible if and only if the ONSR Trails Plan allows mountain bike access on a few miles of key trails in ONSR.

If ONSR does not allow mountain biking use on these connecting trails, there does not appear to be any other way to link the two lengthy, disconnected segments of the Ozark Trail where mountain biking is allowed.

See a map of the potential 280-mile mountain bike trail system in south-central Missouri here.

What you can do to help

Thank you!  Your comment will really make a difference on this issue--and help create an AMAZING 280-mile mountain bike trail in Missouri.

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