Mass Meetup to Protest the Recent Trail Closures

Take action: https://sites.google.com/site/MissingTrails


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For Immediate Release

Hikers and Bikers to Rally in Protest at Recent San Diego Trail Closures

On Saturday, January 11, hundreds of trail users plan to gather at Mission Trails Regional Park (MTRP) in protest against a rash of recent trail closures across San Diego County. This will be the first such protest of its kind.

“We are fed up—America’s finest city is quickly becoming one of the worst places in the West to be a mountain biker,” said Dustin Sharp, a professor at the University of San Diego and avid cyclist who plans to attend the protest. “We need to stop closing trails and start building them instead.”

In late Fall, San Diego city officials closed down several trails popular with mountain bikers, trail runners, and hikers in an area north of Mission Trails Regional Park known as “East Elliot.”  The area is slated to become part of MTRP in the coming years. Hikers and mountain bikers have used trails in the East Elliot area for decades.  

Trail closures were carried out at the request of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), citing concerns about impact on native plants. The East Elliot trails are located on a former military bombing range that was ravaged by fire nearly 10 years ago, and are situated next door to the soon-to-expand Sycamore Landfill. City officials have threatened further trail closures and heavy fines if users do not cease using the trails in question.

According to the proposed Master Plan Update (MPU) for Mission Trails Regional Park, many of the user created trails in the East Elliot area are “well constructed narrow contour and single-track trails.” Under the proposed MPU, however, the majority of the East Elliot trails are to be closed at an unspecified point in the future and replaced with different, much wider trails required by San Diego city code, removing far more vegetation than the existing narrow trails.

“The reason cyclists have been riding in East Elliot all these years is dead simple,” said Sharp. “It is because the needs of cyclists have been wholly ignored within the main borders of Mission Trails Regional Park itself.”

What are referred to as “trails” within MTRP are generally 8 to 15-foot wide fireroads. Many of them are poorly constructed, moving up and down at grades higher than 20%, all highly susceptible to erosion. Citing the unacceptable quality of these roads and the near absence of genuine single-track trails open to bikes, many cyclists point to the hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on a recently constructed underutilized equestrian facility together with the eye-wateringly expensive reconstruction of the hiker-only West-side Cowles mountain trail as signs of discrimination.

The East Elliot closures follow on the heels of other trail closures across the county, several of them initiated by CDFW.  At Los Penasquitos/Del Mar Mesa, officials have closed a once-treasured trail system known as “tunnels,” and the CDFW is now aggressively ticketing and confiscating bikes for riding trails that have been in existence for many years. In an area near Cuyamaca College, CDFW officials initiated the closure of a system of neighborhood hiking trails and BMX jumps.  These come in addition to closures on the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge and a decision by the Marines at MCAS/Miramar to block access to the Stowe Trail, a 100-year old trail that links Santee to Sycamore/Goodan Ranch.

“All of us in San Diego County should be looking around to see whether our favorite trail will be next,” said Sharp. “At the rate we are going, there will be nowhere left to hike and cycle with our families and pets.”

According to recent studies, outdoor recreation is increasing in popularly. There has been a 16% increase in mountain bike sales and fully 21% of households in San Diego use a bike on a frequent basis. At a time when the nation is facing an obesity epidemic, these figures are welcome news. Unfortunately, they also come at a time when the number of trails appears to be shrinking year to year.

“Ultimately, this is about what kind of quality of life we are going to have as San Diegans,” said Minette Ozaki, San Diego Mountain Biking Association (SDMBA) board member and licensed massage therapist. “Access to the types of trails that are being closed is critical to physical and mental well being, yet the City is doing very little to provide alternatives.” 

The City of San Diego funds tennis courts, swimming pools, skate parks, lakes to fish in, baseball fields, golf courses, basketball courts, and soccer fields, among other things. However, unlike many other cites across the U.S., there are no dedicated trails or bike parks for mountain or BMX bikes.

"Really, the City has done very little to promote San Diego as the cycling destination it could and should be,” said Don Sutton, a long-time researcher at the University of California San Diego and competitive cyclist. “It’s really unfortunate that rather than recognizing trails as a resource, the City seems hell-bent on closing them with no alternatives provided. When cyclist friends ask me whether to take a vacation here, I unfortunately have to tell them to look elsewhere to places that welcome mountain bike dollars.”

At the January 11 protest, trail users plan to ride some of the legal dirt roads within Mission Trails Regional Park en masse. Riders will gather at 9am with the ride to begin at 10am. It is hoped that the rally will send a message to local, state, and federal officials that mountain bikers want to work productively to make San Diego one of the finest cities for mountain biking, hiking, and trail running. The event is not being organized by any one group or person, but is intended as a spontaneous reaction to express distress at closures across the county. 

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” said Doug Johnson, lifetime San Diegan, owner of a construction management firm, and avid cyclist. “The fruitful cooperation between riders and federal, state, and local officials in places such as Big Bear, San Luis Obispo, and Tahoe is proof that things in San Diego can get better. As mountain bikers, we want to be working with managers of public lands, not against them.”

For more information relating to trail closures, please contact:

Doug Johnson, [masked]

Mike MacGregor, [masked] 

Dustin Sharp,  [masked]

Join or login to comment.

  • keith

    I did not see the 8 news, but that sounds typical. Maybe if a few hundred people were to start calling 8 and many other news outlets??

    1 · January 13, 2014

  • Chuck H.

    A all they showed was a couple of bikes while they were still setting up the tents and stuff a "we want trais" sign and a very brief interview with the spokesperson. Never saw the crowds or the parade lap or anything else. I was watching channel 8 on their special report.

    January 12, 2014

    • Scott M.

      Like I said, maybe we need 500 mountain bikes rolling through every weekend

      1 · January 13, 2014

  • Chuck H.

    Tv coverage was crap

    1 · January 12, 2014

    • Scott M.

      I agree Chuck!!!! I could hardly find anything from the local news outlets on the internet. Maybe we need 500 mountain bikers rolling through every weekend?

      1 · January 12, 2014

  • Bernie

    Huge turnout! Lots of friendly riders unhappy about trail closures.

    1 · January 11, 2014

  • John

    Nice Crowd

    2 · January 11, 2014

  • Omar

    Good Turnout, nice to see familiar faces

    2 · January 11, 2014

  • Eric

    A big thanks to all the riders who came!!! It was an impressive, and very civilized gathering. One of the organizers told me he estimated 500 people.

    3 · January 11, 2014

  • keith

    Just wanted to find ways to be more involved

    1 · January 11, 2014

    • Chuck H.

      Join SDMBA sign petition and write letters. Meetings this Wed at same place. And go ride

      1 · January 11, 2014

  • keith

    Got there late, just as you all were returning,

    January 11, 2014

  • Bernie

    Huge turnout this morning, maybe 300 MTBer's at least, maybe more! Channel 10News and Fox were there. I had to leave early due to work but thanks to everyone that showed up. Get involved, join SDMBA and maybe our trails don't all get closed.

    4 · January 11, 2014

  • Ron

    Bike doesn't fit in the new loaner car, no passthrough. Bummer.

    January 11, 2014

    • Scott M.

      Lol Ron, take it back and ask for a truck

      1 · January 11, 2014

  • Omar

    Does anyone know if theres gonna be any kind of leadership during this event?

    1 · January 7, 2014

    • Eric

      All 3 of the men listed above, at the bottom of this event description, have had a strong leadership presence online to organize and advertise this event. I'm sure they will be as involved, in-person, on event day.

      1 · January 9, 2014

    • Chris V.

      This is a non-organized event.

      January 10, 2014

  • Christian

    Wish I could go, But I work this weekend.....

    January 10, 2014

  • Eric

    It cannot be over-emphasized how important it is to have as many concerned citizens, trail users (of every area of interest), and especially MTB'ers show-up to this event - rumor has it that the Bureaucrats are dismissive and disdainful of this effort by Citizens to hold their Government accountable... I, for one, am not willing to accept that - please be there (We The) People.

    3 · January 9, 2014

  • Bernie

    What kills me is that City and County agencies have no problem funding and promoting Golf courses, tennis courts, rec enters, playgrounds, skate parks, community swimming pools, boat ramps, campgrounds, Gliderports, Frisbee golf, etc etc But when it comes to the a guy with a mountain bike the message is "you guys need to please just go away." All we want is a little bit of a dirt trail to ride on.

    1 · January 9, 2014

  • Louie

    It's all about a balance. We need to show the folks out there that we are rational outdoor loving people that love to ride our bikes on trails, not necessarily through some protected habitat. Provide the trails or let us build them and everyone is happy.

    2 · January 8, 2014

  • Mark W

    That is exactly what drives me crazy. Development is good but health and fitness is bad. Theres no money in health & fitness for the developers and politicians!!

    2 · January 8, 2014

  • Bernie

    It seems insane to me that there is NO PROBLEM with lining the entire San Diego River bed with condos, Walmarts, golf courses, and soccer fields, not to mention Scraping away hillsides for projects like Sunrise Powerlink, expanding the Sycamore landfill and QuailBush powerplant-- Yet having a couple DIRT TRAILS where we can hike or bike to GET AWAY from all that s%!t is somehow SO BAD for our PUBLIC LAND. Jezzus Wheres my Tylenol!?!

    2 · January 7, 2014

  • Karla H.

    Absolutely, positively yes!

    January 5, 2014

  • Scott M.

    Is this going to be a protest ride?

    1 · December 23, 2013

    • Louie

      Although one of the trails they are closing is a great climb, there are enough other trails to check out.

      December 25, 2013

    • Kevin G.

      They closed a lot more than 1, all the good trails off mast are closed.

      January 4, 2014

  • Bernie

    I had heard about this but ride but thought it was meeting over by the Mast Blvd trailhead. Might be a different group? btw I think Karen Goebel would be just as happy if no hikers or bikers were allowed in the park, Thats why we call it Missing Trails Park.

    December 31, 2013

    • Scott M.

      I haven't quite figured out which is more invasive, mountain bikers on a single track or the 8-10 ft wide fire road. Imagine having a 50,000 dollar dune buggy and when u get to Glamis, the only place to ride is a paved road.

      January 1, 2014

  • Pat M.

    Here is an e-mail I received - I thought I should share it...

    Thank you for your email regarding the closure of trails in the East Elliot area of the City of San Diego (City) and your concern for maintaining an environmentally sensitive trail system to serve community needs. The trails constructed on East Elliot have impacted sensitive habitat, including coastal sage scrub, and as currently established are not compatible with protecting the biological resources in the preserve. For these reasons, we support the City’s decision to close the trails at East Elliot at this time. That said, we are working with the City to develop a trail system that would be compatible with the preserve as part of the Mission Trails Regional Park Master Plan Update and encourage and welcome your participation in this public process. Sincerely,
    Karen Goebel
    Assistant Field Supervisor
    Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office

    December 31, 2013

    • Chuck H.

      Same letter I got. With some variations from others bases on their areas of responsibility

      December 31, 2013

  • Pat M.

    I am going to be away - but I did send a message to all those listed!

    1 · December 20, 2013

  • Dan C.

    Posted for Martin.

    1 · December 20, 2013

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