Auburn Bike Park Debate Heats Up – Equestrians Still Fighting

Our little community park is getting a lot of attention thanks to some neighbors and several equestrians who continue to try to kill the project. Equestrians are mobilizing against the bike park, as on can see from the Facebook post below by ACE – Action Coalition for Equestrians.

Why would they try to stop the bike park on a property that ARD manages and has every right to develop for the benefit of kids and families of Auburn? Because they simply don’t want to share a little corner of ARD property with kids and families.

10/25/77 Update
We took a screen shot of the post before ACE deleted it. This is what the post above said before it was deleted by ACE:

No One Likes ACE

Equestrians Fighting the Bike Park
The ACE-led equestrian opposition continues, despite the fact that (1) there is no historical trail through the bike park property since that trail was paved during Auburn dam construction, (2) ARD is creating a new bypass trail to re-establish a connection to other existing trails, and (3) equestrians and others would have access to a new trail lower in ASRA thanks to the bike park project. We have covered this topic in a earlier post, but for a quick refresher: the Pioneer Express Trail ends at the bottom of the river canyon at China Bar per Auburn Rec State Park signage, and the trail that does go through the bike park isn’t an officially-sanctioned trail, plus it’s been overgrown from years of non-use (which pre-dates the bike park project).

Here are the list of equestrian-affiliated organizations that have weighed in against the bike park. These organizations either focus on equestrian issues, or have board members who are equestrians. Their letters can be accessed on ARD’s website under “Public Notices”:

  • Safe Trails Alliance
  • North Fork American River Alliance
  • PEACE – Protecting Earth and Animals with Compassion and Education

While Action Coalition for Equestrians (ACE) has not weighed in with a letter as an organization against the bike park, ACE has been posting on Facebook encouraging equestrians to attend meetings and speak against the bike park. An attorney who also seems to be directly affiliated with equestrians has sent in several comments to ARD and he continues to weigh in. His emails and letters are included as part of ARD’s public record, which shows that he’s copied an equestrian in his correspondence to ARD staff.

We feel for the equestrians, we’d hate to have trails given and taken away. But let’s look at the facts. Just 2% of the US population owns a horse, while at least 50% of the entire US population owns a bike. About 60% of kids have bikes and ride them. Fewer young people are opting into horse ownership and horseback riding. Very likely, the proportional differences of bikes vs. equestrians are similar for the Auburn area.

Yet the proportion of trails open to bikes vs. equestrians are extremely disproportionate in Auburn SRA and Folsom SRA. Why? Because a small group of equestrians continue to rein supreme, bullying their way with State Parks and elected officials to maintain separate trails for “their safety.” They use threats of litigation over liability for injuries even though horse riding, like mountain biking, is an activity with inherent risk, and government agencies have general immunity from lawsuits when individuals pursue those activities. We’ve heard equestrians report bullying tactics by their fellow equestrians. It’s like a really bad (or good) episode of Game of Thrones.

Equestrians are GAINING new trails. So why are they fighting this project?
Equestrians fight when they think they’ll lose trail access. But that’s a fear not backed by fact! The truth is that equestrians are NEVER kicked off trails – rather they are forced to SHARE trails with bikes. But to them, that’s a “loss” and rather than trying to train their horse to be around bikes, they prefer to just keep bikes off “their” trails. (We fully support sharing trails responsibly which includes yielding around horses and hikers).

What’s crazy is that equestrians are actually GAINING trails in the area. Let’s take Hidden Falls Regional Park as a prime example. The Placer Land Trust continues to raise money through donations and grants to purchase land, install new trails and infrastructure such as bridges, in partnership with Placer County Parks. Ironically, equestrians can thank mountain biking organizations like FATRAC (Folsom Auburn Trail Riders Action Coalition) who have secured thousands of dollars in grants to expand the Hidden Falls Trail network, and who continue to build and maintain the same trails that equestrians use today. Even the recent conversion of a very small segment of the American River Parkway didn’t kick any equestrians off the trails! It opened up the trails to bikers, who are now helping to disperse homeless encampments.

Not All Equestrians Oppose the Bike Park – Some Even Support It!
We’ve heard from several equestrians who support a bike park at this location. Just take a look at Mr. Pablo Sust’s great letter to ARD. As an equestrian who was originally opposed to the bike park at this location, he took the time to meet with ARD, got to learn about the project, gave some input which ARD took, and now fully supports the bike park! We also appreciate that Loomis Basin Horseman’s Association is neutral on the bike park at this location. LBHA has given ARD significant input to the design to minimize safety concerns for equestrians, and they hope to re-establish a continuous route between Folsom SRA and Auburn SRA for the Pioneer Express-Western States Trail. Their constructive feedback will help pave the way for a “win-win” situation for both cyclists and equestrians!

We’ve said this before – There’s Room for All to Share
We hope the greater equestrian community will see through the concerns of the vocal minority who are fear-mongering over trails that they won’t lose. This can be a true win-win for kids and our trail community if we work together and not against each other.

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