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City park offers the ‘potential’ for tourism

As a founding member of the Northern Allegheny Mountain Bike Association, I can’t help but notice that the conversation surrounding Washington Park is once again placing the mountain bike sport in an undeserving negative spotlight.

I find this ironic, since a good share of our planned trail work for 2021 is focused on repairing damage caused by a process known as trampling. This is when trail users leave the corridor, creating an environmental impact to both the surrounding vegetation and drainage. The two most apparent and egregious areas of this lay along the minister Creek trail and Tanbark trail corridors. Both caused by hikers, not mountain bikers.

There have been studies done looking at the overall impact of trail use trampling. One such study demonstrated that wildlife movement was affected 7% of the time by mountain bikes being on the trail, as compared to 61% of the time by hikers. This was attributed to the number of times where hikers will leave the trail to “interact” with nature.

Although there seems to be one wilderness group, or at least its self-proclaimed spokesperson, that has historically had a non-favorable view of all things with wheels and has, in the past, published very misleading, non-factual and borderline slanderous comments about mountain bikers. This letter is not intended to add fuel to the fire. My intent is to prayerfully bring light to the greater situation and opportunities for growing tourism in and around the Allegheny national Forest with user groups working together.

This area has never fully grasped the potential that it has for tourism. There have been, and continue to be, individuals that work tirelessly to promote the area and keep the forest and waterways appealing to all user groups. However, I have witnessed and felt the impact of a complacent local economy and indifferent government agencies, from all levels, that can’t seem to see the big picture.

Because of this, our local tourism efforts are constantly stifled. The unnecessary division being caused by the wilderness group, concerning Washington Park, is an example of this. Chapman State Park’s decision to hold their long running stance of “status quo” is another.

As a result, Warren County is again on the cusp of being left behind. Please consider this as a real world example. Long Point State Park has embraced the changing attitude of outdoor users, which means that Bemus Point, sitting along Chautauqua Lake, is reaping greater financial benefit from forest use than Warren.

That does not mean there are less people going to the National Forest than Long Point. However, the local community is taking advantage of proximity. This is something Warren could benefit from, if Washington Park and Chapman were both developed with respect to all potential user groups and a vision.

Keith Martin is pastor Chapel at Tidioute Creek and program director for Rock Solid MTB in Warren.

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