DEC Releases Final State Forest Management Plan
Following the comment period that ended last October, DEC has released the Final State Forest Management Plan. It is available at this link and the section that deals with trails management is at this link.
The initial draft was favorable for bicycles with some exceptions. The final version remains mostly unchanged from the draft with respect to bicycle access. Overall, this is GOOD NEWS.
The plan specifically states “Mountain bikes are permitted to travel on any existing road or trail on State Forests unless the road or trail is posted as closed for this use.” This is consistent with the recently promulgated Part 190 state regs formalizing bike access. The wording in the that stated that trails would have to be inspected prior to opening has been removed as we requested.
Not all of our requested changes were implemented. For example, the plan's statement that long distance trails such as the Finger Lakes Trail (the white trail) would be primarily hiking-only remains. Also remaining, however, is the specific exemption for “where the FLT passes through a State Forest which is also dedicated to an extensive system of trails, accommodating other recreational uses, and it is not feasible or avoidable to have some trail overlaps”. We requested that the plan specifically mention Ellicottville as an example of such an exemption, but this didn't make it into the plan.
While this plan is on the whole favorable to cycling, it is no call for resting on laurels. The plan and the regulations specifically allow for closing trails to bikes for specific reasons, including damage from use in wet conditions (or improper original design/location) and if “conditions exist that create incompatibilities to mountain biking”. In addition, the section of the plan that says “to the fullest extent possible DEC will accommodate the FLT as a single use foot trail on State Forests” will likely be raised again and again to threaten our access to the white trail. To maintain access on state forest trails, constant vigilance and responsible trail use is necessary.
We would like to thank the DEC for considering cycling as a legitimate use of trails in the state forests. Let's work to keep that trust.