The County Parks Master Planning Process
The biggest news of the last decade for Erie County Cyclists has been the County Parks Master Planning process. There had been very little legal bicycling access in Erie County, and what little there is, or opportunity for more, is in the Erie County Parks. WNYMBA worked hard during the master planning process to secure access to riding in county parks. Information on the County Master Planning Process is available at their web site.
The draft final plan for the Erie County Park system was released with fanfare on March 1 2003, complete with prominent newspaper and radio coverage.
The plan did not change significantly from the draft versions. We were relieved to see this because, although it calls on compromises on our part it recognizes bicycling as a integral component of the park system, and should result in increased opportunities for riding. In fact, in the introductory section, it states that “As for what park goers would like to see in the park system, again, there is no clear activity that stands out alone. Mountain biking did receive the highest percentage of votes (5.34%), however, horseback riding (4.85%), educational programs and more trails were also widely noted (4.37%). Other activities also to be looked at include guided nature tours and wilderness activities.”
It looks like riding should be available in all the parks that we are interested in for providing good places to ride (Hunters Creek, Sprague Brook, Franklin Gulf, Eighteen Mile, etc.). Mountain biking is specifically mentioned in the Hunters Creek and Sprague Brook plans, while the other two former “land banks” don’t have comprehensive plans. However, as has been said before, the devil will be in the details and much relies on the implementation phase. For example, for all these parks, the plan says that a trails consultant should be hired to determine final trail layouts.
Although it is just one of the parks addressed, Hunters Creek was examined in more detail than many others. This, of course, has historically been the most popular park for cyclists. The plan retains the requirement advanced in the earlier drafts for up to about 1.5 miles of trail to be hiking only, meaning that we will have to give up some sustainable trail mileage. This is the compromise that we will have to accept in order to gain access to the rest of the park. “Rest of the park” does not mean status quo however. We have long supported closure of unsustainable trails in this park, and the master plan calls for this. However, the details on this remain to be worked out.