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  1. #26
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    Don't know if it applies to this plan, but on a system I was involved with, we had to shut down a bunch of old stuff so we didn't get so much trail braiding that it made the entire park unfeasible. The wildlife manager on our project had the majority of say in that discussion (all about good corridors and bad corridors for wildlife, especially small creature that would get picked off from the sky with more corridors)

  2. #27
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    I talked to the main BLM guy today at the trailhead meeting and he said that yes, all the old trails will be closed to mountain bikers--but not until the new trails are completed. He said he was going to add that language to the final plan. I guess that was my main concern---that I'd get shut out of my current trails and then these new trails would never actually get built. But yeah, I'm sure the new trails, once built, will be way better than most of what's up there now.

    He also mentioned a possible partnership between BLM and the county to help maintain the road to the Head Lane trailhead. That is a private road and all the maintenance is paid for out of the pockets of us who live up here, so hopefully something will come of that, although I'm not going to hold my breath.

  3. #28
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    One other point of interest at the meeting, if anybody gives a shit: The BLM guy (Brad) mentioned there had been a lot of misinformation circulating about e-bikes. He had talked to a lot of people concerned about the Scratchgravels reverting to motorized travel. It was kind of funny to see him explaining e-bikes to people in cowboy hats and boots, talking about horsepower, etc. Most people seemed to understand and accept that it wasn't the same thing as dirt bikes and ATVs. But still, it's confusing to people for sure.

    Anybody willing to comment please do. You can email your comments to Brad Colin (bcolin@blm.gov), Outdoor Recreation Planner. Just indicate you support Alternative B in the Scratchgravel Hills RAMP and EA. Thanks.

  4. #29
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    Iíve seen a lot of folks latching onto the ďbike optimizedĒ description of the singletrack trails and envisioning bike park trails with jumps and drops and high speed riders - without looking at the topography on the map to see the vast majority of the new trails have grades less than 5%. Obviously itís a technical document and you use the relevant technical phrases, but review by readers who donít have that understanding results in confusion - or deliberate misrepresentation.

    Itís hard to explain at this point that ďbike optimizedĒ means good sightlines and not using 12% grades and 170* switchbacks to gain elevation.

  5. #30
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    Sounds like they plan to gentrify the trails....I used to like it...well...scratchy


    Sent from my iPhone using TGR Forums
    I rip the groomed on tele gear

  6. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by detrusor View Post
    Sounds like they plan to gentrify the trails....I used to like it...well...scratchy


    Sent from my iPhone using TGR Forums
    Yeah, I have mixed feelings about that too. I will support the plan, but if it doesn't happen that's fine too. It's definitely not a slam dunk at this point. Be interesting to see how things shake out.

  7. #32
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    Fuck e-bikes, but damn, I gotta go riding in Helena again.
    No longer stuck.

    Quote Originally Posted by stuckathuntermtn View Post
    Just an uneducated guess.

  8. #33
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    Just a reminder that this comment period closes on the 6th. Itís easy to comment- just an email to the recreations specialist. Donít let the date slip by. The anti-bike folks are still doing what they do:

    https://helenair.com/opinion/letters...76456c32b.html

  9. #34
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    They are plastering the mailboxes and even the trees along the trails with signs in opposition. Also, the HOA up here is sending a letter disputing the idea of increasing traffic on a privately maintained road (Head Lane). Not sure what the end game is there, maybe to get the county to take over the costs of upkeep on the road, which would be awesome. Red flag ride yesterday, sure was empty compared to the herds of bikers I saw in the South Hills on Saturday.

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  10. #35
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    Not in my backyard!

  11. #36
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    Quote Originally Posted by yeahman View Post
    They are plastering the mailboxes and even the trees along the trails with signs in opposition. Also, the HOA up here is sending a letter disputing the idea of increasing traffic on a privately maintained road (Head Lane). Not sure what the end game is there, maybe to get the county to take over the costs of upkeep on the road, which would be awesome. Red flag ride yesterday, sure was empty compared to the herds of bikers I saw in the South Hills on Saturday.
    I live on a privately maintained public access road and we bitched about a neighbor who doesn't pay for upkeep and wanted to open a paintball facility using our road as access. County said he was in his rights to do so and to go pound sand if we didn't like it.
    I have been in this State for 30 years and I am willing to admit that I am part of the problem.

  12. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bunion 2020 View Post
    I live on a privately maintained public access road and we bitched about a neighbor who doesn't pay for upkeep and wanted to open a paintball facility using our road as access. County said he was in his rights to do so and to go pound sand if we didn't like it.
    Interesting. I have no idea what the rules are regarding that stuff. The road has been used for public access for a long time so it's not like it's going to get gated or anything. But the HOA paid (many years ago) to pave a few miles of it, and it's really not a great road, certainly not up to any sort of current standards. We have to pay to get it chip sealed, plowed, mowed, weeds sprayed, etc. Adds $350 to my yearly taxes. So if the county or BLM would chip in, that would be great, but like you say, probably not likely. But the letter the HOA sent out was very detailed about the history of the road being private and designated as such in previous legal decisions, etc. I got a copy since we're in the HOA. Nobody ever asked us to participate so it was kind of a surprise.

    Anyway, bottom line is there is active and organized opposition, so my guess right now is that if there is any sort of plan approved, it may be a scaled back version of the original proposal. One point that has been made, that I agree with, is that the BLM never did an accurate survey of the existing trails before proposing a new trail plan. That kind of seems like a no-brainer to me. The issue there is that a lot of those unmapped trails are not official, and mountain bikers are being blamed by the opposition for putting them in illegally--whether that's true or not, I have no idea, but they are using it as ammo. Oh, and one of their tactics is divide-and-conquer. They are putting up signs on the existing trails telling bikers that they will no longer be allowed to bike on that trail if the plan is approved--with no mention of the 40 miles of new trails open to bikes. As with anything like this, lots of obfuscation going on.

  13. #38
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    I'm not reading this as they are closing old routes, only that OHV access is prohibited (p. 35, Alternative B - Environmental Impacts, second sentence).

    Bearing in mind that I am looking at this through the eyes of an environmental scientist that also loves to mountain bike, here are my concerns:

    1) Page 5 Threatened and Endangered Species This paragraph is very misleading. First off it seems to imply that only animals should be considered, not plants, just based on the wording. Lower elevation dry landscapes do not preclude occurrence of an endangered species.

    2) There is a contradiction of existing routes descriptions. In some areas (footnote pg. 1 / page 18 under Affected Environment) all 40 miles are referred to as primitive roads, whereas other portions of the document refer to existing routes as a mix of primitive roads, roads, and trails. That's just sloppy, and opens up avenues for opposition (eg. they mis-categorized existing routes, etc.). Probably not a huge deal, but that should have been easily caught and rectified.

    3) Some of the new trails shown are actually already existing trails (Routes 3&4 on Map 2). That makes me question the validity of the miles of existing vs new trail miles which would affect the environmental impact analysis. Similar to yeahman's concern, seems like a no brainer to catalogue the existing trails better.

    4) Weed management. Noxious weeds are big issue in certain locations of the trail system and one of the worst areas is in Route 10. This area is slated for big increase in trail density. They don't include cheatgrass as a major concern regarding weed management (p. 34) yet it meets the criteria of the three species that they do consider a concern (re: tenacity, ability to spread, large infestations). It's not ubiquitous, but there are certainly areas of infestation which will only increase with increased use. There are other noxious weed species (whitetop, canada thistle, etc) as well, but they don't spread as rapidly.

    5) No mention of linear leaf fleabane. This is a native species of concern in Montana and was documented as occurring in the scratchgravels in a 1998 botanical survey by MTNHP which was prepared for BLM (Botanical Survey of the Scratchgravel Hills Lewis and Clark County Montana). I'm not saying the occurrence should preclude new trails, but it should be mentioned in my opinion and then address why it is not of concern based on the proposed plan. Maybe there is a more recent survey that I’m not seeing. My ex has done some botanizing out there and could probably provide some good input on the fleabane and noxious weed concerns, but I haven’t had a chance to ask her since I’m reviewing this at the last minute and she’s out of town, ha.

    6) The density of trails seems very high to me, especially if I'm reading it right that the existing trails will also remain in use. The area of biggest concern is Route 10. There are 8 trails that will be emanating from the trailhead into one of the most disturbed areas out there. That being said, if there is more active weed control maybe that will focus more effort in that area and eradicate some of the current problem species. There is also a lot of musk thistle in that area, but no mention of managing it, but not as big of a problem as some of the other species.

    The other thing to bear in mind, is that this is already a highly disturbed site, not some pristine wilderness setting. I do get that, and with proper management it could possibly improve the current noxious weed issues. But I'll believe it when I see it. There are actually some really nice areas of mostly native vegetation out there, it would be too bad if existing noxious weeds moved into those areas following more disturbance.

    7) I really wish they had done a better job of defining and explaining bike-optimized and how it can actually be a benefit to other user groups as well through design. That phrase appears to be getting a lot of negative buzz unfortunately.

    So I'm torn in supporting the plan as laid out, honestly. I like a lot of it, multi-use, a variety of grades, more fun features, etc. but it also just comes off as not as thorough as it could have been, especially given what should have been expected opposition by some groups. Also, the trail density seems higher than necessary (assuming they truly are keeping old trails also). I definitely would like to see this area responsibly developed for additional trails. I really wish there was an Option C with fewer trails. Overall I am supportive of increasing trails in the area and I think there area lot of really good things about the plan for a variety of user groups, but I can't in good conscience not comment on some of the things that bother me about the plan as written.
    I’ve read and hears some trail users implying that as soon as bikers move into the area, all other uses are greatly impacted in a negative way, in essence forcing hikers out, Poppycock, I mountain bike several times a week on the Helena trail system and the vast majority (like 99%) of my encounters with hikers, runners, etc. has always been very positive. You can always spot the old curmudgeonly anti-bike types and I do encounter them but always remain pleasant, slow down, pull over if approaching each other, etc. I think there is very good camaraderie for the most part between user groups and everyone just seems happy to be so lucky as to have a great local trail system.

    My biggest issues on the trails in town have been twofold. First up is runners that have their headphones so loud that they can’t hear me screaming at the top of my lungs a couple feet behind them. Secondly is people with out of control dogs and those that don’t clean up after them. I’m a bigtime dog lover too, but you can bet my dog will be listening to voice commands, not running all over out of control, and cleaned up after. I will say that for the most part people are pretty good about the dog crap compared to some other places that I have lived.
    That’s all I got, hopefully I don’t get flamed as a hiker secretly pretending to be a mountain biker, lol. I definitely like the general concept and approach, I just think it could be more well rounded and defensible with a few tweaks.

  14. #39
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    I think what you just wrote would be a useful comment for the BLM. Theyíll almost certainly adjust the final plan based on relevant feedback.

  15. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by evasive_MT View Post
    I think what you just wrote would be a useful comment for the BLM. They’ll almost certainly adjust the final plan based on relevant feedback.
    I will be providing those comments. Also with regards to my T&E species comment, they were probably inferring those T&E species specific to Montana don't occur in xeric environments, but they should clarify that.

  16. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3PinGrin View Post
    I will be providing those comments. Also with regards to my T&E species comment, they were probably inferring those T&E species specific to Montana don't occur in xeric environments, but they should clarify that.
    Dude, you nailed it with your comments and summarized a lot of the things I'm feeling too. Regarding cheat grass, you are absolutely right it is getting worse out here. On my property it seems to move in when I spray the dalmation toadflax and get rid of that (which takes a few years). Next thing I know I have a field of cheat grass. I'm still not sure what to do about this so if you have any ideas let me know. Interestingly I just saw this proposed Alternative C on the Helena Trails Alliance Facebook page last night.

  17. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by yeahman View Post
    Dude, you nailed it with your comments and summarized a lot of the things I'm feeling too. Regarding cheat grass, you are absolutely right it is getting worse out here. On my property it seems to move in when I spray the dalmation toadflax and get rid of that (which takes a few years). Next thing I know I have a field of cheat grass. I'm still not sure what to do about this so if you have any ideas let me know. Interestingly I just saw this proposed Alternative C on the Helena Trails Alliance Facebook page last night.
    I'm probably not much help with the cheatgrass if it's a larger area. The best method living in town is to just rip the stuff up when the ground is damp and before it sets seed. I think early herbicide application has been used successfully, but that's really interesting that you see it after you spray. It may be that by eliminating the toadflax you are providing an opportunity for the cheatgrass to take over due to competitive advantage that wasn't there before. I wasn't aware of the Alternative C stuff because I'm a hermit with no social media presence, but will look through it tonight. Thanks for the link!

  18. #43
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    I thought I would ride the scratchgravels tonight since it had been a few weeks and the comments process made me curious to look the area over again. The cheatgrass on the single track heading west from the Head Lane trailhead had a lot higher density than I remembered. As you head further west it gets a lot better as you go, but still some pretty large patches here and there along existing routes. Now is the time to hit that motherfuckin' devil grass before it gets worse. It's such a nasty bastard. Check your dogs anytime they are exposed because seeds can work their way into the skin and fester.

    I think those areas could be mapped relatively easily, albeit time consuming. Hell, I would be willing to spend some weekends working on that for free if a plan for eradication can be formulated to make it worth my efforts. I don't know if it would be hard to get the okay from the BLM for volunteer things like actual eradication efforts, but there's not much anyone can say if I just map the areas of concern I would think, even if it’s just a datapoint in the middle with an estimate on size, rather than walking the perimeter. It’s mostly along routes and easy to access. Working on actual eradication might be another story though, I just haven't ever dealt with that particular sort of thing with a federal agency. They would have staff with the proper certifications to spray, at least seasonally. Laying a template on their lap for where to hit it with some maps would hopefully grease the rails to free up some staff time, although they may already have a handle on that. Also, you never know with the weirdness of allowable activities for specific funding sources, etc. what they are able to do.

    I'll tell you this, if it doesn't get addressed soon it's going to be all over the place. It definitely seems worse than when I started riding out there several years ago. I might touch base with BLM just to see what some volunteer options might be even without an approved RAMP. Unless evasive might know of something like that (volunteer group, etc.) already in place? Once it's mapped, a strategy could be developed if there is some interest from existing groups or other volunteers. It looks like they are spraying knapweed based on how brown and withered it looked.

    I'm not up at all on selecting noxious weed eradication methods so not claiming that I have answers for the cheatgrass issue. I know it is usually a never-ending annual thing if you are going to manage it. But a lot of sweat equity on the front end might go a long way in limiting future manpower to keep it in check. Once it's established I don’t think it will ever go away or be reduced to manageable population densities without an annual plan to keep it in check.

    I'll wake up tomorrow and ask myself, "wtf did I get myself into, did I not remember that I'm a bong hitting hermit with anxiety issues around groups, lol". I have spent a fair amount of time mapping vegetation communities solo though, even though it's been a while. I figure mapping is something I can do solo without trying to spearhead efforts beyond that if it's deemed a worthwhile endeavor by BLM. Maybe some occasional spot checking of my efforts by their staff. I hope she’s cute and likes the herb.

  19. #44
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    I donít have any real information. I know that one of PPLTís former trail coordinators is a retired fellow with an earth science background and heís spent his summer mapping noxious weeds for the city, so at least one jurisdiction is doing something like that. The BLM just doesnít have much of a presence in the Helena area, and that probably didnít help with the RAMP process.

    Maybe an email to both the BLMís Outdoor Recreation Planner and the county weed districtís weed coordinator would be a good place to start. It seems like that information should be valuable to them.

  20. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by evasive_MT View Post
    I donít have any real information. I know that one of PPLTís former trail coordinators is a retired fellow with an earth science background and heís spent his summer mapping noxious weeds for the city, so at least one jurisdiction is doing something like that. The BLM just doesnít have much of a presence in the Helena area, and that probably didnít help with the RAMP process.

    Maybe an email to both the BLMís Outdoor Recreation Planner and the county weed districtís weed coordinator would be a good place to start. It seems like that information should be valuable to them.
    Thanks evasive!

  21. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by 3PinGrin View Post
    Thanks evasive!
    If you need help let me know. I will gladly join the War on Cheatgrass. Hate that shit.

  22. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by yeahman View Post
    If you need help let me know. I will gladly join the War on Cheatgrass. Hate that shit.
    Thanks yeahman, will keep you posted.

  23. #48
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    I haven't followed up with BLM or L&C county yet, but did get some good input on potential use of imagery as an aid that might make things more efficient regarding cheatgrass mapping. I hiked up scratchgravel peak today with a new buddy, Mowgli, from the shelter. With respect to noxious weeds, it actually wasn't as bad as I remembered north of the Head Lane trailhead. A lot of mining disturbance, etc. and mullein is everywhere, but I would think easy to eradicate. It's not as much of a problem as some other noxious weeds, but there is a lot of it. I didn't wander far from the trail though, need to do that still. Lots of cheatgrass on the old burn scar coming down the south trail off of scratchgravel peak. I'm not even sure what the strategy would be to deal with it, short of a lot of manpower which may difficult.

    I will be getting out there some more with the dog, albeit not biking. He needs a lot of training work still before I let him off leash. I will get some biking in when I leave him at home to spot check imagery more quickly. Might hone that a bit before I reach out to government folks, but will follow up with them soon.

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