02 July 2018

Trail advocacy update

What’s going on as it comes to trail advocacy in Europe? From promoting shared trail use to (the withdrawal of) mountain bike bans and public access consultations. Here’s an update on a number of cases IMBA and its member organisations have been working on in the last few months. 

Spain 

Last weekend, IMBA Espana organized a 2nd public event to demonstrate against the new access regulations of NP Sierra de Guadarrama. The newly proposed recreational management plan is almost a blanket ban of mountain biking on paths and trails in this region close to Madrid. The new regulation revolves everything that has been achieved by IMBA Espana in terms of trail access in this NP over the last decade. 

IMBA Espana’s main argument is that this newly proposed regulation lacks any kind of argumentation and stakeholder involvement in the decision making process. IMBA Espana repeatedly indicated to the park management that it can play a role in the maintenance of the trails to minimize user impact. This hasn’t led to any response and therefore IMBA Espana decided to mobilze the local and regional mountain bike community to led their voice be heard through these protest actions. More info, check www.imba.com.es

France 

Winning the title of best mountain bike community wasn’t the only achievement of Mountain Bikers Foundation (MBF) last few months.  When the Cevennes National Park decided to ban mountain biking on various trails in the heart of the park by a decree last year, MBF appealed against this decision and challenged the ban because they felt it was unfair The park motivated this ban because of the erosion of trails and the protection of fragile species of raptors. 

MBF is not against the regulation of mountain biking for environmental protection purposes. However, MBF’s point of view is that the regulation must be justified, proportional and not aimed a just one single category of recreational users. The appeal was not followed up by the NP but after filing a complaint with the Nimes Adminstrative Court, the Cevennes National Park agreed to witdrawn its ban on mountain biking and to return to dialogue again. As a result, MBF also withdrawn their appeal. 

MBF and the National Park management will meet at short notice to find the best compromise to protect flora and fauna but still offering sufficient possibilities for trail usage. Learn more how you can support MBF. 

EU level 

IMBA Europe recognizes the importance of partnerships and coalition building with other EU bodies and networks. Therefore, IMBA recentrly joined the board of ENOS, the European Network of Outdoor Sports. By joining this board, IMBA Europe will have a more active role in the activities carried out by ENOS to represent outdoor sports at a strategic level in Europe. 

One of the actions IMBA is excited about is the Memorandum of Understanding between ENOS and the EUROPARC Federation. EUROPARC is the network for Europe’s natural and cultural heritage. The MOU is a first step towards a closer collaboration between both organisations and their affiliated members. 

Key aim is to promote the practice of responsible outdoor sports in protected areas, minimizing their environmental impact. The cooperation will focus on themes like good conduct, health, trail design, events, hostng capacity of protected areas and capacity building. Signing of the MOU will take place at the EUROPARC Conference in September 2018, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

Wales 

The Welsh Government has stated that it will not be proceeding with significant access reform following its recent consultation on the issue. Cycling UK, OpenMTB and British Cycling joined forces last year to launch the 'Trails for Wales' campaign. With this campaign, they mobilized mountain bikers to make their voices heard at the public consultation. The outcome is disappointing and unexpected, as the public consultation carried out last year was overwhelmingly in favour of the administration’s own suggestion of creating single-status rights-of-way – effectively allowing cycling on most footpaths. There were around 16,000 responses in total, with more than 70 % backing the plan.

However Welsh Minister for Environment Hannah Blythyn has now said: “There were strong but differing views on how best to reform access legislation. We therefore believe that now is not the right time for substantive reform.”  Not only does the Welsh Government’s decision ignore the huge demand for change in a country that – in places – is particularly poorly served with legitimate MTB routes, it also ignores the huge contribution that active tourism already makes to the Welsh economy and the potential for growth in the sector, as well as the general health benefits that would accrue from improved access. OpenMTB is awaiting more detailed feedback from the WG as to why it has disregarded a landslide in favour of its own proposals, with mountain bikers making up the bulk of the largest-ever response to a consultation by the administration. In the wake of this disappointment, OpenMTB is determined to continue to push for access reform in Wales as well as in England. (source and more info www.openmtb.org.uk

Trentino 

Last month, IMBA was invited at the Dolomiti Paganella Bike Days to speak about trail sharing concepts. Sharing trails between different user groups has been a challenge in Trentino, especially since 2012 when the provincial law was changed. The new law included more restricting factors for mountain bike access and encharged local tourism offices to create network of MTB routes. While some municipalities adopted the concept of trail sharing (like Molveno), others did the opposite, resulting in a relative long list of forbidden trails. 

Durning the conference, IMBA showed examples from different regions and countries where trail sharing concepts succesfully have been implemented. Topics such as trail etiquette, trail design and how to prevent user conflicts were addressed to an audience consisting of tourism officials, local adminstrators and trail builders.