In the Town Crier’s April 19 edition, an article titled “May Valley Closure” caught my eye. It described “old road beds” which were used for hiking, horseback and mountain biking as being now closed.

It said these “old unclassified trails” in the May Valley area are now being closed to all, due to erosion because of “excessive recreational use.” The Forest Services’ Laurie Rosenthal [Idyllwild District Ranger], disclosed some of the names of closed areas to include Coyote Run, Hurkey Creek Climb and Upper and Lower Exfoliator.

If you look on a U.S. Geological Survey map these names are not present, rather they were named by thousands of mountain bikers whose overuse has resulted in the closure of this area. That means it’s also closed to hikers and horses. In the article, the Town Crier appears to dodge the issue at hand, never mentioning the word “bicycle.”

These and other bike trails, the Forest Service acquiesced to, have proven that overuse is abuse. Be it foot traffic, horse or cattle overgrazing.

On March 18, 2010, I wrote of my concerns of over use of the bicycles in the May Valley area with trails becoming flumes of erosion by bicycle use. All over May Valley, old trails are being pruned or flat out created with whose authorization?

In the 2010 Town Crier edition, an avid bike enthusiast commented, “Bicycles have little impact on the trails.” The Forest Service took its time to realize the contrary.

Erosion is rampant in the whole area. Now, after the big race in May, the Herkey Creek area, due to erosion, will be closed to all trail users — hikers, bicyclists and horses. Also, keep in mind, the Forest Service proclaimed that those, whether hikers, birdwatchers, horse people or cyclists, that go into these closed areas, can be subject to citation and possible fine. Great.

This is not an “us” versus “them” issue. It’s a matter of proper care of our National Forest. This includes precious watersheds and overuse protection, regardless of community economic gains from the thousands who come to mountain bike. Yet the big May race is being allowed once again with a “conditional use permit.”

I have nothing against bikers. But as the Forest Service has now mandated, I think staying on designated mountain roads and trails, i.e., South Ridge Road, May Valley Road, Thomas Mountain Road, and others for wheeled vehicles is a good idea. Jeeps and dual purpose motorcycles have been doing it for years, where erosion can be managed on these designated roads.

Maybe I’ll be able to hike Herkey drainage again if this bicycle erosion issue gets resolved. Other papers used the word “bicycle” as the cause when the Town Crier article merely mentioned overuse. Maybe the Town Crier didn’t want to ruffle bicycle feathers.

Let us all be good stewards and not, “get too much of what we don’t get enough of.” It’s fragile out there.

Dennis T. Wohlman