Thursday, July 20, 2017

Illegal Mountain Bike Paths

Attention mountain bikers: We need your help. We are having a problem with the construction of unauthorized trails at Shelton Lakes for mountain biking. These trails have been closed off repeatedly and signed as "closed" and yet keep getting reopened by bikers. Please spread the word that if this continues, mountain biking may be banned from the trails. If you would like to continue biking the trails, please help us by closing down two specific trails and keeping them closed. Here's the first trail:

Unauthorized bike trail at Hope Lake in red


1. The Shelton Lakes Greenway is a conservation area where we strive for a balance of passive recreation and public access while reserving some areas where wildlife can live and breed undisturbed.  The passage of each hiker and bicyclist does disturb wildlife and this can be enough of a disturbance to sensitive species to reduce their breeding success rate.

2. The trail system is confusing enough for hikers without additional trails for people to get lost on.

3. Most people don't enjoy hiking a trail system where the trails are practically on top of each other and you can see and hear people nearby on another trail. Bikers are looking for technically challenging tracks. Hikers are looking for a peaceful walk through the forest where they can experience nature. The system at Shelton Lakes is designed for hiking and wildlife, not for mountain bikes. That said, bypass trails have been created in a few locations to help mountain bikers around obstacles such as Eklund Garden and a very steep hill to the south of the garden.

As a general rule, if a trail is not shown on our trail map, it's not supposed to be there, and bikes are prohibited.  Our Open Space Ordinance #833 specifies that:  "Mountain bikes or other non-motorized vehicles may be used on designated City Open Space trails only, and at no time may mountain bikes be used off said trails." The fine is $250. For people creating new trails, the ordinance reads, "No person shall destroy, injure, herd, harvest or disturb any form of wildlife, plant life, or its habitat on any City Open Space area excluding state permitted fishing."  These unauthorized trails do disturb wildlife habitat.

And here's the second trail:

Unauthorized trail in red, located off of J. Dominick Drive
Rock Ramps: We are also asking bikers to stop creating rock ramps in the middle of the trail over fallen logs or other obstacles. We have had steps disassembled to build a ramp, rocks taken from historic structures, ramps built in the middle of the trail to get over a log (creating an obstacle for hikers), and general disturbance of the woods as bikers tear up small boulders from the ground.

If you are a mountain biker and have a need for a specific trail modification, please do it legally through the proper channel, meaning the Shelton Trails Committee. Better yet, become one of our volunteers who works with the Committee. This committee has been around for about twenty years and for all that time we haven't had a single mountain biker become a member. Decisions are made by those who show up :)


  1. Thanks for the heads-up. FWIW, unapproved trail construction is a universal problem, and not limited to bikers: yesterday at Quillinan in Seymour, I had to close a horrible fall-line shortcut undoubtedly put in by hikers that would have eventually become an erosion nightmare.

    1. True, hikers and trail runners have done the same, but not on the same scale. In most cases we have had access trails built by hikers from various neighborhoods to the trail system and some of those have been adopted and put on the trail maps. An example is the one from L'Hermitage condominums to Nells Rock Trail. This trail gets people off a dangerous road so they can more safely access the trails. The bike trails are different in character, penetrating into areas that we specifically don't want any trails.

  2. Hi Teresa, I am a mountain biker that uses the Shelton Trails 1-2 times per week on average. I would like to ask for a compromise on the Red trail off of J. Dominick Dr. That trail is very valuable to bikers since it allows a nice trail from the Paug. Tr. to the power lines. That trail has been there for years, and has become one of the better biking trails since the addition of the new section of the Paug trail a few years ago. How can we accomplish this? Thanks!