Popular mountain biking trails sabotaged near Carbondale
June 18, 2014
Midvalley mountain-biking enthusiasts are warning cyclists to be alert on the popular Prince Creek trail network after two boards spiked with nails were found embedded on routes Sunday.
Cyclist Colin Osborn was climbing the Skill Saw Trail southeast of Carbondale late Sunday afternoon when he discovered the first booby trap. He said he stopped to take a drink and grab some food when he saw the shiny metal of nails jutting from the singletrack trail near him. A board pierced by about 15 nails was buried under a thin layer of dirt and pine needles. He initially thought someone was building a ramp somewhere on the trail network and lost a piece of lumber.
"I thought, 'There's no way somebody would put something like that on the trail,'" he said.
He continued on the trail, which evolves into a route called Creekside, and discovered a second, larger board pierced with more than 30 nails. He took a photo of the trap because he couldn't carry it out of the woods.
The discovery "definitely made me paranoid," Osborn said, because it was obvious someone planted the booby traps. He started looking around to see if someone was watching if the trap would be effective. He didn't see anyone but was cautious through the remainder of his ride.
"It was definitely 'keep your eye out,'" Osborn said.
Word spread among the midvalley cycling community on Monday, and Osborn's picture of the nail board was posted on the website and Facebook page of Carbondale's Aloha Mountain Cyclery with a warning: "Please be careful while on the Prince Creek Trails. Clearly there are those who don't think cyclists should be there."
The Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association also posted the information and notified local media about the problem.
Todd Fugate, a member of the association's board of directors, said the big issue is safety for anybody and any animal that uses the trail network.
"It certainly was intended to cause damage to a bike or injury to a person," Fugate said. He also expressed concerns that livestock or wildlife could have been injured, as well.
The saboteur hasn't been identified.
Fugate contacted the Bureau of Land Management to voice the mountain-bike association's concerns.
While private land and BLM holdings mesh together along Prince Creek Road, cyclists said they are pretty certain that the first board with nails was found on BLM grounds, according to Fugate. Upper Creekside Trail crosses onto private property, but entry isn't prohibited.
David Boyd, spokesman for the BLM's Silt field office, said a BLM official was scheduled already to meet with cycling enthusiasts in the Prince Creek area today. They will discuss the bobby traps during that meeting, he said. If anyone has information about who placed the traps, they are urged to call the BLM at 970-876-9000.
Fugate said officials with the mountain-biking association and other midvalley cyclists have ruled out other trail-user groups or private landowners. The vast Prince Creek trail network, which is focused north of Prince Creek Road, primarily utilizes BLM property. Like much of the West, there is a patchwork of public and private land in that area. Some of the trails cross private property for short stretches. One of the private landowners, Leslie Wexner, hasn't prohibited cyclists.
Fugate said he doesn't believe other trail users, such as dirt bikers or hikers, were responsible for the buried bobby traps.
Mike Pritchard, director of the Roaring Fork Mountain Bike Association, said the identity of the person or people who buried the spiked boards may never be known, but he and others have their suspicions.
"What we think might be happening is there is an issue with squatters up there," Pritchard said. According to Prtchard, there has been a persistent problem for decades with long-term campers along Prince Creek Road, southeast of Carbondale. The area's popularity with mountain bikers soared about a decade ago, so it's made it more difficult for squatters to hang out undetected, Pritchard said. That might have triggered animosity in one or more campers, he said.
Boyd said the BLM's law enforcement officers have frequently asked those campers to move out of the Prince Creek area.
"That's been a long-term problem in that area," he said.
The problem has been so persistent, Boyd said, that the BLM shortened the time period people can camp on BLM lands in Prince Creek. Typically the limit is 14 days. In Prince Creek it is seven days, Boyd said. After the deadline, campers must move at least 30 miles away.
BLM law enforcement officers have written warnings and citations this spring and even towed one vehicle, according to Boyd.
There is no evidence to tie squatters to the sabotage.
Reports of sabotage on trails are rare in the Roaring Fork Valley and Lower Colorado River Valley, Boyd said. There is a pending case in the Grand Junction area, he said.
Osborn, who said he rides the Prince Creek trail network nearly every day, said he couldn't believe the booby traps were planted.
"It's such a bummer somebody would do that" because they don't like mountain bikers, he said.
Whatever the motivation of the saboteur, Fugate said cyclists need to remain wary.
"Keep your eyes open," he said.