March 20, 2018
To Ogle County cyclists,
I am writing this letter to Ogle County cyclists in regards to the newly acquired 160 acre Bald Hill Preserve on North Silver Creek Rd. in Mount Morris, IL. As you may, or may not know, Byron Forest Preserve District (BFPD) owns and operates over 2200 acres of land, 525 acres of those are equestrian, and the remaining acreage is hiker and dog walking. Zero acreage is available to cyclists who in turn are forced onto roadways.
I have already spoken with (name omitted for privacy) at BFPD regarding bike access in the Bald Hill preserve and he has agreed to look at some studies relating to the impact of mountain bikes in nature compared to other forms of travel on trails. There are no promises of any kind, but he didn’t say no.
I would not be advocating for high cost project like Atwood. I simply want to get our “foot in the door” and gain “reasonable” access. Through some education, and community (cyclist) interest, I believe we can change the longstanding Midwestern school of thought that bikes belong on roads. I understand this will be an uphill battle. The BFPD may be looking for rare plants or endangered species to gain possible grants from the state. If the land gets designated Prairie Restoration like The Jarrett Prairie Center there will be absolutely no bike access. Please don’t interpret these words as pessimism or a lack of respect for conservation and habitat. I support these agendas 100%, but I have two concerns. The first being the continued misinformation that bikes are somehow more impactful to habitat than hikers. My second concern would be losing this beautiful sect of land because of some archaic land designation that forbids bikes for no other reason than a lack of knowledge and understanding. Study after study shows the impacts of bikes in nature are similar to those travelled on foot, and much less than equestrian. We are a tax paying user group and consistently ostracizing cyclists only creates animosity. I would much rather work together with our community than against it.
At this point I am looking for opinions, advice, and support from any local cyclists interested. Like most of you I am a hiker, outdoor enthusiast, and a mountain biker. As hikers we have a plethora of choices to choose from to enjoy nature, but as mountain bikers we are banned from enjoying our surroundings while doing the sport we love and enjoy.
I will be forwarding this letter and the following link to (name omitted for privacy) at the BFPD. The article is written by Gary Sprung and does a good job of linking and summarizing most of the major environmental studies of bikes in nature-
Stillman Valley, IL