Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Illegal "bike park" discovered in wilderness at Whiting Ranch

February 16th, 2010, 7:51 am · Orange County Register by Pat Brennan, green living, environment editor

The winding trails through a back country park offer a thrill-ride for mountain bikers: wooden bridges, wooden jump-ramps and, for convenience, a sandbag-reinforced connection to a nearby neighborhood.

Photos of illegal trails and ramps at Whiting Ranch courtesy, Vicky Malton
There’s only one problem. The trails are illegal.
“There’s several trails connecting all the way up the slope — a steep slope,” said Vicky Malton, senior ranger at Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park. “All this is on parkland.”
The trails on an acre or more of land, discovered by biologists at Whiting Ranch in early December, will begin to be dismantled Saturday by volunteers. The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is calling for volunteers to take shovels to the trails and rip out the carefully crafted bridges and ramps.
Many such illegal trails have been cut through Orange County’s wild country in years past. But a network this elaborate surprised OC Parks officials.
“This is kind of uncommon for us here at Whiting,” Malton said.
The trails, which cut through an area once thick with brush, were carved out of the landscape after the 2007 Santiago Fire.
Not only could they potentially increase erosion by channeling stormwater, but they were also cut through prime nesting territory for the troubled California cactus wren.
Wildfire has hit the wren’s coastal populations hard in recent years, the likely reason for a nosedive in the bird’s population.
“They did take sensitive habitat,” Malton said.
Volunteers from Oakley will take part in dismantling the illegal trails. The event begins at 8 a.m. Saturday. Find sign-up information at the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks Web site.

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