Outdoors Blog

Should bikers and hikers alternate days on Foothills trails? Here’s what experts say

Should Ridge to Rivers schedule busy trails for a single activity or direction of travel?

At our Hiking, Biking & Trails forum, panelists debated whether it would be a good idea to schedule trails for a single activity like running or cycling or one-way use.
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At our Hiking, Biking & Trails forum, panelists debated whether it would be a good idea to schedule trails for a single activity like running or cycling or one-way use.

The fast-growing activity on the Ridge to Rivers trails in the Boise Foothills sometimes leads to conflict between user groups, like trail runners and mountain bikers.

One potential solution: Schedule some busy trails as running-only or cycling-only on certain days.

Holly Finch, owner of The Pulse Running & Fitness Shop, broached that idea during our sold-out Hiking, Biking & Trails forum last week at Payette Brewing Co. Here is part of the exchange between panelists (for the full conversation, click on the video above):

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Finch (a trail runner), when asked about the most pressing issue in the Foothills: “It’s just congestion. We all have our bad days. No one user is more important than another user. That mountain biker isn’t more or less important than you. There’s so many users that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to adopt a runners-only day, a bikers-only day. I’ve seen that in Utah. At least on the most commonly used trails. The bikers like to go fast ... and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to.”

Sara Arkle, the Foothills manager for Boise Parks and Recreation, said the city asked trail users about the possibility of scheduled single-activity or uni-directional use during the recently completed 10-year management plan process.

“The feedback we got was, ‘Not now,’ ” Arkle said. “I think it’s something we have to continue to question. It’s still a new concept to the majority of trail users.”

Leo Hennessy, the non-motorized trails coordinator for Idaho State Parks and Recreation, said that type of trail management should be a last resort.

“We educate to share, and then we try to teach tolerance,” Hennessy said.

At our Hiking, Biking & Trails forum, non-motorized trails coordinator Leo Hennessy discussed the maintenance backlog and the potential for a Big Loop trail that would connect Weiser to Cascade.

A ‘Big Loop’ for Central Idaho?

Hennessy answered an audience member’s question about the potential for a Big Loop trail that would connect Cascade to the Weiser River Trail. The idea is to use the railroad line that runs from Emmett to Cascade.

The result could be a 250-mile loop.

“We’re just right now doing some overall planning so we can see if we can do that,” Hennessy said. “We’re waiting for the railroad. They said they’re not using it anymore. Are they going to abandon it? When they abandon it, it’s possible to make a rail trail. ... It’s just an idea right now but I think in 10-15 years we could have that opportunity available to us.”

Hennessy also touched on the efforts by State Parks and Recreation to build a grass-roots campaign to create a funding source for non-motorized trails amid huge cutbacks to Forest Service budgets.

“It’s gonna be a tough time with backcountry trails,” he said.

For more on both of these subjects, click on the video above.

At our Hiking, Biking & Trails forum, the four panelists explained the importance of Idaho's trails in their lives.

Trails provide ‘sense of sanity’

At the beginning of the forum, I asked the panelists to explain what Idaho trails have meant in their lives. Watch their full answers in the video above.

Dennis Swift, secretary of the Southwest Idaho Mountain Biking Association, said trails give him “a sense of sanity.”

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