The conflict between hikers and mountain bikers in our South Hills is growing. It appears that the bike park near the top of Mount Ascension was probably the impetus for many hikers to start paying attention.
Montana Bike Guild is responsible for many of the changes we are seeing on our trails. They are a highly organized and well-funded group. Hikers are not so organized. While we were out hiking, decisions were being made that significantly impacted our trail system.
The Trail Usage and Value study, published in February 2018, looked at Helena trail usage from May to September of 2017. They found over 2 ½ times more hikers entering the local trails than mountain bikers. Yet, hikers have been significantly under-represented in the decisions about our trails. Bikers continue to build trails and one has to wonder if we really need more trails.
The connection between Montana Bike Guild and the Helena Tourism Business Improvement District is concerning. TBID uses some of its funds to promote Helena as a mountain biking designation and a Silver Level International Mountain Biking Association Ride Center. They also direct the Helena Trail Rider shuttle, largely utilized by mountain bikers.
How do we regain the balance we once had on our trails? Promoting one user group at the expense of others is part of the problem and it must be stopped.