Worcester, Mass.
July 5, 1998

Mountain bikers are on right trail

By Lynne Tolman

   The fledgling Wachusett chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association has hit the ground running.
   With momentum from the chapter's successful trail work day May 3 in Leominster State Forest, mountain biking volunteers will be back in the forest July 18 to fix up "some seriously distressed areas that need attention," said chapter president Rich Donoghue of Shirley.
   In May the riders built three sections of boardwalks, totaling more than 125 feet, to provide erosion-free passage over small streams and bogs, and they rerouted a trail segment that had been flooded as a result of a beaver dam, according to chapter treasurer Jon Pratt of Leominster.
   This month they will extend a boardwalk, fill in a mud pit with trap rock and add trap rock to another distressed spot, Donoghue said. Additional volunteers are welcome to join the crew at 9 a.m. at the Rocky Pond Road parking lot off Route 31.
   "I think it's a great thing that they're doing," said forest supervisor Karen Sawyer. "Their organization brings groups into the park, and in turn they help us out. The maintenance helps us out a lot. They have a lot more manpower than we do."
   In the Leominster forest, hikers and bikers generally use separate trails, so there haven't been conflicts, Sawyer said. Of course, the bikers' willingness to help maintain the trails also goes a long way toward warding off resentment from other trail users.
   The NEMBA "membas," as they call themselves, also hope to establish names for the trails, or uncover names that have been used in the past, and get them on the official map. Trail maps are available from the Leominster State Forest office (978-874-2303).
   Donoghue, 36, has been riding off-road for about six years "and just fell in love with it." One thing he quickly learned biking in the woods is that trails do not take care of themselves. But he's perfectly willing to do his share.
   "There's nothing more satisfying than trail work, because then you get to ride it," he said.
   Donoghue's enthusiasm for responsibility for the land must be contagious. Twenty-five people showed up for the chapter's last meeting, to plan the July 18 work day. Jim Plumb of Leominster is chapter vice president, and Russell Burdett is secretary. For more information on the group, call Donoghue (978-545-1551).
   Bay State Trail Riders Association, an equestrian group that cooperates with mountain bikers and other trail users, also deserves kudos for trail work. This spring BSTRA cleared, filled and graded the one-mile "Boulder Trail" in Douglas State Forest, connecting Route 16 and Southwest Main Street. BSTRA used a $6,500 federal grant and $6,500 that it raised itself last year for the project. The refurbished trail was dedicated last month.
   The Worcester Regional Transit Authority won approval last month for a $59,060 federal grant to put bike racks on all its buses, administrator Robert Ojala said.
   But the money won't be forthcoming until fiscal 1999, which starts Oct. 1, so the 60 racks probably won't be installed until next spring, he said. The WRTA is kicking in $14,765 of its own, and new convex mirrors will be installed, too.
   Bike racks on buses are a key element in famously bike-friendly cities such as Portland, Ore., and Seattle. A rider can hoist her bike onto the rack and ride the bus for no extra charge, then take the bike off and pedal away. Commuters can combine suburban cycling with urban bus rides this way, or take the bus for the long haul in from the suburbs and then have the bike for getting around town.
   For Worcester, which received a "D" grade last month in The Ride magazine's "Urban Report Card" on how Northeast cities treat bicyclists, the bus racks will be the first real enabler of the much-hyped "intermodal transportation" ideal. The city's new bike route signs and kiosks and maps are spiffy, but they constitute an empty gesture without accompanying road improvements and safety education for both cyclists and motorists.
   About that report card: No city received better than a "C," and Boston and Springfield got "D minus" grades. The magazine's comment on Worcester: "Good plans on paper; we'll check back."

Lynne Tolman's bicycling column archives
Lynne Tolman's home page