Agencies in Nevada and California are looking to update management policies of state parks and trails, changes that could eventually increase riding terrain for Tahoe's mountain bikers.
The current management strategies are dated and were developed during the sport's infancy, Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association Trails Director Ben Fish said. The International Mountain Biking Association reported nearly 40 million rode bikes in the U.S. this year, yet the management plans in the basin haven't evolved with those recreational trends.
"We're dealing with these recreation plans that are 20 years old and don't take into account new forms of recreation. The mindset was that mountain bikers don't mind riding on dirt roads. And that's not true," he said.
Nevada State Parks has been collecting information to update the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park Master Development Plan since July 2011. Parks Supervisor Jay Howard acknowledged that a revision of the park's 1990 management plan is more than five years overdue.
The revision will guide management and development of the park for the next 10 to 15 years, Howard said. Some ideas on the table include building a family campground and multi-agency visitors center at Spooner Lake and relocating the maintenance facility at Sand Harbor.
TAMBA, which rallied its supporters to write letters to state park staff regarding trail use, focused primarily on requesting more multi-use backcountry trails and new singletrack that would provide an alternative to the existing fire roads in the park.
Out of the hundreds of letters received, Howard said trail use was consistently a top concern.
"Mountain biking use has gotten so big since the '80s, we tend to get a lot of comments from mountain bikers saying that they want more single-track trails," Howard said.
When it comes to opening up more portions of the Tahoe Rim Trail though, Howard said other agencies like the Tahoe Rim Trail Association and the U.S. Forest Service will need to be involved. The Snow Valley Peaks section of rim trail that cuts through the Lake Tahoe Nevada State Park is a contentious issue not specifically addressed in the general management plan revision, Howard said.
Although the official public comment period closed Nov. 30, Howard said the staff still welcomes community input. The draft will come out early 2013, after which time there will be another comment period before the final plan is released around the middle of the year.
"These tend to be slow processes, but we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel," Howard said.
On the other side of the state line, California State Parks is evaluating road and trail use change requests, which can mean either adding or removing designated uses like biking or horseback riding from existing roads and trails.
One idea TAMBA suggested would be to open the Rubicon Trail between Emerald Bay State Park and D.L. Bliss State Park to mountain bikers. Many trails have never been altered specifically for multi-use, yet have still been used successfully by both riders and hikers for years, Fish said.
The California State Parks department is only in the Program Environmental Impact Report phase, and while actual changes are still years down the road, it's important to submit public input early, Fish said.
"These plans are just kind of dated. Even though the California one is going to take years to approve, once they're approved, the better the recreation opportunities will be," Fish said.