By Alex Greco
Flying through the trees, crossing over rivers, jumping off rocks, mountain biking enables a combination of senses and a consciousness with nature. It allows you to easily experience and connect with the natural world. With the all of the good from mountain biking, unfortunately riding can potentially lead to negative impacts to trail systems and to the environment. However, the interactions and experiences gained through riding can have a positive influence on environmental appreciation.
Mountain biking is growing in popularity. An increase in participation is important for the future success of the sport. At the same time it’s important to keep in mind that trail systems need to be sustainably maintained to keep up with trail use. Popular trail systems are seeing negative impacts to trails and their surrounding environments. There are numerous impacts that can occur, the most prominent that I have witnessed has been trail erosion and widening. Some may underestimate the overall effect that mountain biking can have, there are varying opinions on the seriousness of the issue. But the truth is that many mountain bike trails are located on fragile lands, these places are increasingly becoming endangered. So any impact has to be taken seriously, we have to protect what we have left so we can enjoy these places well into the future.
Not only is it important to to conserve and protect these places but it’s pivotal to get outside, explore, and interact with them. This matters because recreating in these spaces forms a sense of appreciation which ultimately leads to conservation efforts. For awhile now I have been interested in this topic. For my college capstone course I conducted a research project to determine the relationship between people’s perceptions and actions related to their environmental impact of mountain biking. Roughly 100 participants took an online survey which asked varying questions on their perspectives. I received very interesting results and information. The majority of participants showed concern for trail conditions, while participants with more experience mountain biking showed that alleviating the impacts were important to them.
I think that overall mountain biking can be good for the environment. Although there is potential of creating negative impacts from recreating in these places, I believe outdoor recreation is truly important to creating a connection and to establish long term environmental protection. Over time what really protects land is creating a connection with it, and if we aren’t out mountain biking, connections aren’t being made. What we have to do is use our trails responsibly and sustainably. Because there is a positive relationship between mountain biking experience and environmental appreciation, it’s very important to promote this aspect in order keep this sport growing, and to conserve and maintain our trails for future generations.