Arlington is cracking down on mountain bike riding in the woodlands of the Virginia county’s parks.
The county’s Parks and Recreation Department said off-road biking, especially during the pandemic lockdown, has taken a toll on natural trails.
Lacey Woods Park, Barcroft Park and the county’s historic hill in Madison Manor Park, known as Brandymore Castle, are just a few of the areas where natural habitats have been harmed by mountain biking.
Brandymore Castle is near the Arlington-Falls Church border. Once inhabited by Monacan and Powhatan Indians, the land was registered into British hands as early as 1649.
“They cause erosion, compaction of the soil, they can compromise the tree roots. There’s trampling of vegetation, which can affect animal habitat. The things that they prefer to ride on are hilly slopes near streams, the things that can cause the most erosion,” said Alonso Abugattas, natural resources manager for Arlington Parks and Recreation.
Besides the wear and tear on natural woodland trails from bike riding, riders sometimes modify trails by creating earthen moguls or jumps to heighten the experience.
“Just last Thursday, I tore down eight ramps and jumps over there at Barcroft Park, which is one of the most sensitive areas we have,” Abugattas said.
Park rangers have been patrolling the parks to keep the mountain bike riders off the natural trails.
“We put up barriers in places where we can. We put up signs … in key areas we put up some things to block their access … but we’re focusing on education,” Abugattas said.
Abugattas points out that the county natural resources are very limited, so the county is striving to protect what it has.
As the county updates its forestry resources plan, a process conducted every few years, Abugattas is inviting mountain bikers to present a plan for sustainable use of their bikes in county parks. But until then, the county is urging mountain bike riders to stick to the asphalt trails and stay off the natural trails.
“We try to have our parks be something that everyone can enjoy, and we certainly want to include mountain bikes as part of it. But with such limited land that we have, natural land, we have to be good stewards, and so we’re trying to do our best to compromise with everyone, but still keep the little bit of natural lands we have as something for the future to enjoy as well,” Abugattas said.