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Tuesday - May 1, 2018 12:39 am

La Crosse bluff bike trail dust-up highlights complex nature of conservation easements

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The conflict over a short bike trail in La Crosse seems ridiculous to some.

Joshua Blum, volunteer trails coordinator for the Outdoor Recreation Alliance, is among those who struggle with why a couple hundred yards of bike trail in the bluffs above La Crosse is closed to the public.

Volunteers built a biking trail near the old Mathy quarry 15 years ago but now it is suddenly off limits to mountain bikers.

The whole thing's a little surreal and confusing to Blum.

"It doesn't say at the beginning of the trail, when you're in the trailhead parking lot, 'There's no biking on this trail,'" Blum said. "It's only on that affected section of trail, that it say, ‘No biking.’

“And it's only on that affected section of trail because outside of that affected section of trail is city-owned parkland that doesn't have the restriction of no bikes.”

The trail is on habitat conservation land owned by the city but maintained by the Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC).

The group says the 200 yards of the Fitzpatrick Trail violates rules for use of the land as stipulated by the contract to use DNR grant money to buy it. MVC executive director Carol Abrahamzon says it has no choice but to deny bikes access.

Abrahamzon says the stance has nothing to do with the organization's stance on mountain biking.  "We don't have one," Abrahamzon said.  "There's only so many uses allowed by the DNR for land preserved as habitat."

If the land was under some other sort of easement, that wouldn't necessarily be the story, according to Abrahamzon.

Blum's sees the issue more as bias against mountain bikes on trails in general in the area. 

“We were ahead of the curve in the mid-, late-2000s and now every other region around us, or in the nation, if not the world, has passed us by with shared-use access,” Blum said.

To counter the closure, the city is planning to build a new trail nearby.

“It'll be a solution but I don't necessarily believe it's the right solution because It just shows that we're still at an impasse in this community with putting bikes in the forest,” Blum said.

Blum expects the new trail to get built this summer.

Last modified on Tuesday - May 1, 2018 7:04 am
Mitch Reynolds

Mitch Reynolds is the News Director at Midwest Family Broadcasting. He covers the internecine agonies of La Crosse city hall. He really likes basketball.

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