Parkland eyed for mountain-bike trails

The Minneapolis Off-road Cycling Advocates (MOCA) is asking the Park Board to plan an off-road bike trail network in the park system -- replacing existing renegade trails with better-designed paths that reduce erosion.

MOCA's long-range vision includes mountain-bike trails in Wirth Park, near the Chain of Lakes, Minnehaha Creek, the Mississippi River and the downtown area, according to a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board staff memo. In the short-run, it has asked the Park Board to focus on Wirth Park trails.

MOCA grew out of the Silent Sports community meetings called by Park Board Commissioners in May, MOCA members said. They estimate there are 10,000 avid off-road cyclists in the metro area. They presented their request to the Board March 19.

The Park Board authorized staff to work with MOCA on such things as maintenance estimates and ways to address user conflicts. Those talks could lead to a formal agreement on a demonstration project in Wirth Park. The board would have to approve any trails and as yet has not voted.

Several Park Board members supported ongoing discussions with MOCA, including Vivian Mason and Jon Olson, who represent Wirth Park.

Olson said he was very skeptical at first but met with MOCA volunteers. Wirth had a problem with renegade trails, and better planning would help.

The MOCA representatives asked Park Board staff to participate this May in the "Hot Spots" program, led by the International Mountain Biking Association. Park Board staff would learn about effective trail design and maintenance.

MOCA proposed building a demonstration trail in Wirth Park, cleaning up the existing non-official off-road trails there and replacing them with ones that minimized environmental damage.

A Park Board staff memo flagged potential problems with a citywide trail system. "Terrain in areas along the Mississippi River Gorge, in Minnehaha Park, and along Minnehaha Creek may not be compatible with off-road cycling due to steep slopes, high erosion potential and available park land," it said.

For more information on the Park Board's planning process, call Jennifer Ringold, 661-4800.