The vast majority of the Cumberland Trail Network is on private industrial forest lands, with the remainder of trails on forest/watershed and/or park lands owned by the Village of Cumberland. The land owners have agreed to allow for trail building and trail use on these lands, but under the expectation of certain rules, requirements and processes including solid management plans and sufficient insurance coverages. After years of discussions and advocacy by UROC, the Cumberland Forest Trails agreement (the “Agreement”), a first of its kind agreement established by the United Riders of Cumberland (UROC) and the land owners in 2016, created a unique solution that allows the public to recreate on private industrial lands that had been previously closed to recreational use.
Under the Agreement, land owners and managers have assurance that trails on their lands and associated risks are responsibly managed by UROC. UROC in turn gain the ability to build trails, support volunteers with supplies and workshops, employ trail crew, secure government funding for significant trail projects, signage and bridges, host community events, and generally maintain a collaborative relationship with the forestry managers on issues such as logging plans and fire hazard. Riders and other non-motorized users gain “legal” access to a large network of maintained trails that would be otherwise off limits and unsanctioned.
The Agreement stipulates various conditions and processes that UROC must follow including trail management planning and approval processes. UROC representatives meet regularly with land owners and forest managers. We share plans for trail building and events for their approval, and discuss related planning issues and policies. They share their plans for road building and harvesting, and discuss how trails might be impacted. There are times when trails may have to move, or close temporarily, in order to allow the landowners to practice forestry. If requested, forest managers work to promptly restore trails back to their original state once forestry activities are complete.
One recurring challenge we face as an organization is unsanctioned trail building. In recent days, this issue has again been forced to the forefront and has raised some serious issues including subsequent online verbal attacks targeted at UROC and its staff. Having trails approved before they are built is fundamental to our Agreement and trail planning process, and the trust and cooperation we have built with land owners and managers. Unsanctioned trail building on the other hand can greatly impact our ability to advocate on behalf of our entire trail user community – working with land managers to maintain the legal access for all user groups to the Cumberland Trail Network. If people decide to build trails on lands covered by our Agreement, but not following the required processes, UROC will need to respond with an appropriate course of action including closing or decommissioning such trails, or restricting access.
It is accurate that at the time, unsanctioned or “rogue” trail building created the very foundation of mountain biking in Cumberland, as it has in many areas. However, we must recognize that we now all operate in a new paradigm – under our Agreement framework and have new responsibilities.
UROC recognizes that our great trail network was built by volunteers and that the character and craft of the trails reflects these volunteers. We also recognize that trail builders conduct their work with the best of intentions. One of our goals is and always has been to support this effort as the network evolves. We seek to work with all builders equally and fairly, while following respectable and appropriate measures to maintain the building of safe and sustainable trails. The trail network is also increasingly becoming dense for the over-all size and we need to ensure the network develops in a strategic and coordinated way. Those that wish to trail build must also ensure that we are operating within the rules, conditions and processes set forth by land owners/managers and the Village of Cumberland.
The interest, drive, commitment and passion that mountain bikers and trail builders have for single track trail work and adventure is what inspires UROC to advocate for the mountain biking community and the well-being of the Cumberland Trail Network. By maintaining our Agreement and the conditions, rules, and processes within, UROC can continue to work closely with the land owners to ensure we continue to have the privilege to recreate on their private lands and have access to the trails.
United Riders of Cumberland