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Don't Tread on Local Trail Builders 

This letter is in response to the Letter to the Editor printed in the 6/26 issue of your paper.

Thanks for the compliments on our trail building skills (I think). COTA is proud of the amazing trail system our volunteers have built over the years and we learn something every year. We welcome your input, skills and sweat any time you'd like to join us, whether you're a cross country rider, free rider or daring unicyclist.

As our city has grown, so has our trail system, and so have the numbers and types of users. This is true for users' types within the bike community - Free ride, Racers, Cross country riders, Cross Stuntry, weekend warriors and families. It is also true for other trail user categories like runners, hikers, dog walkers and geo-cachers. The Central Oregon Trail Alliance may have initially been formed to address the access issues of a specific user group - mountain bikers - but our current broad-based support is a result of listening to and working with all the aforementioned user groups, plus hundreds of hours of meetings with public agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the City of Bend and the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District.

I'd also like to point out that COTA has worked incredibly hard over the last 4-5 years to be very inclusive when it comes to working with every cycling discipline as it pertains to our trail building duties.

I reject the writer's notion that somehow COTA is a tradition-entrenched organization that is unaware or unable to respond to the demands of a new discipline i.e. Freeriding. The writer paints a picture similar to the one snowboarders had during the early days of that sport when riding on snow with your feet strapped to one board was somehow morally superior to riding down the same mountain strapped to two boards. Thankfully that mindset, mostly postured by marketing mavens to sell more products, has gone by the wayside; these days on the hill, you see one and two plankers enjoying the same resource as "Snowriders".

As the writer accurately points out, it is freeriding and freeride bikes that are currently driving the marketing juggernaut in the bike business. No doubt seeing a picture of a young rider hucking some huge air is much more compelling than watching a 40-something guy or gal roll down Phil's Canyon. But while the marketing machine rolls on down the trail, I'd like to point out that cross-country bike sales are about 90% of the market, while freeride bike sales are 10% or less.

As for the writer's comments on improvements needed at the Lair and Lower Whoops, if he'd been out riding since the Spring Fling work party on June 7, he might have noticed that there have been substantial changes and tweaks to both of these areas, and the stewards of these two areas, Sam Pinner and Lev Stryker, are not only excellent trail builders, but very accomplished riders in all cycling styles. If you know either one of them and have seen their quivers of bikes, you'd know what I'm talking about.

Finally, I reject the writer's notion that somehow it is the responsibility of any trail builder to make a trail so perfect that users don't have to adapt and learn from their riding experience - they simply have to point and shoot their way down perfect radius turns with no obstacles. Our local trail system is NOT a BMX park, it has its quirks and hiccups, it has its rocks and trees and sometimes these trail features are not exactly in the place you want them to be. I'd like to challenge the writer by saying that what we lack (in Central Oregon) is not variety in trails, it's his lack of creativity in how to make what we do have as interesting and varied as possible. If the writer is more interested in Monday morning quarterbacking than contributing to the cause, then I guess his letter speaks for itself. But if he's a trailbuilder and wants to truly contribute to well-built, sustainable trails and jumps, the Central Oregon Trail Alliance welcomes his skills and his hard work!

Kent E. Howes, Bend

Editor's note: Kent Howes is the president of the Central Oregon Trail Alliance and a trail builder.

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