Mountain bikers protest trail closures

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SAN DIEGO — Several hundred mountain bikers paraded through Mission Trails Regional Park Saturday to protest recent trail closures there.

Bikers gathered in front of the MTRP Visitors Center and set off on a “protest parade” that traversed the park.  A biker at the head of the long column carried a sign that said, “We need more trails!”

The mountain bikers said they were protesting the closure last month of a trail system north of state Route 52 in Spring and Oak canyons. Park rangers began posting signs closing the trails after receiving a letter from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game in August 2013. The letter said that officials had discovered illegal trail building in the area, which had been purchased to protect a number of endangered plants as mitigation for development in other parts of the county.

The mountain bikers say they have been riding the trails in Spring and Oak canyons for years. They say they are willing to work with park officials to develop a responsible trail system in the area, but they object to the sudden closures when no alternative routes are being offered.

“In the short time I’ve lived in San Diego, we’ve seen trails being closed all across the county to the point where our options to get out and appreciate nature are being greatly diminished,” said Dustin Sharp, one of the organizers of Saturday’s protest ride. “If you actually want people to observe trail closures, you need to help us build new trails before you close the old ones.”

The event organizers have created a website with an online petition in hopes of convincing park officials to reopen some of the trails.

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