Outsideonline.com - Full Article
Bad behavior might be jeopardizing access to Kingdom Trails, one of the premier networks on the East Coast. Here’s what we can learn from it.
Jan 13, 2020
ome years back I visited Gothenburg, Sweden, and my host took me to ride some trails in a park just a short pedal from the city center. “Is this even legal?” I asked incredulously, imagining how much trouble I’d be in were I to steer my bicycle off the pavement in Central Park, even briefly. He then explained to me the Swedish concept of freedom to roam, or allemansrätten—literally “the everyman’s rights”—by which the constitution entitles people to walk, cycle, ski, and camp on most open land, regardless of whether it’s public or private.
It doesn’t work that way here in America, where mountain bike access to parkland is tightly regulated, and where public access of any kind to private land is entirely at the landowner’s discretion. One outstanding example of landowner largesse is Kingdom Trails in northeastern Vermont, which features over 100 miles of non-motorized trails “for all seasons and abilities,” and is spread across the properties of 97 private landowners, all of whom generously allow the public access to their land for a variety of uses, including mountain biking. Run by the non-profit Kingdom Trails Association (KTA), it’s become one of the premier recreational trail networks in the Northeast. A $15 one-day membership fee (or $75 annually) nets you access to a famously well-groomed and signed system that attracts over 100,000 visitors a year, 84 percent of whom come from out of state, and all of whom bring tourism dollars. Over the past 20 years, the trails have transformed the town of East Burke, which once attracted mostly skiers and leaf-peepers, and turned what was once the off-season into the peak season.
This past December, however, three landowners on Darling Hill informed KTA that they would no longer allow mountain bikers to use their property. “While the success of the trails has brought meaningful economic benefit to the area,” stated KTA on its website, “challenges and tension points exist around traffic, congestion and pedestrian safety of residents and visitors alike.” The landowners will continue to allow Nordic skiers, snowshoers, runners, hikers and horseback riders to access their property...
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