The good news is, Tiger Mountain’s primary mountain biking loop is open again. The DNR reopened Northwest Timber Trail earlier than expected (the first time that’s been done in recent years) this past weekend for the duration of the season.
The bad news is, Northwest Timber Trail is in serious jeopardy. A huge swath has been cut near its upper terminus for a road that Ys just below the trail. Above the trail enough hillside has been cleared that erosion and debris are certain to hammer the trail over the winter.
As it is, the trail is expected to be closed next summer for logging. There’s no word on alternatives yet, but we hope the closure can be used to justify access in other parts of Tiger. There are 80 miles of trail open to hikers, just 8 open to mountain bikers. And a good chunk of the latter will be gone with the closure of Northwest Timber Trail.
Bikes can ride over the road now. But a culvert was installed right above the trail just north of the new road, giving an idea of what is to come. You put a waterfall above a trail, you get a washout.
Let’s be clear about the issues here. Tiger Mountain is a working forest subject to logging. Closures are inevitable. Trail damage is a given.
But: For that very reason, arguments about environmental harm and use conflicts on Tiger are bogus. I like to joke that the only thing more devastating to a forest than logging is a mountain bike. The truth is, bikes cause mere specks of ecological impact compared to forest operations.
Aside from Poo Poo Point trail on the north side off I-90, hikers barely use Tiger trails. We have nothing against hiking use on any trails. But to exclude bikes when trails sit mostly empty is unfair and unjustified.
We support the work of Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance to work with the DNR and other user groups to open additional trails to mountain bike access at the very least on a provisional basis so that the myths of mountain bike impacts can be dispelled in a diverse user environment.