It’s spring, and that means that the Western NY Mountain Bicycling Association (WNYMBA) will be working in the woods of Ellicottville building new trails. Spring trail building season continues up to National Trails Day on June 7. After that, the weekends are spent riding all these great trails.

WNYMBA has two miles of new trail on tap for this season’s trail building. Unfortunately, this will not add any mileage to the trail system. Why is that?

Ever since biking in the woods started getting popular in Ellicottville in the early 1990s, all the trails in the state forests have been open to bikes. WNYMBA worked with DEC (the state forest folks) when they rewrote the regulations in 2008. These rules allowed bikes on all state forest trails, unless they were specifically closed for some reason.

The new rules allowed all the trails in Ellicottville to remain open to all human-powered uses. This included what is locally known as the “White Trail,” which is part of the statewide Finger Lakes Trail and the National Scenic Trail (NST) known as the North Country Trail. Except for the Appalachian Trail, NSTs are envisioned to be available for a wide variety of users, including cyclists. WNYMBA’s parent organization, IMBA, has been active in securing and maintaining bicycling access on NSTs throughout the country, including the Colorado Trail and portions of the North Country Trail in Ohio and Michigan. IMBA is actively working on gaining access to more and more sections of NSTs throughout the country.

Much of the White Trail in New York is single use (hiking) — most importantly, the parts that travel over private land. When the Allegany State Park master plan was debated in 2010, WNYMBA declined to seek shared access to the White Trail there because it was already shared in the Ellicottville state forests.

However, such compromises on the part of WNYMBA were not enough for the Finger Lakes Trail Conference (FLTC), who oversees the White Trail. Although WNYMBA actually has performed all the maintenance work on the White Trail in Ellicottville (FLTC says it is in the best shape ever!), the FLTC argued that because NSTs are under the purview of the National Park Service, that DEC was not permitted to make the decision to allow cyclists on this trail.

This put DEC in a bind, but they have accommodated cyclists in this conundrum. DEC has required that half of the White Trail remain open to all human-powered users, including cyclists. Only the section from the communication tower on Mutton Hollow Road down to the CCC forest road will be closed to all but hikers. Meanwhile, the section of White Trail from the 2011 tornado damage over to Little Rock City will remain shared use (FLTC will build a separate single use section there).

To mitigate the White Trail restriction, DEC has approved for WNYMBA to build a parallel, shared-use replacement trail. This trail is WNYMBA’s spring project. It will start and end at the same road crossings, but take a new, longer route in between. WNYMBA urges all cyclists to stay off the old trail once the replacement trail is completed.

The section becoming single use has been an awesome trail, and its loss is a huge blow to the local trail community. But WNYMBA is committed to making lemonade out of lemons and plans to make the replacement trail even better.

Stop by Ellicottville Bike-n-Bean or to see when workdays are scheduled so everyone can help get this replacement trail on the ground by summer. Happy trails!

Jon Sundquist