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home : opinions : opinions June 29, 2016

7/22/2014 12:04:00 PM
Don't look the other way
By Ed Protas

We can't keep turning our heads.

I am a cyclist. I currently own and ride four bikes; road, mountain, street, and racing (time trial). During the last 10 years, I have bought and sold seven others. I own a fair amount of spandex, and I wear it when I ride. Before retiring, I commuted by bike for several years. In July I am glued to the flat screen for the three weeks of the Tour de France. I think cycling is cool. Now you know where I am coming from, right?

I stand firmly against the construction of the paved trails currently being promoted by the Sisters Trails Alliance and the U.S. Forest Service. From the perspective of environmental destruction, which I will briefly identify below, no matter how much I support the promotion of cycling, I am simply unwilling to look the other way when it comes to the negative impact of this project. I have come to this position by comparing the benefits, all of which are unsubstantiated claims put forth by the STA, against the destruction and disruption of the environment.

It is hard to claim you care about the earth and the environment if you support these trails. About the best you can do is to tell yourself "it is only a little destruction; you don't like it, but it's not too awful. What the heck, this stuff goes on everywhere." Or maybe you think the people who oppose this are just a bunch of silly tree-huggers. Some even call us NIMBYs. Whatever it takes; shoot the messenger.

My Oregon license plate says "Share the Road," just like many of the signs you see along our roads where cyclists are known to travel in numbers. This is a part of a well-thought-out propaganda campaign directed at getting non-cycling motorist to be aware of our presence. It improves our chances of survival. How about a license plate that says "Share the Forest," to improve the survival of the creatures in the forest?

The destruction of 250-plus mature trees, cutting a 7.6-mile long, 32-foot-wide swath (10 feet of asphalt, two feet of gravel, plus a 20-foot wide buffer), laying down 294,000 cubic feet of gravel and 100,000 cubic feet of toxic asphalt, does not equate to sharing. The disruption of mule deer and elk habitat - to include a known wintering and birthing area - does not equate to sharing.

How is it that the folks who ask that you share the road can be so blind to the impact of their desire to have these trails? I emphasize desire, because there is little evidence to support a need, and this undercuts the claim of any significant benefit to offset the destruction.

The loss of trees will contribute to global warming and pollution. The use of heavy equipment and machinery to build the trail will cause pollution, and serious disruption to elk and deer habitat. ODFW has stated this disruption could result in more vehicle/animal collisions along a corridor that is already known as a hot-spot. ODOT data indicates that 16 percent of all vehicle/animal collisions in the state occur on this corridor. Construction, and normal use by walkers and bikers, oftentimes with dogs, will lead to an increase in this number. This has resulted in human deaths, vehicle damage, as well as a loss of animal life. Making it worse is not OK.

The construction will result in the rise of invasive species, and the runoff of rainwater will result in the leaching of toxic material from the asphalt into the earth and potentially underground aquifers. Many of these concerns are listed in the USFS Environmental Analysis report.

The STA and its USFS partner have minimized these concerns, and the USFS is doing its utmost to prevent valid criticism from being considered. They use their self-created rules and regulations as a gimmick to thwart potential objections from being included. This project means money for the USFS and the STA, and that is a motivating factor.

Just turn your head. Ignore the downside. Convince yourself that the trails are a cool idea; everyone will use and love them. That is all you have to do and they just might pull it off.

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