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Horse owners, mountain bikers square off at meeting

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By Tris DeRoma

A public discussion about a network of trails around the North Mesa Stables took a sharp turn Wednesday when county officials gave an update on a proposed “flow” trail meant exclusively for mountain bikers.

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After County Parks and Recreation officials gave a brief update about the proposed flow trail, residents who attended the meeting debated whether the trail was a good idea at all.

According to county officials, the trail, if built, would parallel and intersect an existing popular horseback riding and hiking trail in Bayo Canyon.

“I think it’s a really bad idea to put it here,“ said resident Bruce Warren. “I think the county needs to reopen negotiation about installing a trial flow trail on the ski hill, which is where it really belongs, it’s a recreational type facility. It’s not really a trail in the sense of what we know is a trail.”

A proponent and founder of the flow trail idea said it couldn’t go on Pajarito Mountain because the ski area is privately owned.

Lisa Reader, an avid horseback rider and leader in the local riding community, thought the flow trail needs to be somewhere else too, that horse owners are slowly getting squeezed out of the recreational trail picture.

“I support multiple use as a concept. Our community is very small geographically, we only have a small footprint to work in, we don’t need to be fussing and fighting with each other. But, I will say that we are out here for good, and we keep getting squeezed and squeezed,” Reader said. “There’s so few places we can  safely access anymore, so this (plan) is an eyeopener to us. This is the one trail we have easy access to and now they’re going to make it potentially unsafe.”
Chris Wilson said the request for proposals from contractors to make a schematic design and an estimate closed Aug. 11. The county is currently looking at the bidders.

“Until the county either moves forward, closes, or cancels, then it all becomes public information,” Wilson said.
The county has had several hearings about the proposed flow trail, and Wilson emphasized at the meeting that the proposal was only for a schematic plan, and not a plan to actually build it.

The trail, if built, will begin near the Bayo Canyon trailhead and go for about six miles.

Reader said there are stages in the design where the trail comes from within 30-40 feet of the horse and hiking trail, and that’s too close.

“Having bikes parallel and right above the horses is a recipe for disaster,” Reader said. “If the horse gets spooked, where does it go? 200 feet down.”

Brad Nyenhuis, of Fusion Multisport, an outdoor activity and bike shop in Los Alamos proposed the idea to the county a couple of years ago. Four public meetings have been held, which led to the request for proposals for a schematic design of the trail.

“I admit that people are worried about bike/horse conflicts. That is a problem,” Nyenhuis said. “Bikes and horses on same trail are an issue, but that’s what we have now. We’re all on the same trail. We have high-speed bike trails with horses, and that’s a bad combination. This alleviates that. This is a trail that takes the bike traffic off of the horse trail.”

Nyenhuis assured residents at the meeting that if the plan ever gets off the ground, it will benefit the county by bringing more tourists. But when it comes down to it, it’s just a trail like any other, he said.

“There’s still a lot of misinformation going around, like what a flow trail is. From some of the comments I heard you would think we’re building a four lane highway or we’re running construction equipment through Bayo Canyon, Nyenhuis said. “It’s a trail. The only thing that’s different is that it’s machine built, It’s created smooth, and it’s built to modern standards.”