Plan highlights specific to trail access and mountain biking:
(Page 15) Section E. Extensive Areas of Concern
Trails/Signs & Unauthorized/Illegal Activity
As stated, the Airline State Park Trail is the only authorized trail in the Blackledge Block. However, this block of forestland is home to an extensive network of unauthorized mountain bike trails. This unauthorized trail system is found in the eastern most section of the block, traversing compartments 10 and 11. Trail construction has included cutting herbaceous plants out of intended pathways, cutting downed trees out of trails and installing narrow wooden bridges in order to cross streams. Section 23- 4-1 (b) of the general regulations of the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection states “No person shall deface, destroy, alter, remove or otherwise injure in any manner any structures buildings, vegetation, earth or rock material, trees, or fuelwood, nor shall any wildlife be molested or disturbed except as authorized by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.” This trail network was constructed in direct disregard for this section of the general regulations by significantly altering vegetation, earth, rock material and trees in this area of state forestland. The trail system is mostly present in upland forestland with dry, stony soils. However, these trails traverse wet areas and steep slopes that are rutted and eroded. Wet areas tend to have the widest trails as hikers and cyclists search for the driest route around the wet area. In wet areas the impact of these trails is most severe and has resulted in rutting, soil compaction and erosion. On steep slopes trails were constructed with no regard to how water would drain off the trail, resulting in water running directly down the trail, increasing soil erosion. These developed, multi-use trails also conflict with the DEEP’s mission to conserve fisheries, wildlife and their habitats. Recreational trails fragment and degrade habitat by creating a constant disturbance to wildlife as well as creating avenues for non-native invasive plant infestations, which reduce biodiversity. According to the publication Trails for People and Wildlife (2019) published by the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, trails can negatively impact wildlife within 400 feet of each side of a trail. Negative impacts include direct stress to wildlife such as changing the animal’s heart rate, temperature or stress hormones as well as causing them to change their foraging locations, reducing the area available for them to raise their young and putting them at increased risk of predation. Using the 400 feet on each side of a trail as a trails corridor of influence on the local wildlife, within compartments 10 and 11 of the Blackledge Block there is only seven percent of the total land area not being disturbed by recreational traffic. Multi-use trails used by mountain bikers and dog walkers can also negatively impact those engaged in fish and wildlife based recreation such as hunting and wildlife viewing, especially those seeking a more solitary outdoor experience. Trails can be a great way to help the public see the beauty of their public forestland, however, the authorization and construction of such trails needs to be well planned in order to maximize recreational opportunities while minimizing negative impacts. The current unauthorized trail network is excessively extensive across the land and was constructed with no considerations to its negative impact on soils, vegetation, wildlife and wildlife based recreation. Actions need to be taken to stop this illegal use.
(Page 41) Recreational Site Improvement
Educational signage outlined in the “Road Construction, Gates & Signs” section of this plan will be posted as a short term initiative aimed at managing high recreational use areas within this block of land, most notably in compartments 10 and 11. However, the recreational pressure in these two compartments of the forest is such that a sustainable recreation plan will need to be created and implemented as the long term solution to the recreational issues, outlined in section E “Extensive Areas of Concern” of this plan. The parks, forestry and wildlife divisions of DEEP will partner to create and implement this plan during the early years of this management plans lifespan. The overarching goals of a sustainable recreation plan for the area are as follows:
Create a designated trail head with a kiosk where all applicable notices can be posted for recreationalists to view.
Divert the primary access point away from the end of Grayville Road to reduce and minimize neighborhood disturbances.
Stop the creation of additional trails that are constructed with no regard to DEEP general regulations or sustainable recreation.
Reduce trail density to minimize recreational pressure on wildlife.
Designate authorized trails and close non-authorized trails.
Take measures to stabilize authorized trails. Stabilization measures will include avoiding sensitive
wet and riparian areas, reducing steep grades by installing additional switchback turns, constructing bridges over unavoidable wet areas and/or streams and putting in water bars to divert water off trail to prevent erosion and sedimentation.
Create a plan to maintain the authorized trail system and enforce violations.