Open Forum: Compassion, or contradiction?

Posted: July 23, 2013

I find it ironic that one who touts about preserving history doesn’t have his facts straight about the history of the so-called “unauthorized” bike trails. Instead of asking for the community’s help, the “snap” decision to close the trails is a simple but a divisive solution.

I did enjoy the fact W. Denman Zirkle (Open Forum, July 20) claims this was not a snap decision and had been under study for two years. When was he going to let everyone else know — the bikers, runners, hikers, walkers?

These trails have been there as a part of the site for five years and were developed in conjunction with the Winchester Wheelmen and the preservation group. Over the years, the groups worked together to determine routes and change some routes based on acceptable areas. The Wheelmen have spent countless hours developing and maintaining these trails and have made them a nice attraction for the area.

The Wheelmen also helped maintain the common areas for the preservation group by mowing along the gravel paths and clearing trees that blew over in the past few years. It sure seems like this group of “troublemakers” was doing its part to help preserve the site and help with maintenance the preservation group wasn’t doing.

In deciding to close the trails to not only bikers but runners and hikers, you are alienating yourself from this community where you could benefit from them. I would ask you to do a survey of folks entering the site to find out why they are there. My guess is not to learn about the historical site.

Again, you have the opportunity to involve and get the support of the community, or to create a site for you that no one will enjoy.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for preserving history and have actually talked to my own kids when we were riding the “unauthorized” trails when we would stop and read one of the markers. But I will also say that, if it weren’t for the bike trails, that type of learning opportunity for my kids would not have happened. I think you have a great preserved site, and it does get a lot of volume from folks who are exercising and may stop occasionally to read about the history.

I would also like to state that if the final decision would be to close the trails, you’d continue to see us at your events and fundraisers, but probably not in the terms of what you would want. We will be vocal and a nuisance for your people.

Maybe you should join us for a ride on the “unauthorized” trails and really see what it is we do and enjoy and let us sit down and discuss a way to work symbiotically and make this site big. We, the bikers, runners, walkers, and hikers are here and willing to do what ever it takes to make this happen.

I would suggest a yearly pass for folks to use the grounds and display it and help police it. I would suggest community work days and have us come out to plant flowers, maintain trails, clear trash, build bridges. For those who will be affected, we just need to know how we can help save what we have and to be able to continue to use.

Compassion goes further than contradiction. Maybe we could get together at your annual meeting on Saturday, Sept. 15, in Luray and have some open discussions about this site in particular. Wouldn’t that be fun? I feel sure the community would love to hear about it.

Hunter Hagerty, a mountain-bike rider, is a resident of Winchester.