More Illegal Mountain Bike Trail Construction Discovered


Mike Vandeman


County debates future of 'Flightline' area

By: BARBARA HENRY - Staff Writer

CARLSBAD ---- Within the next few weeks, a land management company
expects to dismantle some of the illegally assembled, much-used
mountain bike pathways in a region nicknamed "Flightline" near
Carlsbad's airport.

Whether officially approved trails will replace the informal network
is uncertain. Area mountain bikers are lobbying heavily to retain
access to the steep, densely vegetated valley just northeast of the
intersection of Palomar Airport Road and El Camino Real. But the
county of San Diego, which owns part of the land, isn't committing to
what the area's future will be.

"We're working with both sides of this issue ---- the conservation
people and the mountain biking people ---- to come up with an
equitable solution to this problem," county airports spokesman Bill
Pollack said last week.

Pollack said there's no timeline for a decision but that "we are
working aggressively on it."

People on all sides of the issue agree on two things: First, the
bikers never had legal permission to build trails on the county land
or a privately owned parcel next door, and, second, property owners
essentially ignored the situation for decades.

'Sanitizing' the trail

Calling the Flightline region a unique recreation area with coastal
North County, area mountain bikers argue that the county should keep
the existing trails until they are replaced.

"We'd like to put the cart behind the horse," said Ryan Dynes, an
Oceanside mountain biker who has been helping to publicize the issue.

Pollack refused to comment much beyond the words contained within a
prewritten statement Thursday, but a biologist working for a company
that is managing the land said the county wants some trails gone from
its 100-acre parcel as quickly as possible.

These trails, which include wooden ramp structures and extensive
hillside slope stabilization efforts, are a liability nightmare,
biologist Markus Spiegelberg said. He took county employees on a tour
of the area and vividly recalls their reactions when they saw spots on
the hillside where metal rebar had be used to keep the trail path in

"As soon as the county saw this section they went, 'Out of here,'" he
said, pointing to the rebar section early last week. "They did not
like it at all."

"The rebar should go," agrees Minette Ozaki, vice president of the San
Diego Mountain Biking Association.

She said, however, that the county should consider improving the
existing trails rather than destroying them. She added that area
mountain bikers are very concerned that the county may replace the
homemade trails with ones that are a lot less fun to ride.

"The trail users really want to avoid what they call sanitizing the
trail --- (creating) something you could push a stroller on," she

Industrious trespassers

Spiegelberg stressed that his center wants to work with the mountain
bikers. However, he emphasized that bikers didn't have permission to
be there in the first place.

"We're not anti-mountain bike," he said. "What we don't like is
vandalism and trespass."

Trespassing also is an issue for TechBilt, a neighboring property
owner. TechBilt is constructing the Carlsbad Oaks business park on
part of its land. The remainder is set aside as a nature preserve.

"There's no mountain biking authorized on our property," company vice
president Ted Tchang said.

But that doesn't mean mountain bikes aren't regularly seen in the
region. Bike trails have snaked through the area for years. Recently,
more high-tech trails have started appearing, he said.

"They've been very industrious, but unfortunately they didn't have
anybody's permission to do that," Tchang said.

Spiegelberg said he started noticing a newer, more impressive trail
system through the steep, county-owned parcel in 2005 after work began
on the TechBilt's business park. Mountain bikers used to access the
Flightline region through part of the TechBilt property, but now that
area is under construction, so bikers have built a new pathway into
the county-owned parcel. There's a trailhead next to Carlsbad's Public
Safety Center Complex on Orion Street.

It's that newer trail section that the county wants removed,
Spiegelberg said.

Growing pains

The mountain biking community is divided over how to handle the
situation. Groups including the San Diego Mountain Biking Association
are urging members to stay out of the area while the access issue is
being debated. The association has posted a sign at the start of the
new trailhead urging people to stay out.

"Trespassing will hurt our case and will cause permanent closure of
Flightline," it states. "The police have informed us that if you are
caught riding these trails, they will confiscate your bike and hold it
as evidence against you."

However, during a midday visit last week, at least one mountain biker
was making the roughly 2/3-mile circuit.

Local riders say it is an incredible course because it's steep, it's
challenging and it's convenient. There's really nothing like it in the
region, they say.

"That's why a lot of people are so passionate about it ---- because it
is close," said Dynes, who has been mountain biking for a decade.

Oceanside resident Brian Howard said he was going twice week because
it was less than a mile from his job in Carlsbad's business park
region. A former professional skateboarder, he said he finds it ironic
that mountain biking is going through the same growing pains that
skateboarding did years ago.

"I grew up as a skateboarder looking for a place to skateboard," he

Doug Mann, a mountain biker who lives in Rancho Carrillo to the east
of the Flightline region, credits his regular trail rides with shaving
20 pounds off his frame in four years.

"To be able to get off work and ride on a trail near the house is very
convenient," he said.

The area is unique enough that it has rated mentions in national
mountain biking Web sites, enthusiasts report. And an online petition
seeking to save the region generated 800 supporters in the first week,
Ozaki said.

Contact staff writer Barbara Henry at (760) 901-4072 or
[email protected].

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Comments On This Story

Note: Comments reflect the views of readers and not necessarily those
of the North County Times or its staff.

Go mountain bikers! wrote on November 05, 2006 2:11 AM:"Carlsbad needs
more outlets for recreational positive and fun 'hobbies' that keep
'kids' out of gangs and maybe keeping them from graffiti art that
Buddy is so upset about. Can't ride bikes safely in Carlsbad anymore -
traffic horrid and rude drivers. Mountain bikers need challenges and
what a perfect outlet they found. Too bad it's called trespassing.
What about it city council? Afraid of liability once again? STUPID
That’s really stupid. Things happen. Buddy and Ann can certainly
remember being sued and paying out $$$ to a former council woman whose
daughter was standing under a street sign minding her own business
when the street sign suddenly detached and fell on her head. Did the
city ban all street signs? Did they rush out to make sue all street
signs were nailed tight? Me thinks mountain bike riders would not sue
- they just want to exercise, be challenged, enjoy other like minded
bicyclists. Go bikers! No drugs here. No illegals. NO trash left in
the hills. No fires started. What's the problem?"

Susan wrote on November 05, 2006 6:08 AM:"LEAVE IT ALONE"

John wrote on November 05, 2006 7:31 AM:"Be careful out there bikers
..Ya might run over an Illeagal Alien and the ACLU will sue ya. By the
way, The photo above looks like a camp to me.The only thing missing
are the clothes hanging from the bushes.Im with ya though, who needs
more strip malls."

Josh wrote on November 05, 2006 8:21 AM:"The funny thing is that in
our world today, we have forgotten to have fun. It is amazing that you
can't just ride a bike on god's given land. We have to get permission
from someone like they are are parents. Yes they might own the land,
but it is land and it has been sitting there for over 2 decades. Now
that the owner wants to build shops, office buildings and who knows
what, he wants his land back. In North SD county, don't you think that
we have destroyed enough land already, built enough housing and office
parks? I mean you can drive by anywhere and see so many unoccpupied. I
used to live in San Jose and they did the same thing because they
thought about making money. Now there are hundreds of empty buildings
and money being lost. At the same time, they are not building on
mountains and on land where we were designed to have fun. If the
trails need to be cleaned up to be "more safe," go for it. But the
funny thing is, how safe is riding your bike on the street around
cars, how safe are the skateboard half pipes, etc, etc, etc? Mountain
biking is about going out into nature, being one with it and enjoying
it. Not thinking about riding in place for 2 hrs so you don't get
injured. At this point, this entire situation frustrates me. The trail
has been closed for months. It is close to me, the only one around,
and the only one around that is as technical and fun in within a 1-2
hr radius. Lets try to work together on this so both parties benefit.
It is not about the land, it is about money. Money drives people to do
carzy things. Look at our oceans, our land, etc. It is all being
ruined, so in anohter 100 years all we are going to see from outer
space is a black earth. It is going to be all pavement. Thanks for

Brian wrote on November 05, 2006 9:19 AM:"I think that these photos
tend to make the area look trashy. Why did they have to show a picture
of the building materials/wheelbarrow? What should have been shown is
the elegant methods that were used to build the trails: The
strategically placed rocks and features that keep the trail from being
eroded, the bridges over sensitive stream and water crossings and
vegetation and the safety features put in place to keep riders, er, on
the trail. The critical pieces of rebar talked about all have safety
caps on them. This area has been a great escape for me for the last 15
years. It has been a way to get a great workout and enjoy nature
during the confines of a mid-day lunch hour. It is sad to see it get
bulldozed and concreted into another business park and our riparian
stream turned into a drainage culvert. Please don't destroy these
trails as they are all that we have left. Mountain biking is not a

BOB wrote on November 05, 2006 9:29 AM:"I've been commuting thru that
canyon for 18 years, much safer than Palomar Airport Road. My main
concerns were illegals dogs, rattlesnakes and the pollution from the
Waste Management Transfer site (oil) and the Buena Vista Sanitation
District (raw sewage leaking into the creek). Mountain Bikers like me
help keep it clean. Lets provide legal access. "

Eduardo wrote on November 05, 2006 12:17 PM:"I grew up riding the
hills and skating the ditches of so. cal. It's sad to see the open
land the get sucked up. Thank goodness to surfrider and coastal
commission we still have beach access. ride on, but don't destroy"

Wayne wrote on November 05, 2006 12:19 PM:"The one thing that keeps
coming up is the potential for a lawsuit if someone gets hurt out
there. Can anyone tell me if that is a real concern? I've heard that
lawsuits like that are nearly impossible. The people who use these
trails no they take the risk of getting hurt when they strap on a
helmet. Can you sue a rattle snake???"
I am working on creating wildlife habitat that is off-limits to
humans ("pure habitat"). Want to help? (I spent the previous 8
years fighting auto dependence and road construction.)

Please don't put a cell phone next to any part of your body that you are fond of!

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