Charting a viable path for Mint Springs development.
Residents in and around Albemarle County are blessed with amazing outdoor recreational resources. As a mountain biker, trail runner and outdoor enthusiast, I find the availability of trail to be pretty darn good. As a relatively recent resident of Crozet, I love being able to pedal my way over to Mint Springs, drop a few PSI from my tires, and climb up and down that mountain a few times before returning home. Its a wonderful out-and-back workout. I regularly encounter trail users of all kinds…hikers, dog walkers, cyclists…we exchange pleasantries and go about enjoying the great outdoors.
Make no mistake: Mint Springs is a treasure.
It has history, wildlife, and plenty of rocks and roots to keep everyone on their toes. Some of us in this community are aware of the expanses of the park beyond the existing, marked trail system, and given the elevation and acreage, we’ve always had an itch for more. Runners, hikers and cyclists alike all seem to want to go higher, travel further and see more. I’ve engaged with fellow cyclists, runners, hikers, and County officials off and on for the last several years in discussion about this topic. We’ve done some discovery hikes, studied maps, and drawn squiggly lines from point A to point B, but we’ve made no real progress.
Ah progress…a double-edged sword.
The counter-point to any further development often centers on protecting the wilderness. And given my love of nature, I can sympathize with those on that side of the fence. I’ve encountered a decent sized black bear head-on while riding on Fire Trail, and it was awesome! But I can also zoom out, both figuratively and literally (in Google Earth), and see that there is no shortage of wilderness surrounding Mint Springs. I hear and value conservative approaches to protecting wilderness, but I also believe that we can find a better balance at Mint Springs.
I’ve recently discovered that some have taken to carving their own, new “rogue” trails at Mint Springs. I quickly engaged the County to ensure that this wasn’t a planned activity (which I was fairly sure it wasn’t), and of course, it is not. This approach will not win any favor with the County. In fact, they will now likely dedicate resources to closing these trails and “restoring” nature. I find this all very unsettling. I ask that anyone that is actively venturing off the marked trails to cease. Mint Springs is not your personal playground. You want more. I want more. Many of us want more. So where do we go from here?
Historically, we have been a fragmented user-base.
We approach the County with small numbers, with small ideas, and we get brushed aside. I propose that we attempt to unify. Let’s get the Crozet Trail Crew, the Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club (CAMBC), the #runCrozet folks, the Crozet Cycling Club, and all other interested parties to come to the table and voice their ideas. Let’s develop our own “master” plan, unify our resources, and take it to to the County. Based on my experience to date, this may be the only way we are able to get traction.
Your neighbor and lover of all things outdoors,
P.S. While I have your attention, let me also say that Mountain Bikers can get a pretty bad rap. We can be portrayed as reckless trail hogs, blasting down the mountain with reckless abandon, destroying trails as we drag our wheels through switchbacks. And I know that this contingent exists…I see it on TV and on very rare occasions, I see them on the trails. But let me assure you: it is not the norm. CAMBC represents an outstanding group of trail stewards, backed by the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA). They build and maintain lasting trails. And the vast majority of the bikers I know are responsible trail advocates that understand trail etiquette. Additionally, the youth mountain bike scene is exploding in area High Schools, being taught by folks I respect that I know will put these kids on the path of responsible trail use. More kids outdoors: that is a win. Let’s work together to keep outdoor recreation awesome for everyone.