By Alex Bauer, Brighton-Pittsford Post, link to original article
An Ellison Parks System Master Plan approved by a parks advisory committee last month is drawing ire from hikers, mountain bikers and even some Irondequoit homeowners.
The plan, which still needs final approval from the Monroe County Legislature, has been developed as a guideline for the six parks that ring Irondequoit Bay — Ellison Park, Ellison Wetlands, Tryon Park, Irondequoit Bay Park East, Irondequoit Bay Park West and Devil’s Cove.
They occupy 1,139 acres in the towns of Irondequoit, Penfield, Brighton, Webster and the city of Rochester and include more than 22 miles of trails and nearly 2.3 miles of shoreline.
Irondequoit Bay Park West is located near Irondequoit’s Orchard Park Boulevard neighborhood and, like Irondequoit Bay Park East, is accessed off Empire Boulevard.
County Legislator Vince Esposito, D-Irondequoit, said the main concern has been the plan’s allowance of mountain bikes on existing trails in the county’s Tryon Park, where they have recently been allowed on a trial basis, and on a to-be-constructed shared-use trail in Irondequoit Bay Park West.
Irondequoit resident Harlan Brody, who lives near Irondequoit Bay Park West, said putting a shared-use trail that would run, at least partway, along a one-way road near his home “would be like putting a runway on Route 490.” He added, “In my eyes, it’s not viable not only for mountain bicycles, but also for hikers or even baby strollers; it’s just a 10-foot-wide strip of land and only wide enough for one car now.” He calls the notion “a pipe dream.”
Esposito said the county Legislature can amend the master plan. But, he also notes that even if the plan were adopted, “It wouldn’t change the law (which currently bans mountain bikes in county parks).” “It (the master plan) is just a plan, and that doesn’t mean everything in the plan happens if it’s adopted,” Esposito said.
Monroe County updates the master plans that guide the management of its parks about every 10 years. “We try to look at how these parks are being used by the public and if they could be used better,” said Lawrence Staub Jr., director of the Monroe County Department of Parks. “You basically take a large view of the parks and their usage and try to plan for the next 10 years.”
Once the Monroe County parks advisory committee adopted the master plan, by a vote of 9-0, at a meeting last month, it went to County Executive Maggie Brooks. Esposito expects it will be introduced to the full Legislature at its meeting Tuesday. Esposito thinks mountain bikers “should have someplace to go” within the county parks system.
Since much of Irondequoit Bay Park West is in such an environmentally sensitive area, he said, he’s not in favor “at this point” of allowing mountain bikers in that area, but thinks they should be allowed at Tryon.
While currently banned in county parks, mountain bikers often use them. “Truthfully, enforcement in parks is difficult; there aren’t 24-hour-a-day patrols,” acknowledged Esposito.
He does, however, understand hikers’ fear of mountain bikes “taking over,” since mountain bikers often aggressively attack off-road trails.
He has seen bikers dig 3-foot holes in pathways at Tryon, for instance, Brody said, to create a pit that can be jumped over or to build up, with the dirt, a ramp for jumping.
Parks staff diligently put the dirt back, he said, adding that he’s also seen parks’ trees cut down for the sport. “Like with anything, it’s 20 percent of the people who create 80 percent of the problem,” Brody said.
Recommendations for Irondequoit Bay Park West in Master Plan update
• Improve signage to assist park visitors
• Preserve the Glen Haven area north of the Irondequoit Bay Fish and Game Club in its natural state
• Establish a shared-use bicycle trail
• Provide a landing point for paddlers on the west side of Irondequoit Bay and consider adding picnic tables
• Use an old railroad bed to provide a waterfront trail corridor from Empire Boulevard into the park
• Develop a safe pedestrian and bicycle crossing at Empire Boulevard
• Consider renaming the park to establish an identity and increase public recognition
Craig Durie, of Pittsford, an avid mountain bicyclist, said that both bikers and hikers can use the parks responsibly. “There’s almost no single track that I can locate in the area,” Durie said, referring to ridable trails.
Brody admits that he’d like to see Irondequoit Bay Park West just designated as forever wild, noting that there would also be parking issues if more trails were opened up.
The plan would be referred to the Recreation and Education Committee late this month, and could be considered for adoption by the full Legislature at its May 12 meeting.
Parks preservationists like Dick Spade of Greece say that existing trails in county parks are often narrow, on hills, and with fragile glacial soils, and just aren’t suitable for mountain bikes. “These trails typically do not have good sight distance because they were developed as walking trails; they were not designed for ‘shared use’ by both pedestrians and bicycles,” Spade said. “Public safety is a great concern.”
To learn more
To see the proposed parks master plan, go to the Monroe County Web site, www.monroecounty.gov. For more on opposition to the plan, go to www.parkspreservation.org, a Web site developed by 13 area conservation organizations.