Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · Fatbike Faceoff
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Fatbike Faceoff

Skiers hope to head off a conflict over trail use

Patrick Sullivan - November 11th, 2013  

This year, for the first time, the North American VASA will include racers on something other than skis.

Like other cross country races around the country, the VASA will include a fatbike-on-the-snow race at this year’ event, scheduled for Feb. 8 and 9.

The decision by the VASA board caused the TART Trails board, which is responsible for grooming the VASA ski trails, to set aside some time for fatbikes throughout the winter.

It is an experiment to see how skiers and cyclists will coexist on the same trail. The VASA Trail this winter will feature “Fatbike Fridays” when, if conditions are okay, trail organizers will welcome fatbikers.

They hope by doing that, fatbike riders will chip in some money to keep the trail groomed and they will leave the trail to skiers on the other days of the week.

‘NOT BUILT FOR MOUNTAIN BIKES’

Fatbikes are modified mountain bikes with larger tires capable of cycling on sand or snow. A large tire on a standard mountain bike runs about 2.4" across, whereas a fatbike’s tires might range from 3.7" to 4.8" in width.

Introducing a new sport to the VASA Trail does not sound good to some long-time skiers.

Among the opponents is George Lombard, who in the early 1990s worked to establish the VASA Trail as an official non-motorized trail recognized by the state.

“We did not build a groomed trail for mountain bikes,” said Lombard, who still skis every day each winter. “Mountain bikes are welcome there six months a year, but in my opinion, they are not welcome when we’re grooming the trail.”

One problem Lombard sees is the possibility that a fast-moving skier headed downhill could crash into a cyclist who has shifted into a high gear, spinning their pedals and slowly climbing the hill, unable to get out of the way.

Skiers also worry that those knobby, donut-like fatbike tires will tear up the ski trail.

SINGLE TRACK NEEDED FOR FATBIKES

Lombard said he believes there is room for both skiers and fatbikers in the woods; they should just each have their own trail.

“Here sits the perfect situation where, if someone would have the initiative, you could develop a single track trail for fatbikes,” Lombard said.

A single track loop would need to be groomed with a snowmobile and permission from the DNR would be required in order to trim brush, he said.

“I’m sure that’s what the fatbike people would want, too,” he said. “They don’t want a 12-foot-wide trail.”

NON-MOTORIZED USES ALLOWED

Scott Howard, an attorney and member of the TART board, said trail organizers are trying to figure out how best the two user groups can get along until a long-term solution is hammered out.

Howard credits Lombard and VASA volunteers for establishing the trail and said he understands that the trail was established for skiers. “Skiers were the ones who created the trail in the first place.”

It took a lot of hard work to get the trail established as a state-recognized, non-motorized trail, and it takes a lot of fundraising and time donated by volunteers to keep the trails groomed for skiers.

There is a catch, however. The DNR currently views the VASA Trail to be a non-motorized trail that allows bicycle traffic. Currently, fatbikes are not prohibited on the trail in the winter under the DNR’s rules.

CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?

Howard said the TART board hopes that skiers and fatbike riders can respect each other and work together.

The VASA is groomed so that there is a wide skate lane next to the classic track.

On Fridays this winter, fatbike riders will be expected to stay off of the classic track and remain on packed snow in the skate lane.

“I am optimistic. I think that we can look to see what’s happened elsewhere in the country,” Howard said. “Once fatbikes and skiers start sharing a trail, there aren’t substantial user conflicts.”

This could be the first year fatbike riders turn out in significant numbers.

Howard said if the groups don’t get along, other measures could be taken.

Trail organizers could come back next year and ask the DNR for separate trails and a rule to keep fatbikes off of the ski trail, but he doesn’t expect that to happen.

“The fatbike community has been very respectful and has listened to our requests,” Howard said.

GROOMING BADGE FOR FATBIKES

Howard can see both sides of the debate. In addition to being a TART board member and past president, he is also an avid cross country skier.

His wife, Michele Howard, is on the VASA race board, the same one that launched this year’s new fatbike race.

Scott Howard said the sudden popularity of fatbikes in the past couple of years was impossible to ignore. He said the addition of the VASA fatbike race was a “gamechanger.”

Last year, fatbike riders were asked to stay on the Leelanau Trail and on the Meadows Loop at the VASA, a three-kilometer path near the trailhead.

Mountain bikes were not an issue on cross country ski trails until the development of fatbike tires. Traditional mountain bike tires cannot ride well in the snow.

With a day set aside for fatbike users, TART has launched a campaign to get them to help pay for grooming.

This year, Fatbike Friday riders will be asked to pitch in $25 for a grooming badge.

FATBIKES ARE NO FAD

Sean Fontichiaro, co-owner of One of a Kind Cycle at the Grand Traverse Commons in Traverse City, said there is a lot of crossover between mountain bikers and cross country skiers.

“I’ve got people who come in here and in the warmer months, they bike a lot,” he said.

“But in the winter, they cross-country ski, and they’re worried about it.”

Fontichiaro believes fatbikes and skiers should have separate trails.

There are plans at the Grand Traverse Commons to improve the trail system on the hill behind Building 50.

Fontichiaro said he believes improved access for skiing, snowshoeing and fatbiking means separate trails will be needed for each activity.

“This is all going to be happening within the next year,” he said. “There’s a lot of things we’re excited about.”

Are fatbikes a fad? Some skiers think so. Fontichiaro doesn’t. “I’ve heard that from other cyclists as well, but I believe the fatbike scene is going to stay,” he said. “They are so easy to ride. They float over things.”

Fontichiaro said lately he has noticed people want to outfit fatbikes with pannier bags that can carry camping supplies.

Fatbikes open up possibilities for riding that didn’t exist before.

“It’s not going to go anywhere,” he said.

“It just isn’t.”

 
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