Cape Gazette
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Tuesday Editorial

Forgive the fine for building a bike trail

May 13, 2014

A local mountain biker in search of a trail to ride could not find much of one in the Cape Region. There is an unmapped trail in Cape Henlopen State Park, but mountain biker Jeff Clayton and many others didn’t notice it. Instead, Clayton discovered a rudimentary trail used – for years – by other riders.

With a little help from his friends, Clay­ton improved the trail, hoping to encourage people to get out, get active and explore the park.

Clayton says he knew park rangers would not endorse a citizen building his own trail, but he thought if he did a good job, cleaned up the area and got others to back the plan, state officials would realize the trail is a good addi­tion to park amenities – especially since it was already built.

Clayton says he set up a meeting with park officials, and he took Cape Gazette publisher Dennis Forney out to see it and write a story.

Citizen builds bike path to promote healthy activity. Sounds like something the admin­istration of bike enthusiast and Gov. Jack Markell would be all for.

Wrong.

Park rangers apparently never noticed people who rode the undeveloped trail for years – until they read about Clayton’s effort in the Cape Gazette.

Last week, rangers charged Clayton with injuring trees and other crimes. He was fined $1,140 and barred from the park for a year.

Park officials say building a private play­ground is not acceptable on park lands. We agree. Our parks are for everyone, and no one should build private trails. Environmentally sensitive parkland should be protected.

But Clayton is not a criminal, and his trail was not private. Unlike many trail users, Clayton announced the trail’s existence in the newspaper.

Clayton’s fine is excessive. It targets a per­son whose effort was aimed at promoting out­door activity in a beautiful natural setting – an area already used by young people in adjacent neighborhoods.

Park officials should recognize that Clayton is just one of dozens of people who used this trail. They should forgive the fine and initiate discussions to develop an environmentally sensitive path that everyone can enjoy.

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