NEMBA Presents Ware River Watershed Proposal to EOEEA

Friday, December 18, 2015

NEMBA Presents Ware River Watershed Proposal to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

Boston, MA, December 18, 2015:  Representatives from the New England Mountain Bike Association (NEMBA) met with the leadership of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA) to discuss mountain bike access to the Ware River Watershed in central Massachusetts.

Wachusett NEMBA has formally requested that mountain biking be allowed on certain singletrack trails in the watershed and that the state collaborate with NEMBA and a newly formed Friends of the Ware River Watershed group on an independent analysis of the trail network.

According to Wachusett NEMBA’s Brett Russ, “we are grateful to Secretary Matthew Beaton, Undersecretary Ned Bartlett, Assistant Secretary Daniel Sieger, Director of Legislative Affairs Stolle Singleton as well as Senator Brownsberger, and Senator Anne Gobi’s aide John McNamara for taking the time to hear about the issues facing the citizens surrounding the 25,000-acre watershed. We believe that NEMBA’s proposal for greater access will be a win-win for everyone involved.”

The watershed has 35+ miles of singletrack trails that have been used by all manner of non-motorized recreationists including hikers, mountain bikers, equestrians, hunters, fishermen, snowshoers, and cross-country skiers for decades. Mountain biking on singletrack was prohibited in 1994 under the management of the Metropolitan District Commission but was not enforced until August 2014.

“We believe that by partnering with NEMBA and allowing mountain biking in the watershed, we’ll be able to help steward the property and further protect the water supply”, says NEMBA executive director Philip Keyes.

While only a handful of singletrack trails are shown on the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) - Division of Water Supply Protection’s official maps, most of the singletracks have existed for decades. However, there are some new, unsanctioned trails that were built without permission which are of legitimate concern. However, rather than crack down on the activity of mountain biking, NEMBA proposes that the DCR partner with the organization to evaluate the existing trail system to determine which trails are sustainable and pose no threat to the water quality.

“We think that legitimizing mountain biking in the watershed will allow us to harness the energy of the recreating public to help protect this critical natural resource. Our members can help educate other trail users, report issues such as illegal trail building, dumping, and partying, and work to create a multi-user trails community that can maintain and protect the trails”, says Brett Russ. NEMBA hopes to partner with the newly formed Friends of the Ware River Watershed to build a broad community of trail stewards.

NEMBA is now in the process of providing more information to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, and will continue to seek support to review and implement NEMBA’s proposal.

NEMBA will be planning an open meeting to discuss the proposal mid-January, 2016.

Link to NEMBA's Ware River Watershed Proposal (PDF)

In the photo, left to right, Bill Boles, Brett Russ, Secretary Matthew Beaton, Adam Glick, and Philip Keyes