Here we list and debunk common arguments used by the DWSP when talking about the watershed and off-road bicycling.
Statement: "We are protecting the water supply for 2-1/2 million people"
Fact: The Ware River Watershed contributes less than 2 percent of the water that flows into the Quabbin and Wachusett reservoirs. In fact, with leak detection and conservation efforts, demand for water by the MWRA is around 70% of safe withdrawal rates even as the MWRA adds new customers. A MWRA representative stated (off the record) that there is enough water to supply the 2-1/2 million customers even if there was no rain for 5 years, a figure easily calculated from DCR and MWRA data available online.
Statement: "The watershed is not a park".
Fact: Well...yes it is. It is a park to hikers, dog walkers, hunters, snowmobilers, cross country skiers, equestrians, fishermen...everyone except mountain bikers. The sign at right...located on watershed property (and NOT in Rutland SP)...would also seem to indicate otherwise.
Statement: "We don't have the staff to handle a new recreational activity."
Fact: Mountain biking has gone on for 30 years without any involvement from the DWSP staff. Further, the DWSP has had no problem working with NGOs like the AMC for the Midstate Trail, or the Wachusett Greenways for the rail trail. Allowing another NGO to help manage the trail system (for all users) would not be a burden to the DWSP and actually would be a support. The DWSP has found a way to hire additional staff to chase bicyclists, staff that could be used to help manage the trails or better yet, work to improve water quality.
Statement: "If mountain biking is allowed in the watershed it would cost the MWRA over $300 million (or $500 million, depends on who is trying to scare you) to build a filtration plant".
Fact: Mountain biking has existed for over 30 years in the watershed and no filtration plant has been required. In fact, water quality in the water supply is actually improving. The DWSP cannot point to a single instance where mountain biking or any other recreational activity in the watershed has ever caused a degradation in water quality.
Statement: "There is a group of people demanding that DCR Watershed allow them to essentially take over the Ware River Watershed forest for their personal pursuits called "single track mountain biking" where they go flying through the forest, off jumps, through water, and up/down steep terrain".
Fact: No one is demanding to take over the forest, rather a collaborative relationship is desired where assistance would be provided to help the DCR manage this resource. much as they do with AMC and Wachusett Greenways.
The trails in the watershed do not involve flying through the forest, jumps, steep terrain, or through water. Such statements do not reflect the type of riding that occurs in the watershed, and reflects a deep misunderstanding of the activity probably based on watching too many TV commercials or YouTube videos.
Statement: There are many other places for people to ride in Massachusetts.
Fact: The Quabbin, Ware, and Wachusett watersheds controlled by the DWSP remove a very large portion of land (over 100,000 acres) from central Massachusetts. People living in this area must travel considerable distances to find places to ride, often 45 minutes or more. Further, there is virutally no other resource in the state with the number and total mileage of trails, or the types of trails. The trails in the Ware River Watershed are largely easy to moderate difficulty, suitable for beginner and intermediate riders, and riders looking for a low key ride. Other riding resources involve trails with much greater difficulty.
Statement: Only passive recreational activities are permitted in the watershed. Mountain biking is not a passive recreational activity.
Fact: Wikipedia defines passive recreation as: "Passive recreation typically requires little management and can be provided at very low costs. Some open space managers provide nothing other than trails for physical activity in the form of walking, running, horse riding, mountain biking, snow shoeing, or cross-country skiing; or sedentary activity such as observing nature, bird watching, painting, photography, or picnicking."