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Bikers destroying natural habitat in Kottenforst: Bonn city is removing illegal mountain bike trails

Bikers destroying natural habitat in Kottenforst : Bonn city is removing illegal mountain bike trails

The discussion about illegal mountain bike trails in the Kottenforst has been going on for some time now. Bonn city administration is now proposing using rangers to monitor the situation on the ground.

Although the city administration had announced plans for a legal mountain bike trail in the Kottenforst, upon closer examination, the concerns have increased. The fact that authorisation of the trail depends on its compatibility with nature and species conservation makes things quite complicated. But according to a current report, experience shows that the problems in the area surrounding an approved trail would still worsen and develop in an uncontrollable manner. Consequently, if legal trails were approved, the city administration would have to be entitled to limit mountain biking to these routes only. But in any case, the city would not enough staff to deal with the issue, regardless of the measures taken.

The City Department for Green Spaces (Amt für Stadtgrün) has identified a dozen or so illegal mountain and dirt bike routes between the Venusberg slope and the Kaiserpark alone. Use of these routes makes the protected areas more and more accessible and closely meshed, especially with the growing number of mountain bikers. The challenge and attraction of this sport is to use skill and balance to ride over rough terrain - and not on the wide forest path.

Besides the conflicts with other forest visitors, the damage already caused by illegal bike trails is enormous, the city administration states. "The paths are fortified with shovels and picks, and ramps and jumps are constructed using earth, stones, trees and roots," it says. This leads to massive soil compaction and promotes soil erosion, disturbing the function of the ecosystem. The increasing drought has caused even more serious damage. Parts of the Ennert nature reserve, landscape conservation areas in Kottenforst including the Venusberg slope and the Hardberg forest are all affected.

Straying from the path, building ramps, soil compaction, and daily and nightly disturbances are all punishable offences. But according to the city administration, controls and regulatory measures do not provide a "sustainable solution to the problem" or lead to more understanding amongst the mountain bikers. Especially as there are insufficient staff capacities for effectively identifying the culprits.

The forestry company is currently removing illegal trails in the municipal forest. However, the city administration comments that this is only damage limitation and does not provide a solution to the problem. "In addition, it is a laborious and staff-intensive task." Neighbouring regions also have no solutions at present other than renaturation, monitoring attempts and approving legal routes.

But "there is an urgent need for action". An internal administrative vote on the further approach is currently being held. Plans include action days with a focus on monitoring checks which will be accompanied by the public order services. However, the city administration doubts whether an impact can be made only through education and occasional checks. Rather, a continual effort is required. To this end, it proposes the deployment of trained rangers. In the Rhein-Sieg district they are already out and about. (Original text: Jutta Specht, Translation: Caroline Kusch)