Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sticker Shock

Last January I presented some high-value alternatives to high-priced cycling events. Let’s revisit that idea, particularly as it applies to mountain biking and recreation trail riding in our part of Wisconsin.

Yesterday I dropped by the Waukesha office of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to purchase my state parks vehicle sticker ($28) and my state trail pass ($25) for 2016. That’s a grand total of $53, up from $45 last year, an increase of almost 18 percent. Ouch!

What am I getting for my money? Well, between mountain biking and snowshoeing I might make 28 trips to New Fane this year and I suppose I can’t complain about paying $1 per visit to park there. And my vehicle sticker is good at all DNR properties, though I am not likely to visit any others. If, say, 25 of those trips to New Fane are for mountain biking, an activity for which a trail pass is required, then again I’m looking at $1 per visit. Still, $53 isn’t an insignificant sum. For me it’s fairly reasonable only because of the frequency with which I use New Fane.

Your situation might be different. Let’s say you do all of your training on neighborhood trails that require no fees. And let’s say you race in the Wisconsin Off-Road Series exclusively. There are 10 races on this year’s WORS schedule and not one uses state land: 4 are on private property, 4 are on county property, and 2 are on city property. You might easily avoid paying anything to the DNR.

There are 9 races on this year’s Wisconsin Endurance Mountain Bike Series schedule: 1 on private property, 5 on county property, and 3 on state land. Stay clear of Greenbush, Emma Carlin, and New Fane and you’ll owe the DNR nothing.

Many counties have their own daily or annual vehicle and trail fees. Last year I paid for access to Brown County’s Reforestation Camp and Waukesha County’s Minooka Park. Such fees are completely separate from the DNR and can really add up. But there are no such fees here in Washington County or in the neighboring counties of Dodge, Fond du Lac, Ozaukee, and Sheboygan. The mountain bike trails at Glacial Blue Hills, Pleasant Valley, Port Washington, and Sheboygan are free. Our major rec trails are free, too. The Old Plank Road Trail and the Ozaukee Interurban Trail are non-DNR properties. The Eisenbahn State Trail, the Mascoutin Valley State Trail, and the Wild Goose State Trail are DNR properties but they don’t require trail passes.

If you visit enough of Wisconsin's mountain bike and recreation trails, then you will wonder what is different about those that demand your money. The experience of the no-fee Wild Goose is at least equal to that of the pay-to-play Glacial Drumlin State Trail. The maintenance at Pleasant Valley is no less careful than at Minooka, as caring for singletrack always falls to volunteers and not to governments regardless of who owns the land. Yes, cycling can be expensive. But around here you can still do a lot for free.

1 comment:

  1. I think the state park stickers and trail passes are a great deal, even at twice the price. I go to Pike Lake quite a bit at odd times and I'm often the only one in the park... it's like I own the place but hardly pay anything for it! To me, paying $28 a year to have access to ANY park in the state for a year is well worth it. With parks like Devil's Lake, Wyalusing, Wild Cat Mountain, Copper Falls, etc., I can't think of any other form of entertainment and exercise that comes so cheaply and offers such natural beauty.