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Union Pacific levels unauthorized Auburn mountain bike course

Union Pacific cites safety, liability concerns in right of way for decision
By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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AUBURN CA - For more than two decades, mountain bikers found an unauthorized haven in Auburn for jumps and training. But sources say that a couple of YouTube videos that described it as part of the Auburn Recreation District’s park system led to its destruction. The Recreation District and Union Pacific learned of the videos and that led to the railroad corporation determining that the mountain-bike course off Auburn Folsom Road near Pacific Avenue was on its right-of-way. Acting on safety and liability concerns, Union Pacific leveled the series of ramps, bumps and jumps this past Monday. Some cyclists were reportedly in tears after seeing what had been a part of the Auburn mountain-biking experience for at least 20 years. But from that loss could come a drive to build an authorized course, perhaps on Auburn Recreation District land. Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said that rail employees passed the site frequently because it is adjacent to the tracks but thought it was not part of the right of way. Once Union Pacific learned of the course and determined that it was railroad property, the land was leveled because of its proximity to the tracks, he said. “It’s adjacent to one of our main lines of track,” Hunt said. “It could be a serious safety hazard both for the people using it and our employees.” Heavy equipment removed jumps and makeshift structures built over several years on the unfenced property. “We will have patrols and if cyclists come back, we can inform them about the safety risks and why there is a problem using that location,” Hunt said. Signs will also be posted to alert people to the fact they are trespassing, he said. Fencing could be a possible measure if trespassing continues, he said. Hunt said the action taken by Union Pacific was not targeting cyclists. It was due to safety and liability concerns, he said. “We don’t set out to hurt anyone’s feelings,” Hunt said. “For us, it’s a safety focus.” While the ground is still freshly cut, some members of the mountain-biking community are already looking at the Union Pacific action as a potential catalyst in creating an authorized course. Cyclist Curtis Christensen of Auburn said he doubts the course will come back at its old location. The area has been used by mountain bikers for at least two decades. Cyclists from ages 10 to 45, including pro mountain bikers training for competition, have gravitated to the course, Christensen added. The closest nearby location is in Folsom and the Auburn course drew cyclists from the Sacramento region, he added. “Ultimately, it will be lost,” Christensen said. “A lot of people are disappointed but the cycling community is resilient.” Christensen, of Auburn’s Bicycle Emporium, said a new mountain-biking area – perhaps close to the skate park in Auburn – would draw people from the area and fit in with Auburn’s quest to welcome endurance athletes. “This could result in something that is formal and safe,” Christensen said. Kahl Muscott, Auburn Recreation District administrator, said the district was forced to clarify that it did not own the site after it learned of YouTube videos labeling the property as “ARD jumps” because it’s close to Recreation Park. “Despite what they called it, it is not an ARD facility,” Muscott said. Union Pacific was apprised of the course on its right of way, he said. Muscott said the recreation district would be willing to hear from mountain bikers about establishing a course. Ideally, an organizing committee could bring both a selected site on recreation district land and funding to develop it to the table, he said.