One of Missoula’s first “freeride” mountain bike trails is history. Lolo National Forest workers downed dozens of large trees across the legendary trail—known as Meow Mix to area bikers—last week.
Forest Service officials, who cited steep grades and erosion, deemed the trail an illegal non-system trail in the agency’s trail management plan released earlier this year.
Andy Kulla, forest resource staff officer, says the felling of large trees across the trail above Marshal Canyon near East Missoula was necessary to prevent bikers from removing the material and continuing to bike on the trail.
“Sometimes to stabilize the site we need to use larger material,” says Kulla.
Some mountain bikers are angry over the obliteration of the trail. They say there is a need for a highly technical trail like Meow Mix and that erosion concerns could have been mitigated without obliterating it.
“There is no reason in the world that we couldn’t reroute the trail so that it wouldn’t have erosion problems and yet we would still be able to ride it,” says longtime Missoula biker Eric Cline. “I’m guessing that cutting down trees has an impact on soil erosion.”
Noel Naiden lives in the Upper Rattlesnake and is a backcountry enthusiast. She spoke in favor of the obliteration because, she says, she’s seen bikers cause steady degradation of wild areas around Missoula.
“They’re not participating in the landscape; they’re using it like consumers,” says Naiden. “Why should a bunch of young adrenaline junkies have the right to erode the mountain?”
But Marlana Kosky of Mountain Bike Missoula says obliterating trails like Meow Mix is not the answer. “There are lots of very sustainable building techniques that can be used to create technical riding trails,” said Kosky. “They say they’re concerned about protecting resources. What they did is they went up there and cut down a bunch of live trees, felled them over the trail. I’m not sure how cutting down live trees is an example of good stewardship.”