Mountain bikers believe trail saboteur arrested

Mountain bikers who frequently ride down Mount Ashland believe that a man who has been laying dead trees and tying rope across popular trails for months has been caught.

Bill Roussel, the owner of Ashland Mountain Adventures, a biking shuttle service, said he stumbled upon the man he believes is responsible for the trail sabotage Sunday.

After spending two weeks doing early-morning trail runs down Mount Ashland to look for signs of foul play, Roussel said he ran into an older man with a trimmed white beard that he had seen on mountain trails at least four times before.

Roussel said the man, who always had a small, white poodle with him, never responded to his friendly greetings.

"He just stands there and glares," said Roussel, who continued riding down the Lower Bull Gap trail with five or six other riders behind him.

About a mile down the trail from the man, Roussel said he hit a piece of dead tree-fall that he believes was maliciously dragged into the trail.

Roussel said he was unable to avoid the tree, which had a lot of dry branches coming from it.

"I wound up cutting my leg and sprained my wrist," said Roussel, who suspected the man he had encountered was responsible for the dead tree in the trail.

Within the next 100 yards, Roussel said there were another dozen pieces of fallen trees, with at least three of them longer than 15 feet.

Roussel said the trees were carefully placed in a way that riders could probably recover from hitting or dodging a piece of log, then begin to accelerate again before the next obstacle.

"He was pretty smart about it," said Roussel.

Roussel said when he finished his ride, he called an officer with the U.S. Forest Service, who Roussel believes headed up to the watershed and arrested the man.

Paul Galloway, spokesman with the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest, said a man was arrested by a Forest Service law enforcement officer in the Ashland watershed Sunday but he couldn't confirm the man's identity. Galloway said the Forest Service didn't want to comment on the ongoing case.

Roussel said other riders had previously encountered mountaineering rope tied between saplings that obstructed the path on an expert-level trail called Time Warp, also on Mount Ashland. In the past month, employees at several Ashland bike shops have gotten reports of parachute cord tied across watershed trails and downed trees dragged onto authorized and unauthorized trails in the watershed, Roussel said.

Years ago, Roussel said there were people locally who were angered by mountain bikers who showed little respect for the terrain they rode on.

But, more recently, Roussel thinks the attitudes of mountain bikers locally have improved, and riders take better care of trails.

— Teresa Ristow

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