(Marin County is considered the birthplace of mt. biking. What happens there first usually flows to other areas. Their trails are very popular with folks in our area.)
By RICHARD HALSTEAD | Marin Independent Journal
February 10, 2020 at 7:11 am
The men — David Carbonell, Andrew Gibson and Ethan Hirschfeld — are members of the New Paradigm Trail group, which has advocated, sometimes militantly, for the creation of more singletrack bike trails in wilderness areas.
The men were initially charged with felony vandalism, but Marin County Superior Court Judge Kelly Simmons reduced the charges to misdemeanors over the objections of the prosecution. The defendants, none of whom was willing to comment for this story, have pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors can charge vandalism as either a felony or a misdemeanor when the damage exceeds $400, said Jonathan Lynn, a lawyer with Wallin & Klarich.
The attorney representing all three defendants, Colin Cooper, said he is attempting to negotiate with the prosecutors, but has so far been unsuccessful.
“The prosecutors were not willing to negotiate anything,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the prosecution is alleging $72,000 worth of damage to open space land. Some trees were cut down, including coast live oak, Pacific madrone and California bay laurel, according to court documents.
“The estimate is inflated and it’s wrong,” Cooper said. “These guys love the open space; the last thing they want to do is damage it.”
Cooper said his clients hired their own experts to assess the damage done by creation of the trail, and they placed the figure at about $5,500.
Ari Golan, the parks and open space Superintendent, said in March 2019 that his staff received a report that a trail was being constructed illegally in the preserve. After rangers visited the area and found evidence of unauthorized trail construction, they submitted their findings to the Marin County Sheriff’s Office.
Sheriff’s deputies conducted an investigation and submitted a report to the district attorney’s office, which filed charges.
“These guys were arrested after the open space police put up cameras,” Cooper said, “and spent God knows how much money manning the cameras for weeks and weeks to see who was walking in this space and possibly doing something.”
Cooper said the three defendants, and another unidentified man, showed up on the videotape.
“But the cameras never showed anybody doing anything,” Cooper said.
District Attorney Lori Frugoli declined to release a copy of the investigative report, since the case is still pending in the courts.
In 2017, Carbonell, an emergency room physician and cofounder of New Paradigm, was charged with riding his bike illegally on county open space land and resisting a sheriff’s deputy who attempted to cite him. The case was prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
“According to court records Carbonell successfully completed a term of diversion on the case,” Frugoli wrote in an email. As a result, the charges were dismissed.
New Paradigm has advocated that bicyclists be as “disruptive as possible, acting within the guidelines of the law,” as a means of getting what they want.
At a Board of Supervisors meeting in February 2017, Carbonell said, “I don’t want to be 65 years old before I see my vision for trail access sharing in Marin County implemented.”
Linda Novy, president of the Marin Conservation League, said she thinks the cyclists should face felony charges.
“A clear message needs to be sent,” she said. ‘There needs to be a serious penalty for damaging our natural land.”
“With the Road and Trails Management Plan, there have been efforts to look for expanded opportunities for mountain bikes,” she said, “and this is a real slap in the face to those efforts.”
The plan has opened wilderness trails once open only to hikers and horseback riders to bikes, but New Paradigm has expressed dissatisfaction with the pace of the changes.
Nona Dennis, a Marin Conservation League past president, said, “Our view is they’re absolutely on the wrong track, that they are being aggressively provocative and running counter to the reasonable pace at which Marin County Parks is implementing the Road and Trails Management Plan.”
Tom Boss, off-road director of the Marin County Bicycle Coalition, declined to comment on the case.
-Richard Halstead Richard Halstead is a news reporter covering Marin County news, politics, health care, social services, Fairfax and San Anselmo.
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