Hidden Hazard Targeting Bicycles Spiked Booby Trap Found on White Hill Trail

As two mountain bikers rode out of Camp Tamarancho in Fairfax on the White Hill Fire Road earlier this week, they discovered a booby trap device staked across a single-track trail off the popular fire road. Alerted to this danger, Marin County Open Space, working with the Sheriff’s Department, concluded that the rubber strip with over 30 screws sticking up, was on private property near the Open Space Border.

Whoever placed this device across the trail most likely intended for someone to be hurt. While bicyclists may have been the target, any trail user could have suffered injury from stepping on the strip, including hikers, children, dog and horses. This type of weapon does not discriminate between foot, paw, tire or hoof.

Regrettably this kind of vigilante action does nothing to address conflict, and actually increases tension and fear in a place where it doesn’t belong. As MCBC Executive Director Jim Elias stated, “I think that it’s fair to say that this has all the appearances of being targeted at people on bikes. It was a gesture that I would describe as violent: It clearly was intended to frighten or intimidate people, and the consequences could have been very serious.”

Despite the horrific potential, Elias feels this incident should be considered an “outlier” in the ongoing trail discussion.

“This is not something that symbolizes the conversation going on between different trail users,” Elias said.  “I think it’s important that we frame it in that light, rather than something that’s characteristic of the larger debate.”

While this kind of thing is rare, people often pull branches and other debris across trails and fire roads, possibly to slow down bikes or to discourage use of public trails. Called “Unalogging” by locals, the practice can result in injury if a bicyclist hits a log in the trail without seeing it, or when an elderly person with vision loss or hiker with any type of mobility issue trips over something that simply shouldn’t be there.

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Open Space rangers point out that it also wastes resources, as they have to spend time removing the hazard instead of their regular maintenance routine. The obstacles can also disturb habitat as people pull branches from the side of trails that may be home to wildlife.

If you ever come across such a booby trap, clearly placed hazards, or excessive logging on a trail or fire road, do what you can to safely remove the threat and report it to Rangers or the Marin County Sheriff’s Office.

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