Jul 26, 2014
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Mountain Bike Association Urges Members to Oppose Casino

The New England Mountain Bike Association, which purchased 47 acres of trails in Milford a decade ago, is one of the largest abutters to the proposed Foxwoods Massachusetts casino site.

The New England Mountain Bike Association took a rare step in 2003, becoming one of the only biking organizations in the country to purchase wooded trails for conservation and riding.

The 47-acre property — known informally as the Vietnam trail network — is in Milford. A few years ago, the biking association rebuffed a substantially larger offer for the land by a representative of Donald Trump, then looking to assemble land for a casino.

Now, the site is adjacent to the proposed 200-plus acre site for the Foxwoods Massachusetts casino. The biking organization, through its board of directors, remains opposed to construction of a casino in Milford, and is urging its members to contact the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to express opposition.

"It will remove significant acreage of habitat important to the integrity of the Upper Charles headwaters and will reduce a number of popular trails that make up the area," the association wrote, in a statement. "NEMBA does not believe that the Milford location is appropriate for a development of this magnitude."

Scott Butera, CEO of Foxwoods Resort Casino, the primary partner for Foxwoods Massachusetts, said the casino would occupy only 20 percent of its proposed site.

He said the casino is committed to maintaining, even beautifying, the trails that remain. The casino will look at the individual trails, he said. "If it's better the way it is, we'll keep it that way," he said.

Foxwoods, through a consultant, has reached out to the biking organization in recent weeks to discuss possible concessions about the trails on its site, to reduce the amount of potential opposition, said Eammon Carleton, president of its Blackstone Valley chapter of NEMBA, and a member of the board of directors. The biking organization is not interested at this point in an agreement, he said.

The casino is one of the largest developments the New England Mountain Bike Association has faced near its properties, he said. With 250 members, the Blackstone Valley chapter is among the organization's largest.

"Our biggest concern as a group is we don't think the current open space in Milford is the appropriate location to build a casino," Carleton said.

It is not clear whether the casino would be visible from the mountain bike association's property, but the elevations generally put the Vietnam trails area higher than the casino site, he said. Depending on the amount of land clearing, it is conceivable that mountain bikers could see the casino from the NEMBA property.

Several of the trails that begin in the association's acreage continue into the casino site, although the biking association's lands have enough trails to stand on their own as a destination.

The property is known for challenging, technical trails and attracts bikers from around the country, said Carleton. 

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