March 21-27, 2007

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By Patricia Lynn Henley

Trail troubles

Those who build and maintain trails and the folks who like to pedal them at high speeds are clashing again in Marin County. Dana Beckstoffer, 43, of Petaluma, is one of three mountain bikers who say they narrowly missed being injured by barbed wire and bent fence posts on a narrow pathway off the official Split Rock Trail above Fairfax. "We came upon two barbed wire barriers or booby traps," Beckstoffer recalls angrily. "The barbed wire was strung about neck or head level. For anyone not looking up, it would be very, very hard to see. It would hit you in the head or neck." When she discovered that the barriers were placed by the Marin County Open Space District, she was outraged. Beckstoffer is convinced the goal was physical harm. There was no such intent, says district director Sharon McMamee. The trail, built illegally about 10 years ago, passes through sensitive habitat. It's closed to all traffic--hikers, equestrians and bikers--but McMamee says that the "restoration area" signs are stolen almost as soon as they're posted. "We block it routinely, mostly with habitat such as rolling a tree or a boulder over the trail," McMamee explains. "Unfortunately, this time one of our staff got a little more zealous with barbed wire and posts. It was not a booby trap. I feel so bad that word is being used." The wire and posts were removed immediately, McMamee assures, and the habitat signs reposted. Beckstoffer says she's been riding the trail for years. "I've never seen any signs," she argues. "It's a well-ridden and very well-known trail in the biking community. People ride it without getting citations all the time, so it has been believed to be kind of in the gray area." Mountain bikers want access to more single-track trails rather than just wide fire roads. McMamee says, "We'd love to find a way to [give access to single-track trails] in areas that aren't through sensitive preserves."

Full disclosure

As discussed extensively in these pages, a San Francisco-based insurance agency that has promoted itself to Medicare recipients nationwide as Senior Educators, a "free" service for seniors, now has to add "Insurance Services" at the end of its name, according to Melinda Aval of the California Department of Insurance. Advocates for seniors charged that shortening the company's legal DBA from Professional Senior Educators Insurance Services to just Senior Educators was misleading and obscured the fact that the company earns its income through commissions from private insurance companies. State officials determined that using "Senior Educators" was a technical violation, Aval says. The company agreed to always use the name Senior Educators Insurance Services and the investigation is closed. "This appears to solve the problem," Aval says. The company could not be reached for comment.

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