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Man arrested in watershed could be trail trapster

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 on Sunday.

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

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

"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 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 tree, 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, and 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 headed up to the watershed and arrested the man, Roussel says.

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. Roussel said that a mountain biker who visited the Rogue Valley from Canada ran into mountaineering rope that hit him between his elbow and shoulder.

An employee at Ashland's Cycle Sport said one rider had brought in a parachute cord he had found across a watershed trail about a month ago.

Employees at Ashland Bicycle Works had fielded calls from trail riders who also came across parachute cord while biking on unauthorized trails in the watershed.

Logs and branches have turned up on both authorized and unauthorized trails in the watershed, Roussel said.

Roussel said he knew of another instance in which a mountain biker hit a log and crashed into a tree, though the rider wasn't seriously injured.

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.

"Those people have moved on," said Roussel. "The team has changed a lot in the last five years."

Roussel said he never spoke with the bearded older man, and has no idea what his motive might have been.

"I don't know what goes through a person's head," said Roussel. "This guy is nuts."

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Teresa Ristow at 541-776-4459 or tristow@mailtribune.com.