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Shared Access & Trail Use

KTM_rad

Well-Known Member
INTERACTION TEACHES TOLERANCE
by BlueRibbon Coalition Executive Director Clark L. Collins

My "Equestrians encourage shared use" editorial caused quite a
stir. I
e-mailed that editorial to a list of horseback riders and received many
favorable comments on it. It will be published in at least one of the
equestrian publications I sent it to.
One of my horse riding friends from California was particularly
concerned
about sharing trails with mountain bikers, however. She contended that,
"Trail etiquette among mt. bikers is a facile phrase, endorsed in
theory and
ignored in practice. There are too many documented incidents and
letters
about injury accidents, even deaths, to horses, hikers, even other
bicyclists, from irresponsible mt. bikers." She argued that trails need
to
be 5 ft wide or more in order to be shared.
About sharing with motorcycles she had this to say. " Sharing
trails (how
wide??) with motorcycles: at least you can hear motorcycles coming and
head
for the high ground to BE SOMEWHERE ELSE, out of the way. A horse
passing a
motorcycle, on a 2-ft. wide trail? or even 4 ft.? which one is going to
stop, pull way over, or get out of the way of the other?"
A mountain biker who was on the distribution list took offense at
the
criticism of his group and the e-mail fight was on. He asserted that
"assignment of irresponsibility primarily to bicyclists is unfair. All
user
groups exhibit bad behavior. Long before the modern mountain bike came
along, trail users of all types were cutting switchbacks, vandalizing
signs,
riding off trail and leaving litter in the backcountry. Today it just
happens to be the fact that a large segment of the trail using public
chooses to experience the backcountry by bicycle. And in doing so, they
behave just as irresponsibly as they ever did. Certainly, bikes bring
their
own set of specific problems and challenges, but there isn't one of
them
that can't be mitigated by education, awareness and responsible trail
use."
Horseback riders were accused, by the mountain biker, of having
more
physical impact on the trails. He also pointed out that, "many cyclists
are
simply ignorant of horse psychology. Similarly, many horses are ridden
onto
shared use trails with no preparation or conditioning to deal with the
challenge of meeting other users (or, sometimes, their own shadows for
that
matter)."
The equestrian concluded, "Can we, should we, work for public
trails? OF
COURSE. Everyone should fight for trail access. We should work
together to
build and maintain trails. We can assist each other on staged
single-use
sporting events. But as to trail use designations, let's not get stuck
in
some theoretical ivory tower, unaware of the real world of trail usage
and
impacts."
I believe that both the equestrian and the mountain biker made some
good
points. We all need to learn to share, to teach responsible user ethics
and
deal with our bad apples. We need to work together to protect our
recreation
access.
80% of the trails on our local forest are shared use motorized and
non-motorized. Many of them are narrow single track sidehill trails.
One of
the most popular is actually called the Crestline Cycle Trail
(motorcycle,
not bicycle) and was built using Idaho OHV funds back in the mid 60s.
I've
seen large groups of equestrians on this trail and have usually
encountered
more non-motorized trail users than motorized on this "cycle trail."
Passing, or dealing with on-coming traffic is difficult on narrow
trails,
but is something we have to deal with. We can with a little courtesy
and
common sense.
The Sierra Club, and other Wilderness advocates, have tried on many
occasions to kick motorized users off our local trails. They have
failed
because back country users have banded together to oppose their selfish
proposals. Most trail users here have learned that they may encounter
other
folks on the trail and behave accordingly. The use level is admittedly
low,
compared to more populous areas, but Pocatello is the second largest
city in
Idaho and is a university town.
Recreational group infighting is such a waste. Sure, there are
situations
that call for separation of certain types of recreation. There can also
be
legitimate user conflicts in certain situations. A case can even be
made for
"some" single use trails. However, adequate mileage of shared use
trails
would go a long way toward reducing friction between the different
groups.
That can set the stage for balanced decisions on sensible restrictions
where
really necessary.
Interaction between different recreation groups teaches tolerance
and
responsible user ethics. A policy that recreation groups must always
have
separate facilities is unnecessarily expensive and perpetuates, if not
encourages, intolerance.
The problem is that some land managers cater to one user group at
the
expense of others. Instead of encouraging folks to learn to get along,
they
reward trouble makers. A selfish group can initiate a hate mail
campaign and
if the land manager caters to their demands, what happens. They are
encouraged to do it again. A land manager who falls into this trap is
making
two - real - problems out of one "perceived" user conflict. The group
that
accomplishes their selfish agenda is encouraged to be even less
tolerant and
the group who is discriminated against has less incentive to work
cooperatively with the agency.
Anti-recreation-access groups just love to see us fighting amongst
ourselves, making their job that much easier. All recreation interests
need
to band together to defend one another against these contrived user
conflict
campaigns. The BlueRibbon Coalition is dedicated to that objective.

Clark Collins
Executive Director
BlueRibbon Coalition


Randy
CORVA Field Rep - So. Cal.
AMA, BRC, SDORC
 
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