In my 27 years of riding experience, I have learned a few things about trails and the people who ride them that might be of interest. A recent article published in the Standard Examiner about some problems with ATVs in the area around Eden got me thinking.
Those problems are in two camps – the way trails are designed and the people and their machines. I have seen problems with the way some trails are designed and I know the mentality of those who ride them.
Back before the turn of the century, speaking like an old timer, I worked as a volunteer rider with the Kamas Ranger District. The program was called “The Good Will Riders.”
A group of volunteers would ride the trails along Highway 150 between Kamas and Mirror Lake and report any problems and trail conditions to the Forest Service. We got to carry Forest Service radios and wear dark green shirts with the official Forest Service emblem on the front and the name of the program on the back.
As Good Will Riders, we carried supplies to assist any riders who had trouble on the trail. We also passed out trail maps to those who had questions about riding those trails.
In working with the rangers, I was able to understand the mentality of the Forest Service and how it differed from that of the riders. In meeting with the Kamas District, I was able to help bring those two minds a little closer together.
Forest Service roads have specific purposes. Rangers need a road to go to a certain point and return. The ATV community has benefited from this network of roads, but a rider chooses a trail to find out where it goes.
I remember one complaint that the Kamas District presented to me. A specific trail they were having trouble with followed a beautiful track through the forest and then dead ended at a large meadow.
The Forest Service couldn’t understand why a rider didn’t just stop at the end of a trail. On the other hand, the rider couldn’t figure out why this beautiful trail came to an end. It is easier to understand a trail ending at the edge of a cliff, a lake, or a town, but not just coming to an end. Consequently, riders kept pushing the end of the trail.
In laying out trail systems, tracks need to connect and make loops. As I have ridden Utah’s ATV trail systems, I have been treated to amazing scenery on trails that have coiled through forest glens, around high isolated mountain lakes, and over ridges with spectacular views always connecting to a trail that brings me back to reality. Not that reality is what I am looking for, but I am told that all good things must come to an end – sigh.
However, if I come to a trail that is marked as a dead end or doesn’t appear to go anywhere on a map, I am not likely to take it unless I understand that it goes to a place worth seeing. As I look at a map, I look for trails that connect. I am not interested in those that don’t.
The size of the trail system is another factor. The Paiute Trail System is huge and it connects with other trail systems. In 2017, 162,004 riders on 110,164 machines rode the Paiute. In all my days on those trails, I have only seen occasional riders. In other words, there are no traffic jams on the Paiute.
On the other hand, trails near towns can be a problem. A rider who comes home from work and has an hour to unwind just might go find a hill to climb. As I drive on I-70 through Salina, I see evidence of riders who have unwound.
I don’t condone it, but I admit that it is a problem as evidenced in the town of Eden. Is it enough reason to ban all ATVs from the face of the earth? No, but there should be consequences for those who don’t ride responsibly. There are always a few who cause problems for the many in all walks of life.
When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down, stay on the trails, and ride responsibly.