The rumor on the street, actually the trail, is that 50-inch trail restrictions are going away. Bryan Carter, the natural resource specialist for the Fish Lake National Forest, helped me understand that, in fact, they are here to stay, at least on his district. The Paiute ATV Trail System is located in the Fish Lake National Forest.
Carter explained that each national forest has a travel plan and each plan designates trails for machines with specific widths. It is thought that because the Arapeen Trail system in the Manti-La Sal National Forest increased part of its inventory to 66 inches that 50-inch trails are going away.
One of the reasons they are here to stay is that, by definition, a 50-inch trail is not a road — it is a trail. During the Clinton administration, Roadless Areas were established. No roads were allowed in these regions, but trails are not roads. Trails were allowed and, thus, the 50-inch gates were created to keep them trails and not to allow them to become roads. Furthermore, the larger machines cause problems by being too big to negotiate the tight turns on 50-inch trails.
The gates were designed to keep the trail from becoming a road by barring jeeps and trucks. At that time, side-by-sides didn’t exist.
Because riders think that 50-inch gates are going away, they seem to have lost respect for them. They are either destroyed or a way is found to get around them. Riding on the Paiute, I have seen the damage done both to the gates and in the effort made to get around them.
Carter told me about a gate on a newer Trail No. 19 — The Dog Valley Trail south of Kanosh. The 4-by-4 wood posts restricting the trail were ripped out so they were replaced by metal posts. That proved to be no hindrance, so steel posts were set in concrete 3 feet into the ground. Those were dug up and drug a few yards away. The gate was moved to a new location that is more difficult to access with heavy equipment and it has new technology to withstand vandalism.
Another trail that goes up Chalk Creek from Fillmore has a 50-inch restriction, but there is an alternate trail for wider machines. The gate is composed of large boulders set to restrict machines with widths greater than 50 inches. These rocks were jackhammered and smashed, destroying the gate and allowing for wider machines.
Carter further explained that in 2011, they had a chance to modify their Travel Plan. He went to Jorgenson’s Power Sports in Richfield and measured every side-by-side available at the time. None of them were over 60 inches so he created a new trail category for side-by-sides — the 60-inch trail. The Paiute ATV Trail System now has the following trail inventory:
n 50-inch trails — 508 miles.
n 60-inch trails — 120 miles.
n Open roads — 2,834 miles.
The newer UTVs are getting bigger, wider and more powerful, with better suspension. My new RZR is 64 inches and in choosing it, I knew there would be some trails that I couldn’t ride, but I knew that going into the deal. I know of some machines with 39-inch tires that are 85 inches wide.
Widening more trails to accommodate these bigger machines would turn the trails into roads, which would not be allowed in the Roadless Areas. In the worst case scenario, the road would be bulldozed and the area closed. We would lose some of the most pristine trails available in Utah.
Laws are in place to help with this situation, but I think as an ATV community, we have to get involved in policing our own to protect our privileges to ride these trails. If we see something, we have to say something and get law enforcement to act. We can be the eyes and the ears on the trail to make this happen.
Noise is also an issue for these bigger machines. They come with amazing sound systems, and if they don’t, they can be added as an accessory. In order to hear the music over the sound of the engine, the volume gets cranked up. This problem is not exclusive to UTVs, although they seem to be targeted. The problem seems to come when some thoughtless driver comes into town at 4 a.m. The other problem is fairness in executing the law and not singling out one group.
When you go, take plenty of water, keep the rubber side down and if you see something, say something.