Off Highway Vehicle Drivers Build, Maintain Precious Trails
by By Matt Adams, San Juan Trail Riders

Public Access Preservation Alliance
May 20, 2009 | 775 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
GUEST COMMENTARY Editor’s note: This commentary is in response to “USFS Disinclined to Restrict Motorized Traffic Near Rico,” by Deanna Drew, which appeared in the May 14 edition of The Telluride Watch.

The trails between Stoner and Dunton Meadows offer an unparalleled recreation experience. As a dirtbiker, I am aware of how unique these trails are for the combination of challenge and scenery. The people who I ride with take the stewardship of these trails seriously and spend hundreds of volunteer hours every year clearing and helping to maintain them.

Trail damage: A trail is not a static resource, no matter who uses it. If we measured the trails in the region with the Rico Alpine Society's yardstick, we would be forced to close most of them. Cross Mountain? Closed. Lizard Head Trail? Closed. Hope Lake? Definitely closed. Navajo Lake? Closed. All of these trails and many more that are closed to motorized or mechanized recreation are profoundly damaged. Do we close them completely? No, of course not. We try to marshal the resources to maintain them, or re-route them if necessary around problem areas.

Well, as dirtbikers we have marshaled those resources for the Rico area trails. The Dolores district has begun to address the most serious issues on the Calico Trail, and we hope to work with them on the Winter Trail this summer. As noted, much of this will be accomplished with funds from the license fees paid by OHV owners. There's something wrong with that? It seems to me that is exactly what should be done with those monies.

It's important to note that most of the trails in the system were not “designed.” They were stock driveways (still are), logging skid trails, access trails. Cattlemen of old didn't care if their trail went through a seasonal wetland. There are some obvious re-routes that need to occur. It's no more pleasant to hike through a bog than it is to ride through it. So instead of closing the trails, let's do the logical thing and fix them!

Forgive me if I can't work up too much sympathy for the owners of Dunton, a corporation that has bought up much of the West Fork valley, restricted or denied access to the public, and wants the adjacent public lands as their private amenity.

Ms. Drew suggests that the Johhny Bull trail is closed to motorcycles. This is untrue. Johnny Bull has been open to mechanized and motorized use since I've lived here. It is in the “F” or “open” zone. It's a fantastic trail, aside from the size of trees that tend to fall across it and block it. This brings up the point: We in the OHV community are primarily the ones who clear these trails. Not too many hikers are willing to carry a chainsaw on their back. It seems obvious that without the volunteer effort that exists, some of these trails would disappear under the deadfall. Each spring, we clear about 75 percent of the miles we are allowed to ride. Already this spring we cleared 52 trees from the first six miles of Stoner Mesa. The Forest Service just does not have the resources to both clear and maintain these trails. By clearing, we enable them to focus on the maintenance work that is necessary.

If you want wilderness, go to the wilderness. The Lizard Head Wilderness is a few miles up the road—it has over 42,000 acres (soon to grow) where you won't ever run into mountain bikes or dirtbikes. The Sneffels Wilderness is only a little further. We live in the epicenter of some of the greatest “quiet recreation” opportunities in our nation. Do you need it all?
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