01 July 2007

Trails, how it should be...

(From the Archives)
When I left Boise 15 year ago, I left what I would consider the seedlings of one of the premier trail systems easily access from the city.  Either it could get crushed, or take hold and grow.  At the time, there were various advocacy groups trying to secure access for trails through private land including hikers, homeowners and cyclists.  Most of the foothills surrounding the Boise area were prime grounds for mountain biking with good trails, moderate obstacles and grade with much of it accessible within a few minutes from the city (without using your car).
Much of the land was, and is still owned, by ranchers and equestrians.  At the time of my departure there were a couple of primary advocacy groups, the Save Hulls Gulch group and the newly formed Boise Mayor's Bicycle Advisory committee.  The group leaders were wise in  training and teaching the rest of us about compromise and reminding us who owns the land we were riding on. 
Although, may of us considered equestrian use of the trails causing more damage than mountain bikes, the fact still remained that the equestrians for the most part were the land owners or had strong ties to the landowners and ranchers where the trails traversed. Only through cooperation and understanding of each other would we be able to secure long-term access.  On numerous occasions, when coming up to a rancher or landowner on a trail, I would stop and chat with them.  One of their biggest complaints was the gate issue, basically we need to leave it the way we found it, either open or closed so they could manage their livestock. 
Ranchers who work the land generally appreciate it when we take the time to chat and it is a good opportunity for much needed 2-way communication.  If they are mending their fence, offer a helping hand, if they ask about your ride, keep it positive and thank them for the access, in general just make the effort, it is appreciated; you reallyaren't in that much of a hurry are you?  Even if the ride is part of some training training routine, it is well worth the time, be flexible, you can always get your training in later.  These sort of small efforts go a long way in mending and keeping the positive the relationship to keep the trails open.
Time came for me to pick up my roots and move to the Wasatch Front.  It did not take me long to miss the easily accessible and ridable trails right from my front door.  The first few years, I made frequent trips to Boise and brought my bike along to take in some good riding.  As time went on, I wasn't taking my bike with me, or even riding that much. Before I knew it, about 8 years had passed since I had ridden in Boise.  Last year I started riding again, although I still had my mountain bike, I felt the need to once again get a road bike so I could ride from my house in Taylorsville. 
I once again brought my mountain bike up to Boise on a trip to see what was left of the trail system.  I read about how communities are loosing their trails and trailheads left an right, including here.  Much to my surprise, the trail system is in better shape in Boise that when I left it:  better access, more maintained trails, more signage, new self-closing gates (replacing ones which you had to lift your bike over, or just leave the way you found it), and a more positive environment overall.  Now  I don't miss an opportunity to bring the bike along and reap the benefits of all of the hard work.
We all have to share the same diverse communities and lifestyles, all it takes is a little bit of tolerance, slowing down and communication, pass it on.