Monday, November 23, 2009

ATV and Hiking trails?

I guess I can't sit quietly on the sideline any longer. There has been an ongoing discussion in the paper lately about the relationship between ATV users and hikers. It has not really been flattering to either side of the equation, which is unfortunate.

It may surprise some to hear that I am not completely opposed to ATVs. While I seldom ride one myself, I can see why some enjoy them. I would encourage the proper use of an ATV to enjoy mother nature, if that is your selected mode of travel. That being said, I want to stress the words "PROPER USE". This means that ATVs should not travel on fragile shoreline ecosystems, up and down stream beds, across bogs or wetlands, and definitely not on designated walking trails.

Now, I am a big hiker, but hikers, especially those in municipal areas must change the way we develop our trails. Why do they have to be 8ft wide, why not simply 2-4ft? Why do they have to have a gravel path or crushed stone? Why do they have to follow old rail beds, or old logging roads? If we were to put them through natural wooded areas, with a narrow tread way ATVers could not easily use them and our problem would be solved. Now I understand the so called need for risk management, but really, if you use your head then walking on a wilderness trail is no different than walking down a road, except you can enjoy much more scenery.
What I propose is that from this point forward, hiking and nature trails be developed near rivers, lakes and such, where they can utilize the mandatory watercourse setback corridors for forestry. This serves two purposes, the first being that forestry won't, or shouldn't clear cut over the trail, the second being the maximization of usage of space. Hiking trails are an excellent use of this type of riparian ecosystem.

Just outside the 30m riparian buffer, say at 70m from the stream, create an ATV corridor, that when needed, could be used for harvesting purposes or even rescue of stranded injured hikers. A "Trail Corridor" that includes the waterway, hiking, and ATV trails could be created and in instances where all three are combined it would further protect the environment of that waterway by increasing the setback, on one bank at least, from 30m, to say 75m.

The other issue is education of all parties. The ATV users have their bad apples but so to do the hiking and camping groups. People need to be informed as to how their activities can negatively impact the environment and how they can minimize that impact. If you bring all the user groups together I think these issues along with an understanding of each side can be created.

But hey that is just me. Hope to see you in the woods...no matter how you got there.
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