By: Motorhead Mark Lester
If you’re like me you love riding off-road. For me, there’s something special about being in God’s creation, way out there, no pavement, no distractions; just me, my wheeler and my riding skill to get me there and back.
This spring I’ve had increased consciousness of what we’re doing out there, in the places we love to ride. Here’s what’s concerning me: There’s an increasing number of us who love the outdoors, love riding ATVs off-road and want to do it more often.
If an ever-increasing number of us are going to the same places more frequently it’s inevitable we’re going to wear out those great places to ride. This spring the Northeast has been exceptionally wet – way more rain than average on top of a record shattering winter.
It’s no secret ATV riders love to shoot mud holes. However, mud holes normally dry up by early summer, limiting deep ruts and excessive erosion.
This season the mud holes are virtually bottomless and the ever-increasing numbers of ATVs riding trails are making them almost impassable. When (and if!) this season ever dries out, these mud holes will be impassable trenches, degrading the riding experience for many of our fellow users.
If we use different trails every week instead of rounding up a whole herd of friends every Saturday and taking them to “our special spot” we might make things better.
Try to spread out your riding when the trails are most vulnerable – like in the spring as the frost leaves the ground and when there’s abundant rainfall.
We cannot continue to view trails solely as ours to do whatever we want. Many trails are on private land, many on public land. If you think ATV users are divinely ordained and will always have access to trails no matter what goes on, it’s time to wake up and smell the Joe.
This little diatribe on responsible use relates again to what we’ve repeatedly mentioned in this magazine: Start an ATV club and become consciously pro-active at preserving access to your favorite trails.
It’s exciting to see more and more trail sanctioning groups and ATV clubs performing seasonal repairs to trails. This is going to be key in keeping other trail users like hikers, bicyclists and equestrians, who don’t ride ATVs, on our side.
Next time you see what amounts to a rutted, tracked up mess when an overused mud hole dries up, think about how that looks to other users, particularly non-motorized types or, worse yet, the non-enthusiast media.
Proactive clubs and sanctioning bodies are quickly getting in front of this issue right now. Bulldozers and backhoes are being purchased or contracted to repair heavily used trails and restore them back to excellent condition.
With the explosion of ATV trail use across North America and the need for more riding areas and clubs to sanction and maintain these areas, we simply can’t continue to expect unlimited, unrestricted access without contributing to the maintenance and repair of the trails we love.