By Liane Ehrich, Guest Contributor from VAILAZ.com
Trail users come in many varieties: kids on fast dirt bikes, raising rooster tails, hunters and others on utility ATVs, mountain bikers swooping down clay single track, runners covering some long miles, equestrians out for a Sunday ride, and hikers, both casual and thru-hiking all 800 miles of the Arizona Trail.
In a world that enjoys creating singular cliques, where mountain bikers sometimes may think ‘roadies’ are rude, and barrel racers may think anyone with an English saddle is putting on airs, it is easy to begin to see others who share our environment as interlopers.
Not only interlopers, but people whose own form of outdoor recreation is inferior and destructive to our own. Who hasn’t enjoyed the solitude of a moment of outdoor peace, only to have it shattered by that distinctive whine of a dirt bike at full throttle? Mountain bikers complain about horses tearing up the trails, while equestrians don’t enjoy their horses exploding out from under them when a cyclist sneaks up on them. Hikers may think that both groups cause trail destruction and go too fast.
On double track motorcycles, ATVs, and off-road vehicles share the space with everyone else. These vehicles are not only loud, but they can be startlingly fast.
It’s all too easy to begin making a list of ‘approved’ trail users and press for ways to remove the others. Certainly there are other places x users can enjoy their sport, why must they interfere with my enjoyment?
Anyone who has lived in Southern Arizona for any period of time can tell you that losing trail access is a far greater threat than any offending group of users. Every group that we exclude is one fewer group of outraged users who will fight to retain trail use. Powerful organizations are behind many of these sports, organizations that will come together to build trails, repair damage caused to trails, and advocate for more trails. We need all of these voices if we wish to continue to enjoy our beautiful Southern Arizona trails.
Common sense and politeness will help us all become better stewards of our trails. Whether we enjoy a silent stroll far off the beaten path or motoring through the washes, we are all outside, we are all enjoying our beautiful desert neighborhood, and if someone ever steps in and tries to take it away from us, we may be surprised to see who is standing next to us fighting for our rights.