On the trail: Bad apples
CARBONDALE – It’s easy for me to be an objective reporter on the Hidden Gems Wilderness Campaign. I’ve got friends and acquaintances that I respect on both sides of the debate. I’ve heard persuasive arguments from them all.
I believe that most of the Wilderness proponents are seeking protection for additional public lands with honorable intentions – they feel that adding more mid-elevation habitat is vital for wildlife. But let’s face it, some of the backers simply want to hike, snowshoe or cross-country ski without interference from motorized vehicles. They are selfish. They seek personal gain and don’t give a hoot about resource preservation or wildlife enhancement.
On the flip side, I believe that the majority of four-wheelers, all-terrain vehicle enthusiasts, dirt bikers and sledders are responsible users of public lands. They are attracted to the backcountry for the same reasons that hikers and mountain bikers are; they just choose a different means of getting there.
That said, a small percentage of motorized users have little or no regard for resources or other forest users, and they tarnish the reputation of them all. I was reminded of that last weekend in the Thompson Creek area. Some friends and I planned a ski outing up County Road 108, which is not plowed past the Spring Gulch cross-country ski area during winters. It’s a popular route for people walking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, particularly for people with dogs.
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As we got out of our cars and unloaded gear, a shiny, new, beefed-up white pickup barreled down the unplowed road. The driver was punching it to prevent getting bogged down in the deep snow, fishtailing in the process. The result was deep furrows that made the road a mess for anyone else. The two young men, who had more testosterone than brains, had plowed ahead for nearly 1 mile before they gave up, turned around and created additional tracks in the snow. Beyond the point where they stopped, the skiing was great along a snowmobile track.
I know, I know, some defenders will say, “Well, it is a public road. The guys in the pickup had a legal right to do what they did.” That’s true, but their actions didn’t pass the common-sense test. There was no destination they could reach. There was no sport involved. They were simply selfish and screwed up a nice route for skiers, hikers and even snowmobilers.
As long as there are setbacks like that, debates between different forest users are doomed to degenerate into battles.
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