I have seen numerous discussions about the palmer hay flats, the new bridge, and proposed restrictions on ATV use on this site. I have hunted the flats for a few years now with friends and I feel I have made a very small footprint in this area, if any. I will not put names on here as I feel it is counterproductive in this setting, but the “improvements” I have seen (not including the bridge) and discussion with land managers were odd to say the least.
The first point I would like to make is everyone needs to realize the difference between ATVers and hunters. I, as a hunter, utilize an ATV to access areas to recreate and put meat in my freezer and on my kid’s plates. I use the trail to transport gear and equipment to my hunting areas, and without the use of an ATV I am sure we would all be stacked up on the trail next to the bird watchers in what I call machine gun alley. The ATVers I talk about are over at Jim’s creek going 50 mph across the sand and mud, pushing the limits of their machines to see how fast they can go. These are generally different groups than the hunters you typically see on the flats. I don’t know one person that is excited about to the flats for a good ride, but I could be wrong…
To address the topic of banning ATVs, I feel it is a drastic step to take and should only be taken as a last resort and carefully enacted with fact, not the opinion of the few. I have seen so many areas throughout the state restricted from ATV use pushing hunters out the back door and allowing other users to take precedence. If we step back and look, hunters are usually the ones active in preserving or protecting these lands. Other users are bystanders often reluctant to get involved with preservation projects or will not allow themselves to team up with hunters to compound their efforts.
Hunters are putting food on their tables and have just as much right as a bird watcher or other users to access the resources of the state. Hunters have used the trail to get away from other users and access areas away from non-hunters. I have not seen the necessary effort put into addressing the trail concerns to agree with restricting ATV usage. I see efforts to address trails or areas used by non-hunters, but little to no efforts to address the most affected sections of trail to ensure less impact from ATV use. If we are going to restrict them, should we not take actions to lessen the impact before making this decision? The only effort to lesson ATV impact (that is noticeable) are the steaks depicting where the trail is. Have we looked at alternate routes or available protections for materials within the trail like the first mile or so?
Here is where much of my opinion comes from: I was confronted on the flats (on my ATV) and had a discussion with individuals laying down the matting for the first mile or so of trail. I felt as though I was being reprimanded for recreating there, which is unacceptable in my opinion. My thoughts about the matting was not why this was being done, because the matting is beneficial both to the flats and to me as a hunter, but if the concerns are for the areas further out which are cut by the tide why are we not addressing them in the same or similar manner? Why are we not finding a solution instead of making more restrictions? During that discussion I asked how to volunteer my time and efforts into this project and was told it wasn’t necessary, more like I was not welcome. I know numerous people who have suggested solutions, but are treated as an outsider.
The improvements made to the parking lot are nice, but remember we are talking about a recreational area we want to preserve, not make an amusement park… right? Talk about a nature center is amusing to me, as we talk about having little impact on the current status of the flats. What do you think will happen when we start building these structures and bringing in all these additional people? What environmental impact will they have on this area? When will you tell us we can’t hunt there anymore?
I do appreciate all the efforts and time people have invested in this area, but I urge you to step back and look at the big picture. We all want to use this area for our own reasons, and we want it to remain accessible. Don’t push out people willing to help preserve the flats, invite us in and understand we are all passionate about this area.