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Thread: Advice / help / suggestions needed for trail use/abuse

  1. #1

    Default Advice / help / suggestions needed for trail use/abuse

    Just to get the record straight up front, I am not an ATVer. Avid horseman, runner, mountain biker, dog walker, and snowmachiner, and I have no problems sharing trails. We all live here to enjoy the outdoors, right?

    This issue came up last year but is way worse already this year and I have no idea if anything can be done about it. There are trails around where I live (let's generically call it the MatSu valley, as I'm sure this happens elsewhere, too) that are just thrashed from ATV use right now, because the ATVs can't wait for the trails to dry up enough. We're talking knee deep mud ruts here. These are ruts that won't fix themselves, will just dry up in the same shape they are now. There are trails I normally run / horseback ride / mountain bike that are completely unusable now and will probably not be usable all summer due to the ruts.

    So how do we educate riders to stay off mucky trails? I know some of you live for the mudding, which is great, but can't it be confined to ATV only trails? What I'm seeing affects all trail users -- including other ATVers, as there are trails I saw last year and am already seeing this year that will be unusuable for anyone, even ATVs, all summer long due to the damage being done now.

    As a horseman, I know horses tear up fragile trails too. This time of year I really restrain myself to roads or dry trails (and it's hard when all I want to do it get out there and gallop!) so I have good trails all summer long. I am a riding instructor, and I also teach my students trail manners and sharing, including staying off trails during breakup due to the damage the horses can do.

    Plus as a runner, imagine trying to deal with rutted trails all summer.

    Yes, I know winters are long and we're all ready to get outside and DO something now that the days are longer and the snow's going. But, at what cost to other trail users? How is it fair that I can't ride my horses or do a trail run because ATVs have thrashed the trails already?

    So, let's hear the suggestions. I have emailed all the ATV organizations and groups I can find, with not a single response yet.

    I have flagged down ATVers and asked politely. I can't repeat here most of the responses I've gotten. If the riders aren't flat out rude (LOVED the guys who spun out and flung mud all over me and my horse on purpose -- that was a fun few moments) then they look at me with complete cluelessness. (btw, I was not on the mucky trail with my horse, I was on the road and flagged down ATVs on the side trail)

    I know you're not all like that. That's why I'm here asking for input. This costs all of us in the long run, so let's figure out what we can do about it.

    Thanks!

  2. #2
    New member AKDSLDOG's Avatar
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    Is a trail a trail? Yes, just what it is, a trail. There is no sign's that state, "atvs only", "horses only", "hiking only" etc... (the trail that you obviously are speaking of). Is it fun to mud bog a horse? Probably not, is it fun to mud bog a atv? Yes. I am pretty sure the trails that you are speaking of have had atvs on them for years, no? As far as jogging goes, I see hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on bike paths, why not jog there? Or why not jog on the "hiking trails only" plenty of those around.

    But I don't see hundreds of thousands spent on a atv park. These ATV parks down in the states have proven to be excellent! So why doesn't Alaska set aside lets say 10k acres to build a atv park? I'm sure it would get used. Great place to get the kids involved in a safe manner.

    I don't mean to sound rude but, I don't believe your going to get much of a response from the atver's, especially if these trails have already been used by atvers.

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    Well, I saw this and figured I would give it a while to see what was said. Looks like most folks are just going to leave this one alone. You did take the time to post this up here (on the ATV portion of this forum) so you deserve a response...even if it is probably not what you want to hear. The best way to respond to everything said is to take your post apart line by line....

    Quote Originally Posted by mbd View Post
    Just to get the record straight up front, I am not an ATVer. Avid horseman, runner, mountain biker, dog walker, and snowmachiner, and I have no problems sharing trails. We all live here to enjoy the outdoors, right?
    We are all here to share the trails. I have no problem with you being on any trail that I ride my ATV. For the reacord...I have no issues with you taking your horse, dog, sled, bike, or running shoes through any mud hole on the trail. I think it is awesome that you are getting out and enjoying the recent good weather.

    This issue came up last year but is way worse already this year and I have no idea if anything can be done about it. There are trails around where I live (let's generically call it the MatSu valley, as I'm sure this happens elsewhere, too) that are just thrashed from ATV use right now, because the ATVs can't wait for the trails to dry up enough.
    Sorry, but the ATVers luv the mud...do a quick search on the net for "Mud" and "ATV". What do you get? ATV gets you over 132 million hits. ATV Mud gets you an additional 3.3+ million hits. What is my point? ATVing is an ever increasingly popular activity for families all over the world. A lot of those families can't think of a better way to spend time than going out on the trails and getting covered in mud and ripping it up for a few hours on the weekend.

    We're talking knee deep mud ruts here. These are ruts that won't fix themselves, will just dry up in the same shape they are now. There are trails I normally run / horseback ride / mountain bike that are completely unusable now and will probably not be usable all summer due to the ruts.
    Once again...Sorry, but deep mud is fun to ride in. That is sort of the point behind all the "mud" tires made for ATVs

    So how do we educate riders to stay off mucky trails?
    That is like asking sledders to stay off the snow. No education required...mucky trails are what they are searching for.

    I know some of you live for the mudding, which is great, but can't it be confined to ATV only trails?
    Can you please provide a list of all "ATV only" trails located in the state of Alaska? I can list several "Non-motorized" trails where ATVs are not permitted. The truth is that as an ATVer, I have to share every trail I ride on with anyone that wants to be there. I don't have one single trail in the entire state that is dedicated to just ATVing.

    What I'm seeing affects all trail users -- including other ATVers, as there are trails I saw last year and am already seeing this year that will be unusable for anyone, even ATVs, all summer long due to the damage being done now.
    You see an unusable trail...I see a challenging ride.

    As a horseman, I know horses tear up fragile trails too. This time of year I really restrain myself to roads or dry trails (and it's hard when all I want to do it get out there and gallop!) so I have good trails all summer long. I am a riding instructor, and I also teach my students trail manners and sharing, including staying off trails during breakup due to the damage the horses can do.
    Sorry, but ATV are illegal on roads. As ATVers we are limited to where we can ride. Those trails are the only places we have to ride. This time of year, there are no dry trails to ride on...it's called "break-up" for a reason.

    Plus as a runner, imagine trying to deal with rutted trails all summer.
    As an ATVer, imagine not having ruts or mud to run in all year long...pretty boring!

    Yes, I know winters are long and we're all ready to get outside and DO something now that the days are longer and the snow's going. But, at what cost to other trail users? How is it fair that I can't ride my horses or do a trail run because ATVs have thrashed the trails already?
    How is it fair that ATVers are the only trail users in the state that don't have trails dedicated to their use only? We share our trails with everyone and we never complain about any other user. Don't think it is because we never run into issues on the trail with other users blocking the trails. We just know that as ATVers we don't have a real voice in this argument. The hikers/joggers/bikers/dog walkers/bird watchers have all the benefits of dedicated areas and are gaining more ground (literally) every day. As an ATVer, I am well aware that my recreational areas are under attack every day.

    So, let's hear the suggestions. I have emailed all the ATV organizations and groups I can find, with not a single response yet.
    They deal with these issues every day. They are constantly harassed by organizations to defend there recreational practices. No other group has to defend their every action on the trails like ATVers. They probably think you are part of some activist group and are just trying to "bait" them into an argument.

    I have flagged down ATVers and asked politely. I can't repeat here most of the responses I've gotten. If the riders aren't flat out rude (LOVED the guys who spun out and flung mud all over me and my horse on purpose -- that was a fun few moments) then they look at me with complete cluelessness. (btw, I was not on the mucky trail with my horse, I was on the road and flagged down ATVs on the side trail)
    Sorry, can't talk to that. Sounds like your "polite" questions were not perceived as "polite" to them. I would say that you are never going to make any change by flagging down a couple of riders off the side of the road. I would resist doing that again.

    I know you're not all like that. That's why I'm here asking for input. This costs all of us in the long run, so let's figure out what we can do about it.

    Thanks!
    The bottom line is that you are asking ATVers to not ride when it is wet outside and particularly this time of year when the ground is soft. It's just not going to happen. The "rub" lies in the name..."ATV" (All Terrain Vehicle). The more challenging the trail, the more muddy the hole...the more fun the ride.

    As ATVers we are limited to where we can ride. None of your hobbies you mentioned in this post are limited by location or law. You have everywhere else in the State of Alaska to enjoy your favorite recreational hobbies.

    How often do you utilized the "non-motorized" trails in the local area and the rest of the state? They are set aside for just the things you talk about in this post. Go out and enjoy them...ATV enthusiast tax dollars helped you have those trails as a "quiet" alternative to being on motorized trails.

    By the way...come on out to Jim Creek on the 17th of May and help with the clean-up. The very folks you say are destroying all the trails are the only folks out there cleaning them.

    Come out and enjoy the trails. If I see you jogging/walking your dog/riding your horse/riding your bike, I will not throw mud on you. I will slow down and pass you on the trail slowly. I will respect your use of the trail. Just don't ask ATV riders to not use their machine for what they were made for...and please don't block the trail.

    Thanks,
    AKMuddy
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    Member wldboar's Avatar
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    AK Muddy

    I could have not answered those questions better myself. Great responses but doubt it is going to change his mind on the issues.

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    Thanks AK Muddy. Very well thought out, communicated intelligently without rancor, and on the mark. As a new ATV owner I try not to tear the trails up unless I'm out at Jim's Creek (joke), but it is inevitable when it's this wet. As long as I'm not out making new trails or bypasses I'd like to think I'm being responsible.

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    I'm going to go against the flow and side with mbd on this one. There IS such a thing as irresponsible trail use. Those of us who use the trails also have a vested interest not only in keeping them legally open to us, but physically passable to as many users as possible as well. When riding, responsible stewardship dictates that we need to not only consider "can I make it across that", but also "how necessary is it that I cross here and now, as well as how much damage am I likely to do in the process."

    We all realize why the state uses snow depth to regulate snowmachine usage, in order to protect the underlying vegetation and avoid chewing up the area. Perhaps the same underlying principle should be voluntarily applied to our ATV riding as well.

    There's a difference between going out and playing in the mud in a relatively open area (where others can bypass your mudhole), and doing so on a chokepoint of a trail where your damage then blocks or impedes access for others.

    Let me use Jim Creek (the creek itself) as an example. Right now there are enough shallow spots that most ATVs can cross it. Without getting bogged down with how they might accomplish this, let's assume that either through the course of "playing" in that area (maybe with an excavator?), or intentional destruction, someone has now deepened the channel to at least 6 feet--in other words, too deep for even a snorkeled ATV. So, those of us without Argo's would be blocked from crossing.

    Chewing up the entire width of a trail corridor with your machine has exactly the same effect to those with "less capable" modes of transportation. Remember that trucks and heavy equipment can chew an area up enough that they can make it through with some difficulty, but we no longer can. So, if we argue that we have the right to ride any trail in any condition, and we don't care about what ruts we leave behind, then the same "anything goes" mentality applies to those heavier machines as well.

    While mbd approached his posting as a hiker or horseback rider, remember that ATVs are by no means the top of the top of the "traction chain". I guess that chain would go (from least to most able to cross deep mud) starting at mountain bike - hiker - horseback - dirt bike - wheeled ATV - 4WD truck (relatively stock) - 6*6, tracked ATV, or Argo - heavily modified 4WD vehicle - large tracked vehicle. So, our reckless use can make trails unpassable for hikers, but remember that larger vehicles can do the same to us.

    I'll admit up front that I don't have the final answer to this issue. The ATVing community does a commendable job cleaning up after the irresponsible use by others with the annual Jim Creek cleanup, but maybe it's time we consider channeling more of that energy into trail maintenance as well. I know that a few club members did some work out around Sutton last fall.

    Before you say that maintained trail sections would never work in Alaska, let me point out that I've seen them on Kodiak. There's one trail which crosses a swampy area on public lands, where the local ATV club has constructed a combination of matting to drive on and a few boardwalks to ride on. You can easily ride across this swampy section, and end up doing no damage in the process. Further up the trail there are plenty of muddy spots you can play in if you wish. Those improved and maintained trail sections don't detract from the ATVing experience in the least--in fact they improve it.

    ...Let the flaming begin!

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    Quote Originally Posted by sr12345 View Post

    Let me use Jim Creek (the creek itself) as an example. Right now there are enough shallow spots that most ATVs can cross it. Without getting bogged down with how they might accomplish this, let's assume that either through the course of "playing" in that area (maybe with an excavator?), or intentional destruction, someone has now deepened the channel to at least 6 feet--in other words, too deep for even a snorkeled ATV. So, those of us without Argo's would be blocked from crossing.


    ...Let the flaming begin!
    I'll take on this paragraph to start with Seeing how I've crossed this creek thousands of times in 20 years. I've played in it from the dunes down to the mouth in spring, fall, winter and summer. As well as walked all over in it with chest waders. You could take an excavator and dig a 20ft trench across it and the next day it would be only 5 feet deep. Some days every big truck will cross the exact spot and sorta trench it out to 4 or 5 feet deep. a day or two later it's filled in. The creek makes it's own deep spots and fills in the ones it made the day before. Not only is there no area in that creek from the dunes to the mouth over 5 feet deep there never will be for very long. It's silt, the water moving thru it erases every mark. You couldn't pick a worse spot to prove or talk about ATV damage
    Now as for your comment about snorkled atvs not being able to cross 6 feet deep water I snorkled my atv precisely so it could go in ANY depth water. 6 feet or 60 feet deep makes no difference when you're floating. They float if you're snorkled, have good balance and enough deep tire tread to give the paddle effect.

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    Member AKMuddy's Avatar
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    No flaming here. We are all adults trying to get our points and opinions across to each other. This debate can and should be discussed. It can and should be done in a manner that promotes additional conversations and eventually an appreciation for all sides of this matter. Even if no "minds" are changed. For the record, my opinions and thoughts are just that...mine! I do not claim or want to speak for everyone else in the ATV community. I think it is universally understood that there are "bad apples" on both sides of this issue. We can talk of extreme examples on both sides but it will prove not to be productive to the conversation. In simple terms...I know we have "A-holes" on our side of the issue. I do not like them either and I have "polite" conversations with them all the time when on the trails. I'll attemp to address each issue below in the same manner as before.

    Quote Originally Posted by sr12345 View Post
    I'm going to go against the flow and side with mbd on this one. There IS such a thing as irresponsible trail use. Those of us who use the trails also have a vested interest not only in keeping them legally open to us, but physically passable to as many users as possible as well.
    Although the above statement does not address the issue of ATV only trails, I agree with you fundamentally. We do need to make sure these trails are passable to everyone that "chooses" to use them.

    When riding, responsible stewardship dictates that we need to not only consider "can I make it across that", but also "how necessary is it that I cross here and now, as well as how much damage am I likely to do in the process."
    Here is where human nature starts to play a role. The real issue is how these trails got here to begin with. These trails began with folks just like us asking themselves..."how do I get over there?" "How do I get around or over that? The results of those questions are the very trails we use today. I think responsible stewardship dictates that we stick to established trails and continue to use them versus making new trails (where trails already exist). The rub in the original post seemed to stem from ATVers shredding the existing trails during wet conditions. Its Alaska...It is wet most of the time. That is a hard issue to get past.

    We all realize why the state uses snow depth to regulate snowmachine usage, in order to protect the underlying vegetation and avoid chewing up the area. Perhaps the same underlying principle should be voluntarily applied to our ATV riding as well.
    This does not make sense to me...let me explain. The state does use snow depths to protect underlying vegetation and to avoid chewing up an area. The issue I have with applying this to trails is that once a trail is established, the vegetation and underlying area is already "chewed up". That area is called the "trail". That is what separates the trail from the rest of the area. You cannot apply this policy to any other form of trail use except snow machines because the snow covering the ground is what protects the ground.

    There's a difference between going out and playing in the mud in a relatively open area (where others can bypass your mudhole), and doing so on a chokepoint of a trail where your damage then blocks or impedes access for others.
    In all my years of riding ATVs, I have never created a "mud hole". I have found hundreds of them along the trails but I have never created one for my convenience. Water takes the path of least resistance and collects in the lowest areas. Standing water, by nature, makes the surrounding ground soft. Any user that walks/runs/rides/rolls on or over wet ground will create mud holes. By driving around muddy areas on the trail, one could make the argument that a user would be making the issue worse by increasing the size of the "chewed up" portion around the low-lying areas.

    Let me use Jim Creek (the creek itself) as an example. Right now there are enough shallow spots that most ATVs can cross it. Without getting bogged down with how they might accomplish this, let's assume that either through the course of "playing" in that area (maybe with an excavator?), or intentional destruction, someone has now deepened the channel to at least 6 feet--in other words, too deep for even a snorkeled ATV. So, those of us without Argo's would be blocked from crossing.
    This is a great example. Your excavator (4x4 truck) scenario does happen. I have seen several 4x4 trucks going across the creek and getting stuck. By the time they "give up" and realize they are not going to make it, they have rendered the crossing useless to all other riders. Two things then happen. The first thing that happens is that users try to find another way across. The second thing is that nature takes over and the creek hole repairs itself. Come back to that same hole the next day and the water current has deposited sand back in the hole and all is well again. In over ten years of crossing Jim Creek, I still cross in almost the same place every year.

    Chewing up the entire width of a trail corridor with your machine has exactly the same effect to those with "less capable" modes of transportation. Remember that trucks and heavy equipment can chew an area up enough that they can make it through with some difficulty, but we no longer can. So, if we argue that we have the right to ride any trail in any condition, and we don't care about what ruts we leave behind, then the same "anything goes" mentality applies to those heavier machines as well.
    As I said in my last post...The more challenging and muddier the trail, the more fun the ride.

    While mbd approached his posting as a hiker or horseback rider, remember that ATVs are by no means the top of the top of the "traction chain". I guess that chain would go (from least to most able to cross deep mud) starting at mountain bike - hiker - horseback - dirt bike - wheeled ATV - 4WD truck (relatively stock) - 6*6, tracked ATV, or Argo - heavily modified 4WD vehicle - large tracked vehicle. So, our reckless use can make trails unpassable for hikers, but remember that larger vehicles can do the same to us.
    I think you are correct but I do not think this will be an issue for ATVers until large tracked vehicles become more economical to own. The way gas prices are going; ATVs may be parked soon. Then we can complain about all the mountain bikes out on the trail causing mud holes.

    I'll admit up front that I don't have the final answer to this issue.
    Neither do I, but I know the answer does not exist in asking ATVs to not ride in a manner in which is both popular and is why they were designed. Especially, when there are so many non-motorized trails around.

    The ATVing community does a commendable job cleaning up after the irresponsible use by others with the annual Jim Creek cleanup, but maybe it's time we consider channeling more of that energy into trail maintenance as well. I know that a few club members did some work out around Sutton last fall.
    That would be great but the ATV community is not funded the way all other trail users are. All our efforts are out of our own pockets.

    Before you say that maintained trail sections would never work in Alaska, let me point out that I've seen them on Kodiak. There's one trail which crosses a swampy area on public lands, where the local ATV club has constructed a combination of matting to drive on and a few boardwalks to ride on. You can easily ride across this swampy section, and end up doing no damage in the process. Further up the trail there are plenty of muddy spots you can play in if you wish. Those improved and maintained trail sections don't detract from the ATVing experience in the least--in fact they improve it.
    Like I said above...this would require funding which we will never see. I can see a matted area where ATVs cross a permanent wetland. The trails around here are not wet all year. They dry up but the damage described is already done...and my beloved mud holes are gone for another year.

    ...Let the flaming begin!
    The original issue (in a nut shell) as I have understood, is ATVs riding on wet trails and tearing up the trails to the point that other users (bikes/hikers/horses/other ATVs/etc) cannot use them for the rest of the year.

    I have not seen any trail in the local area that was rendered useless to ATV riders from damage caused by other ATVers. Furthermore, we still have not addressed the issue of the availabilty of non-motorized trials versus the trails used by ATVs (which are limited). As an ATVer, I cannot ride "any" trail I want to or any time I want to (Eklutna for example). Although, I think the Eklutna trail is a great example of motorized and non-motorized users sharing a resource for the benefit of all. ATVers (along with other motorized users) are the only ones limited by law as to where or when they can recreate. Some people will not be happy until all ATVs/4x4 trucks/Snow Machine/Air Boats/ etc are made illegal on public lands. Once we start down this path there is no turning back. Next, the bird watchers/hikers will want to outlaw the mountain bikers or the mountain bikers will want to outlaw hikers with dogs on the trail for safety reasons. We all know where ATVers love to ride. These trails are well known to all. The question you have to ask yourself as a non-motorized user is "Do I really want to be on that trail with them?" and "Do I need the stress I know I will feel by being out there with them?" Seems too me you would choose one of the other alternatives you have had set aside for yourself and enjoy nature the way you like it...on your own terms.

    Thank you for bringing up some good points and giving us (ATVers) something to think about. I hope that we can all learn to share the trails and actlike better neighbors to each other. I for one will continue to seek out the mud but I will be a little more aware of other users on the trail before I hit the throttle.
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