As someone who has thoroughly enjoyed the outdoors since childhood, it’s no surprise that I get involved in a lot of hobbies that take me into nature… Mountain biking, camping, hiking, snowshoeing, off roading with my Jeep…I follow all sorts of individuals involved in these hobbies on Instagram, but not so much on Facebook. However, In the past few months I have mingled into a few different Facebook groups for Jeepers. I have meet a lot of individuals from the local club and a club out of Chicago; I’ve enjoyed outings with both groups and made some new friends.
All of this is great and some of the advise is wonderful, but with the good comes the bad. Most of it, trivial dumb stuff, whatever keep scrolling. However lately there has been one that just urks me. Tearing up trails. So this is where I climb on my soap box and start a verbal vomit of a rant.
Mountain bikers, hikers and campers all thoroughly believe in leave no trace. Not just pick up your own garbage, but don’t tear the area up. Most mountain bikers believe if the trail is too soggy, you don’t ride. Yes a little mud is fun, but if you are leaving serious imprints of your tires or digging up the trail, you are doing harm. It can change the drainage, then causing harm by speeding up erosion. In fact a quick google and you can find all kinds of articles about mountain bikers and not not riding in “soggy” conditions.
I know personally, that the Michigan Mountain Bikers Association actually does go out and conduct trail maintenance, usually the beginning of the season (late winter/early spring). However, when people are careless and tear up a trail, do you think they come behind you and fix it? No. Well the same goes for off roading. When you bury multiple rigs in a two track trail, who do you think comes behind you and fixes this? Because I seriously doubt the ones who tore it up are.
Damaging a trail, in the sense that I am talking about only speeds up erosion and damages the ecosystem. Which then can spiral into a whole mess of problems. Do you ever wonder why the forest cops are such assholes at times? Did you ever stop to think that they came upon the mess you created with zero regard for those that might come behind you? With zero regard for generations to come that might want to enjoy the same beauty of the outdoors that we are enjoying today? No. Your selfish self was caught up in the crowd mentality.
A 2013 article from MLive about illegal or rouge ORV riding:
Playing rough: Illegal ORV use overwhelms law enforcement and restoration efforts
“We put things up and they get torn down,” said Diane Walker, assistant ranger for the forest’s Baldwin ranger district. “They have this beautiful national forest outside their doors and I don’t know why people think it’s OK to go outside and tear it up.”
Tear it up, indeed. I visited recently with forest staff and toured one of the more extreme ORV damage areas in the southern part of the forest. It’s near the Cedar Creek Motorsports Area, a designated 24-mile single-track trail for quads, motorcycles and smaller ORVs.
The vandalism and landscape damage was not on the ORV trail. It was on areas adjacent to the trail. Cedar Creek is the southern-most trail in the forest, the closest for riders from Indiana, Ohio, Grand Rapids, Muskegon and other areas.
Riders have been going off-trail and created a web of illegal trails, deeply eroded hill climbs and denuded valleys where entire forest bowls have scrubbed of vegetation by spinning wheels, and left as barren sand.
I am rarely speechless about these kinds of things. And that wasn’t the case this day, but I was astounded by the extent of the damage and found myself resorting to simple, one syllable exclamations under my breath.
What a disappointment.
In 2013, “The Baldwin Ranger district now spends $50,000 to 75,000 on average each year to fix ORV damaged areas, using its own money and state grants.” 50 to 75K a year!! To fix the damage caused by people being assholes! Seriously, for what a handful of laughs about how bad you tore up the trail and a few Facebook or Instagram pictures? Wow. …and this article mainly only talks about those who go off trail.
I find it funny. Mountain bikers get annoyed at hikers on their trail, ‘hiking’ in the wrong directions -yes, there is a directions, you always hike against the riders and you yield the damn right of way to the riders. Hikers might get annoyed at less considerate riders for tearing up a trail, it does happen. However it seems this impact is far less than what I have seen in the off-roading community in just the past few short months of summer. Plus multiple studies have shown that hikers and mountain bikers do the same amount of ‘damage,’ which pales in comparison to equestrian riders. Really didn’t expect that, but makes sense.
Anyway . . .
No one likes to come up on this beautiful forest area only to find the ground has been absolutely trashed by a handful of gearheads with no regard for anyone else using the area. In fact it makes me extremely sad to see the recent sputs of posts on social media basically boasting about how bad they got stuck, not just one rig…that is going to happen; but in the posts (yes there was multiple from the same trip) it appears every driver got stuck.
This tells me two things, 1. No one recon’ed the trail to see if it was a good idea and if you did you’re an asshole who didn’t care about the damage you did. 2. The entire group was a handful of immature and non-caring drivers.
Now yes, there are going to be times and plenty of trail rides that trail damage is unavoidable. It happens. However, if everyone in your party is getting stuck in multiple locations, and absolutely obliterating the trail leaving track marks deep enough that a quad wouldn’t even consider that route… Well. Your group qualifies as the ones I’m ranting about…frankly if this offends you, it probably means you are guilty of this….then I’m definitely talking about you.
People, there are off road parks, controlled areas specifically designed for this. Take your rig there, stop being a tight wad with your pocket book and go to Badlands or such places like that. Or simply wait until the trail isn’t so soggy.
- Plan ahead and prepare.
- Travel and camp on durable surfaces.
- Dispose of waste properly.
- Leave what you find.
- Minimize campfire impacts (be careful with fire).
- Respect wildlife.
- Be considerate of other visitors.