You find them in all classes of recreational land users from horse people to snowmobile riders. They damage the environment and give those that encounter them a bad taste for the sport they represent. What's worse is that they destroy the hard earned relationships that organized users have with local land owners.
What goes on in their little testosterone saturated minds?!!!!
(Yes, there are some female offenders and yes I do tend to expect better behavior from the members of my carefully nurtured gender than I have learned to expect from that of the afore mentioned. Guilty).
Are these deviants so short sighted that they don't care if the trail they ride off season or dump trash on or short cut through (devastating sensitive regrowth areas by mowing down saplings) is closed to all recreational use the following year as long they have their fun today?
Do they simply not stop to consider the consequences of their actions?
Do they think they have the right to do as they please because their registration is paid, or because of the old law the said horsemen may travel over personal property at any time without prior owner consent?
The trail master for for Massabesic ATV Club just sent we members a note to remind us that the trails are closed for mud season till May 15th. He also said that many are being used even so. He stopped one group of riders to remind them. This group told him they were not members of a club, but had paid their Maine ATV registration and could therefore ride wherever they please.
Can they really think that? Are they so uneducated? Are they out looking for ways to make trouble?
Do they at least stop to wonder if maybe the individuals who maintain that trail ( who spend many weekends working the trails or communicating with landowners, making promises, while the rogues are riding those trails, and often breaking those promises!) have pay the exact same registration fee to the state of Maine (not to mention the club dues every year)?
Let's for a moment consider the possibility however remote that they are sensible intelligent individuals capable of civility and understanding simple concepts once explained to them.
How do we educate them?
How about a colorful brochure that is handed out at time of registration. Not just handed out but read to each individual and needing to be signed for comprehension prior to being handed the legal tags.
The brochure would detail the fact that Maine is unique in that it's organized and managed trail system of some 20,000 plus miles travels across lands that are 90% privately owned. Yes, the state takes in a pile of registration monies but it does not control or even suggest whether land owners open or close their properties to recreation.
It would explain that organized clubs at the local level manage the trail systems, working closely with each and every land owner to minimize the impact of recreational use on their property and ensure that the many hundreds of generous people who allow us use of their land find it a rewarding experience, rather than a headache, a liability, troublesome, or downright dangerous.
It would cost a lot of money, these brochures. Registrations might have to increase. If it would help keep trails open it would be worth it wouldn't it?
OK, so what about the horse folk? I am one of those also. And I didn't understand for the longest time that just because the local snowmobile club had permission to use a trail it did not mean that I could have it in the summer. I did not understand that I needed to communicate with all the land owners involved with the trails I used and secure my own permission for my use of that trail.
I have begun to change my MO in my new neighborhood. We have permission to use a 50 acre maze of fabulous cross country ski trails that one can weave round and about in for 2 hours without getting very far from home at all. It's a greast little conditioning grounds. All the owner asks is that we hop off and kick manure off the trail when it happens and stay out while the trail is posted (being groomed for skiing and when the mudd is deep). small price to pay for such pretty trails with such good footing, and even a couple of grazing areas. I regret not offering some additional help last year, and will get over there soon to arrange to be there for spring clean up at least.
This need for official premissions was driven home to me this winter as I was researching the DOC experimental trail matt project ongoing alone a section of ATV / Snowmobile trail on CMP land in Waterboro. This trail is undergoing some major renovation and improvements because of the hard work of local motorized clubs. these trails are so wide and gorgeous you could drive a carriage over them. Once done they will connect Lebanon through to Hollis Center and to the Saco river. A lovely section of trail that experienced another group of rogue riders: Last fall several 4WD trucks went through and managed to cause an estimated 4 - 5 thousand dollars worth of damage, and piss off the CMP officials. And guess who had go beg for mercy? The drivers of the trucks? (as if) The ATV clubs of course.
What I found out was that as far as CMP and DOC knows there are no horses using any of the trails along this entire stretch of power line. Therefore, there Will be no consideration of the needs of horses when developing ways to preserve wet areas (bridges and the matt project etc.). I can jump up and down and yell: "Yes there are! there's me and 6 of my buddies and at least 10 others we see and wave at every other weekend!!" They just stare blankly at me, because:
The only way to be recognized as a user group in these situations is to be an organized incorporated state recognized club who has partitioned for and secured written permission from CMP and subsequently documented as a user group.
As the VP of Maine Equestrian Trails Alliance it is one of my duties is to educate the equestrian community on these details. META is working on a "create a local club" packet with everything you need to know to get organized and gain a voice as a trail user group throughout the state of Maine.
One of the best ways I have found to further this cause and get to know what is really going on with trails in your area, is to go join the local motorized clubs. I find them very open to working towards making trails safe for horses, and education in general across groups. They are also desperate for help on work days, and nothing creates better reciprical relationships than user groups working elbow to elbow for the same goal of use of the trails throughout this amazingly beautiful state!
Please comment with ideas!!! In this time of economic unease when stress levels run high, we need our recreation more than ever, and we have to cooperate and communicate (horse people, and motorized, mushers and mountain bikers) to keep the trails open.