Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Donít blame the mountain bikers

    Just for fun, let’s agree that all user groups have some boneheads. We can take this further and probably all admit that in fact at some point we have ourselves at some point inconvenienced another user. Those of you who can’t understand the latter point are typical of the self-centered, displaced blue-hairs in Sun Valley and one can only imagine you are most probably struggling with all the changes taking place in the world.
    Since we are all in agreement, let’s also say these “issues” are the exception, and are due to a misunderstanding of other user’s needs, a lapse of judgment or concentration or even a self-centered, justified exception like being late for a date. Next, let’s consider the economics: The Outdoor Industry Association recently published an article stating that the bike industry accounts for $81 billion in revenue. A large percentage of that significant sum is due to bike-related trips.
    The trips portion of this economic impact is interesting here. How many mountain bikers do you see at Redfish on any given weekend? How would a reduction in mountain-bike travel affect Stanley’s economy? Some trails would remain open to mountain bikers and they could all ride there, one could argue. If all the mountain bikers were caged together, how contested would those trails become due to the closure of the vast and often-empty White Clouds trails? What would those repercussions be?
    Since we are on the subject of impact, let’s consider the trail-erosion argument. According to an experiment conducted by Thurston and Reader from the Department of Botany at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada, whose findings were published in a 2001 edition of Environmental Management, the impact between hiking and mountain biking did not differ greatly. Similar findings are abundant in the scientific research, time and again placing horses and pack animals under hikers as well as mountain bikers. If trails will remain open to these hooved animals, erosion is a false argument. If horses are the problem, should we ban them?
    Honestly, this is my least favorite of the user groups out there. No matter what my recreation choice, foot or bike, they leave excrement in my way and require me to yield. Just as some people don’t have the time, hips or knees to hike to the far reaches of the mountains, some can only ride there on a horse. In an age of the over-fat where many experience our national parks by driving them, we all have to agree to disagree on use but not on conservation from further road development and other forms of environmental depletion.
    In the end, all user groups are responsible for their own share of trail maintenance and building and we all reap the benefits. In the end, it’s not so bad, would you rather be hiking on the most congested trail on the worst day or stuck in a traffic jam, even if it’s only a 10-minute delay on Highway 75?
Nat Campbell
Liebefeld, Switzerland


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