Jacob Shepard: Trails belong to everyone
July 31, 2017
On July 27, I read the letter to the editor talking about motor vehicles on the trail up to Rabbit Ears peak. The letter was written by a hiker who took offense to the usage of motor vehicles on the trail. As a hiker, bicyclist and motorcyclist, I found her opinion to be biased and felt compelled to respond.
I have been riding motorcycles off road for over a year now. I first got into motorcycles several years ago but have only recently got into off-road motorcycles. The thought of being able to join off road adventures and see beautiful new places was quite the lure to me, and taking the bait, I started a journey that has brought a lot of joy to my life.
I've met many new friends, been to great new places and found some extra level of meaning in my life through the maintenance and master of my bike and the travels I make on a weekly basis.
I understand that many people do not understand why people go off road in vehicles. Yet I found the letter writer’s attitude toward motorists dismissive, as though we were pests on the trail rather than other people enjoying the trail in their way.
She attempted to attribute the violations of some motorists to off-road motorists as a whole and described motorists only by their vehicles rather than as people driving vehicles, which I found dehumanizing.
The way she ends her piece was the real punch to the gut though, insisting that motor vehicles should be banned from the trail and insisting that motor vehicles "compromise" the beauty of the trail, as if motorists do not also experience the beauty as well and make the journey up the trail for that reason.
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In fact, there are people who would not be able to make the trip if not for the assistance of their vehicle. I have friends with knee issues who no longer hike because of the tremendous pain that walking up and downhill causes them, yet have seen the world from the peaks of Colorado sitting on the saddles of their trusty motorcycles.
I can understand that being on foot can be intimidating when a motor vehicle approaches and the noise can be a distraction, and I would not be against the idea of having days that ban motor vehicles from the trails so hikers can have some serene days on the trail. But I found the writer's letter to be wholly insulting to all of those who use motor vehicles for off-road purposes and her perception that the trails should only be available for people who follow her prescribed set of activities to be entitled to say the least.
I think this rhetoric is harmful to the health of the trail system in Colorado. The idea that one activity should have privilege over another serves to divide a community of trail users who have united to help maintain the trail network in Colorado.
I believe that if we are to maintain these trails into the future we must learn to speak to each other with respect and find solutions we can all agree on.