Friday, June 6, 2008

Where Have all the Trails Gone?

I'm sure that many riders live in parts of the country that boast wide open trails all the way to the horizon. At least I figure it must be that way someplace, in a sort of Shangri La for horse lovers. But out here on the West Coast, trails are being gobbled up by freeway expansions and housing developments.

What trails remain are often very crowded on any given weekend. That makes sense, doesn't? More people who are desperate to ride, hike or bike along trails are forced to comingle on a shrinking selection of maintained pathways. At least there's a movement afoot (ahoof?) to make people more aware of the importance of maintaining our trails... and establishing new ones when possible. National Trails Day is this weekend, and it celebrates all that's good about keeping our connection to the outdoors. If you belong to a riding club or trails association, you might already have planned an activity for this weekend. If not, how about next year? You can read about National Trails Day on Horse Channel by clicking this link:
Know Your Trails... Before They're Gone

Granted, my love of trail riding doesn't go to the extreme of horse camping. When Marriott offers overnight stabling for my horse, then we can talk. Nor do I relish the thought of doing something really rugged, like scaling the Grand Tetons on horseback. But I am quite fond of recreational riding. I always have been, even when I was competing on the show circuit. In fact, I can think back to when we first moved to this area in 1980. My mother, sister and I could saddle up our horses, ride out the front gate and be lost in the hills-- sometimes literally-- for hours. Then slowly things changed. A hamlet of houses on a knoll behind our family's place was torn down and replaced by a major thoroughfare. Dynamite blasting signaled the development of the hillsides; country estate ranch homes were built. A golf course plopped itself down in the middle of a meadow where a seasonal stream once ran. The final blow came when a massive interstate freeway was carved through the center of town. The days of riding to the little vegetable stand that sold homegrown strawberries and corn on the cob were unceremoniously over.

I'm almost apologetic about admitting that we've adjusted to riding on manicured trails that wind through the neighborhoods. And I've accepted that if I want to ride along trails that are unencumbered by street signs and cement curbs I have to hitch up my trailer and haul Wally out of town. I guess that's the result of "progress."

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Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to say this is happening everywhere. I've only lived where I do now for 7 1/2 years, but I've already seen fences spring up everywhere. Fortunately I live next to a square mile of State land that I can ride on, and I can ride a short mile the other way to get to the Coconino National Forest, which is the largest continuous National Forest in America, apparently. So I have riding space for now, but really, who can say if my daughter and her children will always have that?

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean. :( It's happening in NC as well. At my old barn, there was this terrific little trail, about three miles long, and we could ride up the street, take a left, and immediately we'd be in the woods.

The city bought the land, cleared it, and it has been like that for YEARS. We can't ride there anymore, not even if we still baorded there. :(

Anonymous said...

amen... here in montana where we can still ride outside our door

gp in montana

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry to hear about disappearng trials. I've known that it was going on, but I haven't directly been affected in PA. The place I work and board has about 100 acres with most of it being beautiful, green, rugged trails. All three of the places we go off-property to ride are also unaffected, although two of the places, Green Lane Park and Blue Marsh Lake, are sometimes busy with bikers, runners, hikers, and whatnot. Thank God state parks are being KEPT parks here. (Now if only they'd quit putting 5-10 houses in each farmer's field they buy... stupid developers.)

Cindy Hale said...

One of the biggest problems we have on the West Coast is that we often have to share our equestrian trails with mountain bikers, which can be dangerous, especially on narrow, winding trails.

I do wonder what it will be like in another 5 or 10 years at this rate.