Written By: Anna Baklund
On June 6th, we will be celebrating the 28th anniversary of National Trail Day! Originally founded by the American Hiking Society, the annual event encourages people to get out, enjoy, and give back to the nearly 200,000 miles of trails in the United States. Historically, the event has highlighted participation from hikers and mountain bikers, but the tide is turning and we’re now seeing increased visibility of the involvement from another user group: off-road motorcycles.
For decades, off-road motorcyclists have been involved in the clearing, maintaining and rehabilitation of both motorized and multi-use trails. Thanks in part to the internet, we’re now seeing just how involved the off-road motorcycle community truly is and has been. Just as the other user groups before have advocated and called for, the motorcycle community too is reaching out and asking all riders to join the cause and help support the trails and our access to them.
Today there are more people than ever utilizing the trails in the United States. The influx of use means there is also an increased need for maintenance and rehabilitation. This is where volunteers come in!
[Anna Baklund utilizing a handsaw; photo captured by Peter Dahl]
In a live podcast in May of 2020, the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council [NOHVCC] spoke on the topic of “Effective Volunteerism”. The speakers brought to light that volunteering is needed on trails nationwide as we are seeing growth in the off-road community, backlogged maintenance, and ever-decreasing funds for our public lands. They went on to discuss the concept of “trail hosts” (like those that are currently utilized in Utah). Trail hosts are responsible for interacting with the public out on the trails to promote and encourage ethical riding and stewardship. Building on that concept, we all should work towards being trail hosts.
The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary defines “stewardship” as: the act of taking care of or managing something, for example property, an organization, money or valuable objects. The definition of stewardship could not be more literal in its application to the outdoor community… it calls for us to take care of our property, our public lands, which includes the trails that we hold so dear on those lands.
[Anna Baklund manually maneuvering fresh-cut deadfall, photo captured by Peter Dahl]
During a recent conversation surrounding off-road motorcycling and stewardship, a seasoned riding-volunteer made a simple but impactful statement: “volunteering isn’t work, it’s part of riding”. If we want to ride, we all need to be doing our part and pitching in.
There is a lot that goes into the trails that we show up on Saturday morning to use. Keeping those trails accessible, clear, and in good condition can be time-consuming and painstaking. For example, in the northwestern parts of the US, many of the trails see snow every winter. Once the snow melts in the spring, Mother Nature reveals the damage she’s inflicted, and the work the volunteers have ahead of them. The tasks that lie ahead may include: deadfall removal, brushing, water erosion repair to the tread, re-establishing trail where small landslides have come down, unclogging water passages, and much more. Without addressing all these issues, the trails would be unnavigable and fall into disrepair. That being said, the saying still holds true; “many hands make light work”.
[Jake Metteer and Kyle Paynter working on re-establishing trail tread]
So, you’re asking yourself, “what can I do to help?” Get involved! Call your local land managers, reach out to the various user groups, post on social media that you’re looking to help. While group work is great because you can accomplish more, it’s not the only way to help. You can help individually or when you’re out with your friends and family. Little acts or big acts, they all matter and all make a difference. Removing the fallen rocks from the road on the way to the trailhead, picking up litter and packing it out, filling in the ruts in the tread, and clearing debris from the trail are all ways you can help. Some land managers actually have resources for how to properly maintain and rehabilitate the trails too!
While volunteering is important, so is continuing to practice the Tread Lightly! principles that promote ethical outdoor use and stewardship for all user groups. Part of the off-road motorcycle emphasis focuses on riding responsibly and keeping our impact down so that come maintenance time there’s less work to be done. A quick recap of the T.R.E.A.D. principles for off-road motorcycle users include: travel responsibly, respect the rights of others, educate yourself, avoid sensitive areas, and do your part.
I believe the greatest successes and betterment of our trails will occur when all user groups unite under one umbrella: Trail Users. While there is the occasional partnership between two or more groups, much more needs to be done to unite all users with stewardship and access as the overarching goal. I believe unity can be achieved through understanding and respect for one another, as well as being accountable and responsible for our contribution to maintenance and rehabilitation. So, I’m challenging all Trail Users to sit down at the same table, have the tough conversations, and truly listen to one another. We are stronger together and have the opportunity to work hand-in-hand to make the trails great.
I hope everyone has the opportunity to get out and enjoy our trails this coming Saturday, but more importantly – finds a way to give back! While you’re out there, take a moment to stop and appreciate those that have come before us and built, maintained, and rehabilitated the trails that we all know and love so much.
[Peter Dahl wielding a chainsaw for heavy-duty trail clearing]
About: Anna has been chasing adventure on motorcycles since 2015. Whether she’s camping off her dualsport or riding remote enduro, it’s the beauty of the wilderness that keeps her coming back for more. She enjoys sharing her adventures and hopes that by sharing, it encourages others to find what they’re passionate about. With trail stewardship at the forefront of her message, she hopes to promote responsible riding so that future generations can enjoy access to our public lands. You can follow Anna on Instagram @AnnaBaklund
Twisted Throttle Supports the Blue Ribbon Coalition!
For every sale made on TwistedThrottle.com on 6/6, we will donate $5 to the BRC!
Today, Sharetrails.Org/BlueRibbon Coalition (BRC) is a respected national recreation group that champions responsible use of public and private lands, and encourages individual environmental stewardship. With members in all 50 states, Sharetrails/BRC is focused on building enthusiast involvement with organizational efforts through membership, outreach, education, and collaboration among recreationists.
From the beginning, the Sharetrails/BRC has been and continues to be guided by a host of Board Members who have graciously donated their time, skill, and talents. These largely unsung volunteer heroes, who serve or have served, continue to represent the interests of recreationists across this country by communicating and meeting regularly to develop key strategies, policy, and implementation plans for the future
The successful Sharetrails/BRC strategy of working administratively, legislatively, and legally for effective recreational advocacy is now a quarter of a century time tested and ground proven. The Sharetrails/BRC TEAM looks forward to continuing its mission to “champion responsible use of public lands for the benefit of all recreationists” into the future.