This title is very provocative, isn’t it? The ATV/UTV trail network has seen better days and we must raise a strong awareness not to lose our trails, before it is too late.
It is no secret to anyone, the trail systems as we know them today are based mostly on rights of way granted by landowners. These are voluntary authorizations and are therefore not permanent. These are permission agreements from holders of a parcel of land to allow back and forth riding on a portion of the private property.
Although ATV clubs, and their volunteers, work hard to build a reliable and safe trail network, they work with a “sword of Damocles” hanging over their heads so to speak – nothing is absolute.
Of course, there are several things that we, the riders, cannot control. However, we have duties and obligations towards other users, clubs and landowners.
It must never be assumed that a trail will never change its location or path from year to year. We have all witnessed the footprints of an ATV using a trail that has not been surfaced yet on the pretext that the trail was there the year before. This eagerness, impatience and initiative are a serious error of judgment.
It is the rider’s duty to learn about the opening and closing of the trails. Several options are available: contact a club director, consult the Facebook page of the club you want to visit, or simply refer to your smartphone ATV trails application. When in doubt, it is best to abstain.
There are certain attitudes among some users that tarnish the reputation of our entire community. The agreements established between the clubs and the owners are trails delimited by trail signs and markers and it is in these paths that it is allowed to circulate. Some rights of way are precarious because, in rural areas for example, some crops depend on them too and therefore the livelihood of these farmers. Therefore, it is essential to respect the pre-established corridor.
Judgment is not given to everyone
Who among us isn’t totally fed up with off-road vehicle enthusiasts who are behind trail closures and loss of rights of way? Some offenders, instead of using the marked trails, use shortcuts in farmers’ fields. Some others cut fences and lower some stakes that hold cattle in the summer season. These repairs must therefore be carried out by the owners and they would probably think twice about it before allowing some ATV to cross his land the next year.
Riders who adopt these unacceptable behaviors make fun of the community and advocate selfishness. In addition, these acts are a lack of consideration for landowners, volunteers and clubs. As a result, everyone suffers the repercussions.
Are these riders are not aware that the trails are crossing someone else’s land? Are they also unaware of the efforts and costs invested by clubs and volunteers? Do they care? Money is not endlessly available for the clubs and moving a trail path can create a catastrophic financial pit for many of them. Many people are unaware that the club structure exists only if we understand this basic principle: we must ride in the designated corridor.
If users allow themselves to ride on private land apart from the marked trail, it is a property violation. The consequences can be unfortunate in the long term and may even result in a permanent closure of the trail.
Who are these individuals living for a brief moment of euphoria as if their actions had no consequences? The clubs are starting to run out of spare plans and alternative trails are lacking.
The outcome of the misbehavior of some offender riders results in fewer kilometers of trail for our community. Some trail sections become isolated by the impossibility of replacing some rights of way lost.
One of the most distressing effects of all this is the bad reputation attributed to our activity. This degradation is fraught with consequences and follows us despite our efforts to prevent it. The integrity of our trail network slides between our fingers and melt like snow in the sun. The authorities in place are short of arguments to highlight the added value of our motorized activity.
Does this apply to off-trail enthusiasts?
In part, off-trail enthusiasts have their share of responsibilities. It is their responsibility to practice their activity in a place that does not come onto a private property without prior permission of the owner. In this case too, a course of proper action is required.
We must act before it is too late. It is our duty to educate the uncooperative riders with clear awareness of what is not acceptable behavior. We must also promote irreproachable lines of conduct on trails to avoid any argument from our critics. We need to do something concrete before we have to capitulate, before all we can do is stay home drinking coffee, remembering the good old days when we could ride.
By ensuring that we always stay on the marked trail, making sure our family and friends do the same, we make it clear to everyone that the offenders are just an undesirable small minority and they have no place in our structured activity.
We can also report the disrespectful riders by publishing them on the social networks. We can encourage anyone who witnesses an intrusion to report it and post comments, photos or publications on Facebook that describe these wrongdoings. We must collectively launch the challenge “Stay on the trail or stay home”.
Our responsibility as a media
We endorse and go along with responsible behavior at all points on the trail. We live from this activity that we also cherish, and our position is clear on this. Through our actions, our words, our editorials, our articles and our advertisements, we demonstrate our clear support for this collective movement. We advocate irreproachable behavior on the trail when practicing our motorized activity.
Finally, it is by the strength of the number that we will win the battle. It is through a clear and firm demonstration that we declare war on intruders for the survival of our sport!