Mountain bike trail “vandals” come in a variety of hues — from clueless to misguided to malicious.
Some are bent on interfering with the lawful enjoyment of public trails, setting up booby traps or obstacles to potentially endanger the lives of people using them.
Thankfully, those instances are rare. Ignorance resulting in damage on par with vandalism is far more common. Some riders just don’t know better. They see something they can’t ride over, so they go around the obstacle, creating “cheats” that widen the trail, impact vegetation and contribute to erosion.
Others know better, but just don’t care. There’s a category of trail users who either “dumb down” trails by mitigating challenging drops or they remove aids that were put in place to make tricky spots safer or less technical.
These dictators want trails to reflect their own selfish desires for what the riding experience should be with no regard for the concept of sustainability that drives trail maintenance decisions.
An egregious example occurred last month. Less than two hours after a trail crew built a ramp down a section of Gunny Loop that many people would consider unrideable, vandals dismantled the boulders and fill, negating hours of work donated by Hilltop and Western Colorado Conservation Corps.
Perhaps these thoughtless vandals don’t understand that trail work on public lands is a carefully vetted process.
For years, the Bureau of Land Management has partnered with municipalities and groups like the Grand Valley Trails Alliance, the Mesa Land Trust and the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association to design, maintain and promote sustainable trail-based recreation in the Grand Valley.
They don’t meet in secret and decide to make trail modifications. Trails across BLM lands are subject to provisions of the National Environmental Policy Act, which includes a public comment period. Anybody who cares about how that section of Gunny Loop travels had the opportunity to weigh in and learn why the ramp was being proposed.
Gunny Loop is part of the Lunch Loop trail system. It offers some of the most challenging terrain in the Grand Valley. Anybody who thinks Gunny Loop is getting too easy with a well-placed ramp or two is welcome to stick to Free Lunch, Pucker Up, Holy Cross or Prenup.
Consider that destroying trail modifications intended to enhance sustainability could very well result in having sections of trail shut down. This subversive “fight the power” nonsense doesn’t end well for trail lovers.
We’re in the midst of turning our trails into an economic engine. We can’t lure out-of-towners to use our trails if we’re abusing them or even loving them to death.
It’s a pretty simple formula. Stick to the trail. Don’t alter it, intentionally or accidentally. Respect the work that went into making the trail possible. Stay within the established process to augment trails. Have a say, but don’t take matters into your own hands. If you really care about trails, volunteer on a trail-building or trail-maintenance day.