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Driving off the pavement

Article by Don Pennington

Outdoor recreation – July 1997 – Colorado Central Magazine

Most of us probably spend more and more of our waking hours working to support a family and the expense it incurs. Today, many of us work two jobs or work both days and evenings to make ends meet. Because of these things it has become more and more important to incorporate into an ever smaller amount of time, the recreational experiences that make our time and effort at work worthwhile.

Our recreational pursuits need to provide quality time to be together. We need to see as many new and interesting things as possible, and to put some excitement into our sometimes mundane lives, and get some exercise after a week of hard work.

Recreation has become a very necessary experience for many people, especially outdoor recreation. Fishing, hunting, boating, motorcycling, ATVing, four-wheeling, snowmobiling, hiking, camping, birdwatching, rock hounding, and horseback riding are all done outdoors. We are very fortunate in this state to have so much public land on which to participate in our chosen activities.

How you choose to enjoy this country is up to the individual, as long as you observe and practice the U.S.F.S. “Tread Lightly” guidelines. Back roads and trails in the high country are used by a variety of people doing their thing. Whether you choose to walk or ride the roads and trails, or fish with flies, lures or bait is also your choice.

Oh, there are those individuals or groups who would like to limit our choices to the ones they think are appropriate. But this has not happened, nor is it likely to happen as long as people use a little common sense, both in use and in public land management.

My family’s choice for outdoor recreation is motorized. There are several reasons for this. We can see and experience more of the outdoors in less time. We thoroughly enjoy seeing all of the outdoors we can, but do not always have the time nor energy to do it on foot.

More and more often, however, we’re forced to justify our choices for recreation. The key here is choice, through proper use, and not the wishes of someone else.

In the winter we ride snowmobiles to see country that most people will never enjoy. One might go by snowshoe or cross-country skis, but we doubt there are many, if any, who can cover 80 or 100 miles in a day. At an average of 10 mph, we can enjoy a lot of magnificent scenery and quality companionship in 8 hours.

We would not even try to discourage those who enjoy the outdoors by other means than motorized. If you can walk, ski, etc., it’s great, but there are those who are not physically able to do it that way.

We don’t ride motorcycles anymore, but we welcome those who do. ATVs look like a lot of fun, so maybe we’ll take that up. Four-wheel-driving also offers a multitude of variety. This diversity includes hunting, fishing, rock hounding, photography, exploring and general recreation. A good example is our rock hound friends who use existing mining roads to access prime areas for their hobby.

People who hike for their outdoor experience have one up on us because they have access to Wilderness Areas. One thing that puzzles us about people who complain about motorized recreation is: Why aren’t they using the Wilderness Areas instead of the multi-use areas? After all, they could have uncrowded trails with no noise except for their own barking dogs.

Just because motorized recreation is our choice, we don’t begrudge other users on the trails and roads, but we do wish they would refrain from using rude gestures at us. It is not only insulting, but such encounters defeat the entire purpose of getting out there away from the stresses of everyday life.

Public land managers need to accept responsibility for clearly informing users of appropriate uses on specific trails through proper signage.

But users also need to find the trails that offer the experiences they seek. Many miles of trails, both in and outside of wilderness areas are closed to motorized traffic.

Motorized recreation helps to pay the way. Permits, license fees and fuel taxes are collected for each motorized vehicle used on public lands. Motorized recreation also provides a positive economic impact. Hotels, motels, restaurants, service stations, businesses and all those associated with them benefit from motorized recreation. Because of the positive economic impact outdoor recreation provides, it is vital that we allow multiple use of public land throughout the year.

We really have no quarrel with those who enjoy the outdoor experience in a different manner than we do, but we disagree with the tactics used by some groups to belittle motorized users. They want to take our “choice” from us and force us to do it their way.

Democratic, ain’t it?

For more information, contact the family-oriented motorized recreation club in your area.

Don Pennington of Salida belongs to the Chaffee County Motorized Recreation Coalition, whose members assisted in preparing this essay.