This week, I hit my frustration threshold when news broke that McIntyre Creek, a local recreation area, had been destroyed by vandals. It wasn’t so much the destruction, which was obviously horrible, but the motivation (brought to light following the vandalism) that angered me. The vandals thought that trees planted as part of the restoration project were spikes, meant to injure motorists. This wasn’t true, but for me illustrated just how dangerous it is when user groups think they are in conflict.
It’s crazy to imagine that in such a huge place like the Yukon with all it’s space and extensive trail networks, there would be any conflict at all. But the idea of sharing can be hard – for everyone. Sharing trail means that sometimes you have to pull over mid-way through your greatest Bouncing Bunny downhill EVER because a family and their puppy is hiking up. And maybe for a split second, that’s infuriating, but then you remember that the family is just trying to enjoy the trail as much as you are – and that the puppy is just a puppy. Sharing trail can mean hoof prints and foot prints and wheel prints and bigger wheel prints. Sharing trail can also mean meeting up with pretty cool people doing things you think are completely insane (but don’t worry they think the same thing about you).
In an attempt to put my trail sharing thoughts into words, I wrote this letter, which is my Pollyanna plea for everyone to try to find the ways to work together – or at the very least find ways to tolerate each other without hurting others or the trails.
Last week, a very sad act of vandalism took place in McIntyre Creek, when the restoration site was destroyed after someone pulled out all the willow stakes meant to promote re-growth, and prevent erosion of the bank. The worst part about the destruction was that it appears to have been motivated by misinformation. Individuals believed they were being targeted, that the stakes were there to hurt them, and they retaliated. While this was simply untrue in this case, there is no denying that similar acts of vigilantism aren’t unheard of on the trails in the Yukon.
In my summers of adventuring I’ve encountered: broken glass under log rolls (presumably designed to puncture bike tires); spikes under ladders and jumps (to hurt a fly-by dirt jumper); cords and ropes strung across trees (to clothesline speeding motorists) and more.
I hope that this action is a lesson to us all, that it is time to work together. The large number of people who enjoy the Yukon’s great outdoors should be finding ways to come together to protect our wildlife against development, not fabricating civil wars against each other. The only way that we can do this is by showing respect and tolerance to other users and to the trails themselves.
So next time someone comes down the trail towards you, try a smile and a wave. Take the first step off the trail to let someone get by. Ask someone how their day is going. Pick up some garbage that someone dropped along the route. Move a hanging tree that could fall at any time. Don’t destroy trails and if you do, find a way to fix them. Respect trail access rules, even when you don’t agree with them.
Show some tolerance for those who experience the outdoors in a different way. Assume the best of them, instead of the worst. Maybe the spikes are trees, planted to restore the creek. Maybe a tree was moved, because someone thought it was a hazard. Maybe the dirt biker didn’t know he’d throw up so much dust.
There are jerks in this world. They are everywhere, not just on the trails. But, when someone’s rude to you at the Superstore, do you block the aisle to stop the next shopper? Do you ram the next person over with your cart? Of course not – so don’t do the same on a trail.
Multi-use means that we all have to compromise a little bit. If we can’t do that, we risk hurting people or destroying trails. And if that’s the plan, we might as well just pave it over now.
I hope that people reading the letter will think a little bit before they get upset at their fellow trail user. We can all be jerks – myself included – but maybe if we work hard, we can all be a little bit nicer to each other. And the very least, we can try not to injure each other, or destroy the trails.
I know it’s not just a Pollyanna idea, because the first person who sent me a note after the letter came out was someone who wanted to tell me that they are a hiker who moves logs out of the way because they are worried about bikers. Another person (ATV-er) sent me a note saying they helped some stranded hikers out of the trails last weekend. We can all be jerks – but let’s face it, we are pretty awesome most of the time.