By Nena Barlow
This article originally appeared on fourwheeler.com.
It’s a human tendency to lump ourselves into groups. We are naturally attracted to groups of people who have similar interests and values. Jeep enthusiasts are no different. Along with the enthusiasm for the vehicle comes a shared interest in traveling the great outdoors in it, and a desire to see 4×4 trails and dirt roads kept open for exploration. But in our efforts to keep trails open we should remember that hunters, mountain bikers, motorcycle riders, equestrians, hikers, and many other outdoor enthusiasts (including, yes, UTV drivers) also have an interest in keeping 4×4 trails and dirt roads open. What is important to the future of public roads and trails is that all of us who use them learn to identify as the same tribe—one large group of people who really enjoy the outdoors and having access to beautiful public places upon which to recreate.
Though many of us Jeepers will wag our fingers at the side-by-side crowd and say, “THEY are going to get trails closed,” all outdoor enthusiasts need to recognize that in the larger scheme of things, we must work with all those who share our common issues. We all want to continue to use public trails. Achieving that will come through providing good examples, education, and a voice in land-use management as an entire group of outdoor enthusiasts.
Peer pressure is a powerful thing in educating new users on good trail conduct. As off-road vehicles become more diverse and easier to own and operate, learning to share trails and educate new users effectively is only going to become more and more critical to the future of motorized recreation. The us-against-them mentality is only going to divide our forces and weaken our effectiveness. Everyone loses out when access to a trail is closed.
What I am suggesting is that you ask yourself one question the next time you encounter someone on a trail who is exploring it in a way different from your own: Is this person interested in keeping trails open for us to recreate? If yes, then consider them part of your tribe. Talk to them about what they find fun about their choice of transportation. Find out what makes their day better on the trail. Talk to them about how we can all better share the trails. Make a friend and an ally for the good of all who use the trails.