Easter Jeep Safari 2014 in Moab was bigger than ever. The weather was beautiful and many of the official trail runs were full to maximum capacity, making all the trails busy with both official and unofficial runs. Considering just how busy the trails were, I was impressed by how well most people cooperated and showed respect for both the trails and other users. MOST people.
There was one particular incident which set a poor example of respectful trail use. This incident involved a group of 4-wheelers whose leader insisted that they had the right to run any trail whenever and however they wished. They were attempting to enter a trail from the backside which was not only closed to the public for the day, but also a one-way only trail all week, regardless of Safari runs. There are eight trails that are closed on days during Safari that there is an official Safari run—ONLY eight, out of the 38 listed official Safari trails. When they were informed by the trail official that they would have to run a different trail that day, they waved him off and said “We’ll just follow behind you.” When the official again informed them that this would be illegal during Safari, they told him “We’re locals” (they’re not), as if that made it okay to be rude, disrespectful, and disobey the law. It actually took a phone call to the Sheriff to convince these guys to go elsewhere.
Contrary to the beliefs of some, the laws and etiquette of the trails are not imposed to inconvenience people, but rather to protect the trails so they do not degrade beyond all continued enjoyment. The eight trails closed during Safari run days are closed because they are one way in and one way out, or far too difficult to have groups safely pass each other without widening the trail. Most people would find trails far less enjoyable if they became giant dust bowls because the soil crust is crushed beyond all ability to support trees and shrubs and hold down the sand from billowing away. And we have all been on trails where there are far too many Jeeps and we spend much of our time parked, waiting to move through an obstacle. The rules are pretty simple to follow, and the Red Rock 4-Wheelers clearly post the information on their website and in the paper available for free all over town. In my opinion, if you are too lazy to research what trails are available, OR you just don’t care enough about the trails or other users to follow basic etiquette or law, you are not a responsible trail user and you just shouldn’t go.
Here’s the part that really bugs me—the offending party in question was a representative of a well-known 4×4 parts manufacturers. These are people whose livelihood depends on the existence of public trails. These are people who should be setting a glowing example of how to properly use a trail, respecting the laws and ethics, and all other users of the trails. There were MANY aftermarket parts companies in town, and I know that the vast majority of them take the time to acquire any required permits, check Safari schedules to plan their routes, and go out of their way to respect the environment and other users on the land. Fortunately, the incident in question seems to be a somewhat isolated occurrence these days.
Promote and support companies who respect the trails and all other users of the trails. Those are the companies who understand that, in order for our recreation AND their business to continue, we must care for what we have. If a company exhibits shameful conduct on the trails, I will choose to not promote or do business with them. I make a point of promoting the businesses which DO practice good trail ethics and etiquette. I encourage all of you to do the same.