Monday, January 3, 2011

Can 50” Wide Make Our Trails Better:

I love riding the Paiute Trail. I love that you can ride for miles and miles – even days and days on some of the most beautiful backcountry trails anywhere in the U.S. I love that there are some difficult trails and some very easy trails. I love it all – well almost anyway….

Over the last few years I have seen a remarkable change in the usage of the Paiute Trail. The change is an influx of more and more high-speed riders. While some are sport ATVers here to just ride the trails (that’s as opposed to riding the trails to see the scenery), the most harmful group is the high performance UTVs that seem to be proliferating rapidly. In addition to being ridden (driven) far faster than the scenic riders the trail was designed for, these new machines also are typically larger - wider, and heavier than ATVs. This new class of UTVs actually fit much closer into the size category of Jeeps (OHVs) rather than ATVs.

This change in usage is a result of two major things. One, the industry is going through a big change in manufacturing more of these of high performance UTVs. This means that there are more of these users looking for places to ride. And two, the businesses that prosper from the tourist riders on the Paiute Trail in an effort to keep their pockets full, are marketing the trail to everybody and anybody they can.

Both of these are happening without any obvious regard to the consequences. Oddly enough, while the 50” RZR remains the best-selling UTV (or Side by Side), the manufactures seem to be marketing their new models to the faster, high-performance crowd rather than the 50” crowd. One reason for this is the very real possibility that the government ‘power’s that be,’ the CSPC is more than likely to be coming out very soon with standards for the UTV/SxS market. And rumor has it that the CSPC thinks that 50” width is too narrow and therefore too dangerous for a side by side machine. And thus they will be banned. I learned long ago not to try to figure out the actions of the bureaucracy.

But I get off course. My point was to talk about the consequences of this burgeoning new market. Wait a minute! Let me digress just to say that I really do love these machines – it’s just that they have their place, and the Paiute Trail is not the place.

Why is that? The damage they do. They harm our image due to their high-speed riding which results in more dust on the trails and perhaps more importantly, around the residents near the trails. They also damage our image due to the fact that they are more often modified with loud exhaust systems – something that is pointed to as the single most likely method to irritate non-off-roaders and close access to our trails. And, they damage the trails because of their higher speed and more aggressive driving. Then on a more particular note, they damage the trails because they have a wider track than ATVs and therefore create a trail not just wider than needed for a ATV, but wide enough for many full-sized off road vehicles.

So the manufactures make more large, high-speed vehicles and the businesses that cater to the area trails need every rider they can get to make ends meet. What are we to do?

It might just be that by marketing to the higher speed, larger vehicle crowd, we are actually chasing away the ATV riders that made the Paiute Trail what it is. My guess is that fewer scenic ATV riders are willing to risk riding the same trails that the bigger and faster machines use.

My answer? (And you thought I’d never get here;-) Make the Paiute Trail for 50” machines only. Market the trail to 50” users. Market the trail for its scenic value. Leave the big, fast and loud crowd out of the brochures and videos promoting the area. And on a rather separate note, use the money spent to overly groom the trails to install 50” gates.

And for those of you saying you need this new crowd and new machines to pay your bills, I say, “How long do you want to have your business?” The answer is ‘sustainability’. The Paiute Trail is not immune to the same forces that have closed so many other areas to back country travel.