Today my youngest and I went tromping through the “woods” which is not much more than a patch of trees that are not developed. It is supposedly a protected tree area. It is attached to our subdivision and very convenient to walk to. As we were exploring we came upon this sign:
This took me right back to my college days in the late 1980’s! I remember hiking on the Blue Ridge Mountains with my Appalachian State Uni friends and really soaking in nature. It was a great stress reliever. My worn out knees are proof that I overdid it back then. LOL
A good friend of mine asked me to help his service fraternity pick up trash on a well used walking/hiking trail. I was glad to help since I loved nature. While on the job, we noticed that someone had taken a hatchet off the trail and cut down a lot of brush, saplings and the like to create a secondary trail. This was a no no and the park rangers had put up signs indicating no one is allowed to blaze a new trail.
That began a healthy debate about who has the right to make a path and who does not. Anti mountain bikers were vehement that bikers caused disruption of wildlife, soil compaction, erosion and loss of indigenous plant life. Some mountain bikers will cut down trees to “improve” their rides. On top of all that, bikers unintentionally carry and transplant unwanted or invasive non native plant seeds if they do not wash their bikes, shoes and clothes after biking in a different environment. I nodded as I could certainly see the harm in mountain biking trails.
Then, the bikers in the group argued that if the biking trail is well-managed and maintained and the bikers do not take cuts through vegetation, then the environmental impacts are minimal. They feel blamed for a few rotten apples, if you will. They also brought up the fact that hiking can cause just as much damage if not more. There are plenty of studies that show heavy usage will cause compacted soil and basal rock. Erosion can happen as people walk causing the path to widen. People often scar trees and pick flowers and leaves which cause disruption in nature. I nodded as I could certainly see what they were saying to.
In the end, nothing was solved and we now had TWO distinct pissed off groups and a few of us in the middle. I mean, it seems the only way to not harm the mountain was to stay off of it. I didn’t love that idea as these woods were my haven for solitude and soul searching. I did a lot of research and what it comes down to is HOW either group treats the trails not necessarily because there IS a trail.
It is true the trail we were on has been there for decades as the first explorers and wild animals trampled through the same path. The rangers and caretakers of the Blue Ridge Mountains always did a good job of maintain the path and putting up signage asking people to not veer off the path, take rocks home or pick plants. There are designated biking trails in places that can handle that kind of traffic. it takes a lot of money and engineering to prevent erosion and needless damage. It’s not the biking itself that is the problem but the type of biker that may not respect nature.
So, seeing this sign on the property near my home made me realize that people are still selfish and unwilling to understand that you can not CLAIM land that does not even belong to you. There are signs and fences saying the area is a protected tree area so it seems the bikers were wrong to chop down trees unless they somehow got permission. Stealing is always wrong but maybe they should have not left the tools in the woods? Next to these woods is a huge, wide biking and walking path that was obviously made for people to use. I’m not sure why it is not enough to use that or the mountain biking paths that are already available: https://www.trianglemtb.com
Regardless, I’m pretty sure there is going to be some ugly confrontations between these two groups of people soon. I wish people could leave well enough alone and I hope I’m not anywhere around there when it happens.