Our chosen form of recreation, OHV use, has come a long way. Progress can clearly be seen in the way we educate the users and the way we maintain the Rubicon Trail.
Most of the changes in education and maintenance that have taken place can be traced back to the “Five E’s”. Some of you learned these as the “Three E’s” during Del’s volunteer leadership class (http://www.rltc.biz/). Everything changes and grows and we’re now up to five.
Engineering: The Rubicon is a little different is this category as the Trail has been there for over 150 years. It’s seen over 100 years of motorized use. It started as an Indian trade route and was once a stagecoach route.
We never got the chance to ‘engineer’ where the Trail should run or how it should be built. But plenty of engineering has gone in to the maintenance of the Rubicon Trail specifically regarding the routing of water off and across the Trail to prevent erosion and the resulting sedimentation from getting down stream.
In 2001, 200 FOTR volunteers moved 180 tons of crushed rock and built 28 rolling dips on the Tahoe side preventing the installation of a seasonal gate at the trailhead.
Education: Groups like Cal4, Untied FWD, Tread Lightly! and others have been educating OHV users for decades. A new page in education was turned with the formation of FOTR and later RTF. This new education effort targeted users of the Rubicon Trail, specifically with water issues and human waste issues.
Through signage, meetings, videos, magazine articles and word of mouth, attitudes and actions have been changed on the Rubicon Trail.
Enforcement: (yes, I skipped one for now) Through grant finding, and after a misstep or two, there is now a much better law enforcement presence on the Trail. We have El Dorado County, USFS and CA State Parks all showing a presence on the Trail. CA Highway Patrol even occasionally shows up on the paved access roads to the trailheads. This season will see two new full time LEOs in the Tahoe Basin occasionally visiting the staging area and side trails along the Rubicon. Just last month, I saw a FS pick-up with a quad in the back leaving the Tahoe staging area.
The idea alone that there could be a LEO around the next turn has exponentially decreased illegal activities on the Trail. This is progress. The Rubicon is once again a place for family recreation.
Evaluation: Every year, volunteers and government officials are out on the Trail looking at the previous years’ projects for what worked and what didn’t work. We’ve been at this for decades but have become more focused over the last ten years under FOTR. Every future maintenance project is based on the success of prior projects.
This is most important with the Clean-up and Abatement Order placed on El Dorado County and Eldorado Forest by the Central Valley Water Authority. Results must not only be shown but measured. And it is happening!
Encouraging: Even with all the success the Trail has experienced over the years there are still trail users out there that don’t get it. Everyone can say Tread Lightly! but not all that say it do it. Not everyone understands what constitutes resource damage.
What is lacking in our efforts to keep people on the Trail and to do the right thing is peer pressure. As a group, we need to let others around us know that certain actions may lead to getting trails closed and that is not acceptable. When it is revealed that someone has done something wrong, we need to speak out against those actions. Hopefully, this will educate and get others to think before they do something they shouldn’t.
Back in the day, individuals new to the sport joined clubs and learned how to wheel from fellow clubs members. People were taught how to drive in four wheel drive; how to repair their rigs, how to build up their rigs; how to Tread Lightly!
These days, we see more and more individuals out there reading a magazine, cutting their fender wells out, throwing in a four inch block lift, bolting on larger tires and going out wheeling. They come out as individuals, unprepared, unskilled as drivers, not knowing where to go, and not knowing the consequences of their actions.
But it’s not only “newbies”. Seasoned wheelers sometimes follow the old school rule of anything goes. Cross country travel used to be legal but it’s no longer allowed.
Somehow, we need to educate the people that don’t get it. We post signs, maps, rules, etc but these people don’t read them or worse know them and don’t follow them. We write articles in magazines and online about how the actions a very small group result in ammunition for the anti-OHV groups who try to get our trails closed. It’s not enough.
We need to step up our peer pressure on those individuals who threaten the future of our sport. We need to stand together in facing these individuals. But this is not always as easy as it seems. But it can be done.
I’m not advocating a vigilante movement. Do not take the law in to your own hands and do not put yourself in a dangerous situation. But do take the time to educate those you see not following the rules. By educating our own, we can keep our trails open.