The Continental Divide Trail belongs to all citizens
Users need to build on common ground, engage with managers, and together undertake thorough and thoughtful planning embracing each other's recreation needs.
By Lyle Laverty
Hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrians are all users of the CDT. All of them are enjoying the outdoors, challenging themselves, and gaining new skills, and renewing themselves in the pleasures of activities in the great outdoors. When they meet on this multiple-use (shared-use) trail, sometimes conflict results. Sometimes this conflict includes fear, physical interaction, and other times just plain annoyance at the interruption of their activity or enjoyment of nature. With increasing frequency, as the amount of trail use increases and the kind of users diversifies, conflicts are escalating.
To resolve these conflicts, hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians all call on public land managers. Unfortunately these managers are often asked to reduce or eliminate some users on the public lands commons, or build and maintain new trails to provide additional opportunities for single uses as the easiest route to reduce conflict.
With limited budgets and limited public lands these kinds of solutions create winners and losers and often deny access equity to the most under-represented user group. Multiple-use trails are efficient, environmentally friendly, and sometimes the only practical alternative.
Managers alone cannot be expected to resolve these social issues. Users need to build on common ground, engage with managers, and together undertake thorough and thoughtful planning embracing each other's recreation needs.
Providing opportunities for high quality recreation experiences while sustaining the trail systems and natural areas they pass through should be everyone's goal. Research and experience shows that workable solutions can be reached that can manage these often emotional conflicts, given commitment and cooperation among users and managers.
Lyle Laverty was Regional Forester for the USFS Rocky Mountain Region when he wrote these comments, which appeared in the Spring 2001 Continental Divide Trail News.
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Updated March 16, 2007