Adventure sports and the West

There’s an article in this month’s “onearth” magazine (published by the National Resources Defense Council) called “Loving the West To Death” which talks about how adventure sports are affecting former Western wilderness areas like Moab and Boulder. The Moab MUniFest gets a mention.

It’s an interesting article, but I don’t like how it implicitly equates mountain biking/yiking with ATV traffic and four-wheeling.

I didn’t read the whole thing, but it was interesting. Two quotes I pulled out:

  1. “Well, I don’t think they hurt the land that much,” he said. “Mostly what they hurt is the spirit of the wilderness. I’ll be out taking a hike and they’ll come roaring down. Never one of them, of course. They run in packs in those colorful clothes. Anytime you bring fashion into wilderness I think you’re in trouble.”

This was mentioned a few times in the first half of the article; the clothes worn by mountain bikers. If you have to criticize what they wear, it damages your credibility. The impact of mountain biking (or unicycling) has to be minimal compared to that of motorized vehicles and mining. This doesn’t mean it’s possible to over use an area, and it also doesn’t mean we unicyclists could be better-educated about cryptobiotic soil in Moab, for example.

But I have to smile at the idea that most of the unicyclists aren’t quite as colorful and lycra-clad as the mountain bikers… :slight_smile:

  1. We agreed that Slickrock and the nearby trails make sense in the way a city makes sense, clustering population in one area while leaving outlying areas more sparsely populated. “There’s plenty of room for everyone,” he said.

Yeah. You build a trail and people will ride it. If it’s a good trail, they’ll ride it instead of all over every other inch of wilderness. People have to go somewhere…

Not to mention ranching, and a lot of the objection to mountain biking comes from ranchers. We’re all worried about stepping one foot off the trail into the cryptobiotic soil, in some areas around Moab where they graze cattle. Uh, pretty sure there’s not much bikes can do to damage the environment any more than the cows do.

But the comments about clothing indicate what the issue is–it’s not about the environment, it’s about a clash of cultures. You could equally assert that guys wearing spurs and leather chaps and 10-gallon hats look ridiculous, and in certain contexts, they do. (For example, if someone dressed like that on a mountain bike ride, they’d get more than one strange look). A lot of the trail conflicts are around feelings of ownership, and a lot of that comes from identity–ranchers identify people in cowboy hats as part of their culture, and people in brightly colored lycra as “other.” Those “others” are taking over “their” trails, and they’re annoyed. (Not all ranchers are annoyed, but enough of them to cause trail conflicts are).

That is a fantastic idea!