Mountain biking, running, hiking, horseback riding.
Those of us who participate in these activities know and appreciate what a special place we live in with numerous trailheads just outside our backdoors and a national forest all around us.
We love our trails as evidenced by the abundance of users. And we are fortunate that the majority of us understand trail etiquette, thereby minimizing negative encounters during our outdoor experiences.
All local trailheads post user rules as does the Trails 2000 website and area maps.
The six primary rules of the trail are: use open trails only, leave no trace, be in control, always yield, never scare animals and plan ahead.
“Trail etiquette comes down to communication and respect,” said Mary Monroe, director of Trails 2000.
“ There are rarely issues or complaints. Most people who use the trails know how to use them and want to have positive encounters,” she said.
Trails 2000 hosts several events each year to encourage sharing the trails and educating the public on proper trail use.
Through joint efforts with the Forest Service, Durango DEVO and events like this year's Big Gulch, Trails 2000 goes the extra mile to celebrate and educate us all to be good stewards of the land.
Sarah Tescher, director of Durango DEVO (a junior development cycling team) has had plenty of experience promoting trail etiquette and safety within her groups of young bikers and their coaches.
Although DEVO members sign a code of conduct, it is the group dynamic and modeling of proper trail behavior by the coaches that has the biggest impact.
“Being polite, saying please and thank you and demonstrating appropriate behavior when coming upon hikers, runners and equestrians is the best education,” Tescher said.
While living in Marin County in California, Tescher experienced the loss of freedom of use on the trails.
“It began with signage and evolved into banning mountain bikes from certain trails and imposing a lot of strict rules for trail use,” she said.
“Durango is different. You walk down the street and people say hello and are friendly to each other. We have the capability to have all users use the trails in a friendly manner without there being rules placed upon the trails,” Tescher said.
“There will always be a small group of people who don't follow the rules. Maybe one biker may knock someone off the trail, but the other 99 percent will get out of the way for a hiker, walker or equestrian.”
Rob Milofsky, an avid runner and mountain biker from Durango, said he feels the number of negative encounters he has had have escalated over the past five years. He suggested that some trails, such as the Fort Lewis College Rim Trail and the Telegraph Trail Loop in Horse Gulch, eventually be designated as one way.
“I've had mountain bikes come up really fast where I've had to jump off the trail or they've brushed up against me,” Milofsky said.
“The majority of mountain bikers are friendly, but there are a couple of bad eggs.”
A lot of trail etiquette boils down to common sense. Imposing too many rules can prevent people from thinking for themselves.
If we all take personal responsibility for our behavior and approach the trails with a positive attitude, we can make the outdoor experience pleasant for all users.
Reach Marjorie Brinton at firstname.lastname@example.org