"Share the Trails" is not a new idea. In the book about global leadership, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, author Robert Fulghum ranks sharing first as a basic skill for life.
I have a kindergartner living in my house, and the things I remind her of are the same things we can continue to think about as adults. For instance: Remember when you were a kid, and you got to go on an adventure (now you call it a hike) with your friends? You'd explore, enjoy and feel invigorated. You wouldn't get mad if you saw someone else on the trail, you'd say "Hi!"
Trail conflicts can occur within and between user groups, as a result of factors not related to trail-user activities at all. Conflict might be related to activity style, focus of trip, expectations, attitudes toward and perceptions of the environment, level of tolerance for others and different norms held by different users. Taking a cue from kindergartners everywhere, let's all embrace a spirit of sharing when we're on the trail.
Here's my version of "All I Really Needed to Know About Trails I Learned in Kindergarten."
When you're on a trail and you encounter another trail user, say "Hi!" When you're on the trail and you see other people, respect their safety. When appropriate, move over and wave them through.
If you see a horse, stop about 100 feet away and announce yourself. If you're on a mountain bike and are going downhill, yield to the uphill rider. They're working harder than you are. If you see a hiker, slow down. Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you're coming: A friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Anticipate other trail users as you approach blind corners. Bicyclists should yield to all other trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel. Strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one.
Put things back where you found them.
The trail you're on is public.
Respect that, and stay on the trail. Leave no trace. Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones.
When the trail is soft, consider other options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don't cut switchbacks.
Clean up your own mess.
If you see trash or create trash, please pick it up and carry it out, even if it's not yours. Be sure to pack out as much, if not more, as you pack in.
Know your equipment, your ability and the area in which you are riding - and prepare accordingly. Strive to be self-sufficient: Keep your equipment in good repair, and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.
Live a balanced life.
Learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some. Try a new trail, hike where you normally mountain bike. If you haven't given back by joining your local group or volunteering, now is the time to help out.
The Share the Trails Summit on Saturday is a great opportunity to get involved "out in the world" and make a difference.
This one-day conference, put together with the San Juan Mountains Association, is intended to bring trail users together in hopes of fostering awareness and mutual respect, opening lines of communication and challenging our community to embrace the shared stewardship of our amazing trails. Our goal for the summit is to foster tolerance among all kinds of trail users - mountain bikers, hikers, motorcyclists, horseback riders - to find our common ground, embrace it and respect it.
Common ground may allude to trails we all enjoy, but it also relates to values that we share and concerns that we have in common. Respect is how we carry that knowledge forward and put it to use in our interactions at the trailhead and on the trail.
So put all these lessons to good use, and come celebrate our common ground. And remember: When you go out in the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
The Share the Trails Summit is happening from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at the DoubleTree Hotel in Durango. The registration fee of $10 will get you lunch, a really cool T-shirt and maybe even a couple of new friends.
For more information or to register, go to www.sharethetrails.org or stop by the Public Lands Center in Durango 247-4874.
Mary Monroe is the executive director of Trails 2000 - www.trails2000.org. Trails 2000 builds, maintains trails and trail connections, educates trail users and advocates for total connectivity on road, bike path and trail.