Back Country Horsemen

Maintaining Trails When Muddy

by Ken Carmichael

Recently I was one of many recipients of an email from Paul Knowles of Spokane County Parks.  In part what it said was:

“We have a huge favor to ask of you!  Would you mind putting out to your organizations’ members through your social media or other avenues a reminder that Spokane County’ trails are closed when muddy?  We’ve been experiencing some spring-like freeze and thaw conditions, which can cause some of our trails to be more prone to damage by trail use than others, in particular:

• Any location where we have newer trails

• Areas where soils and exposure make them more susceptible to freeze/thaw.

We really appreciate your help in preserving and protecting the significant investment in volunteer hours needed each year to build and maintain Spokane County’s trails.”

When I read this, I realized that this applies to all our lands, thus this general plea going out across our state.  This applies on all our lands, city, county, state, federal and private.  Let’s apply Paul’s ask of a “huge favor” to everywhere we are on the land.

Last year several recreational groups were asked to provide input to a county signage program.  Through this cooperation the following sign was created.  I think it applies beyond the county so will quote here:

Trails Closed When Muddy.  During periods of rain and spring thaw, use of these trails leaves deep tire ruts, hoof and footprints resulting in severe or permanent trail damage.   Spokane County relies heavily on community volunteers to build and maintain these trails for YOU to enjoy. PLEASE, help us thank our volunteers by choosing to recreate when the conditions are right. If you are leaving a visible tire rut, hoof or footprint more than 1” deep, the trails are too muddy to use

Back Country Horsemen is one of many groups that work to keep our trails open for multiple users and we fully support Paul.  Therefore, the plea goes out to everyone to be conscious of the impact we can have on wet and muddy trails.

In 2020 we have seen a significant increase in the people using our public lands, and specifically the trails.  Some of these people may not be aware of the affect they are having.  

Education can be a part of preserving our trails.  If you are on a trail and look back to see imprints you are making it is a good time to select another trail, or time to recreate.  

We can all do our part in maintaining our trails, even if you are not using a shovel.  If you want to help further with trail maintenance and construction, please contact your local Back Country Horsemen chapter.

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