Adopt-A-Trail

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There is an ever increasing amount of pressure being put on government authorities to close down our hobby of Four Wheel Driving by various environmental groups around the world. The more vocal and militant amongst these groups see our recreation as the enemy of the environment and give no consideration whatsoever to sustainable recreation and multiuse. If you disagree with them then you are wrong. Unfortunately we are generally less vocal and less well financed than these groups and therefore all the good work we do goes largely ignored.

In many places around the world some form of “Adopt-A-Trail” program is in place. This program links Four Wheel Drive clubs with government bodies such as the Bureau of Land Management [BLM] and the Forestry Service to get work done on trails in order to keep them open.

In Colorado , the Colorado Association of 4 Wheel Drive Clubs Inc has set up a formal process by which affiliated clubs can “adopt” a trail and work with local authorities to keep the trail open and well maintained. They have even formalized an “Adopt-A-Road Agreement” and an “Adopt-A-Road Labor and Volunteer Record”. This program has been successfully running for over 20 years and has the momentum to continue far into the future. By entering into formal volunteer agreements club members working on adopted 4WD roads are covered under Title 16, Section 558 of the United States Codes as a federal employee.

Basically clubs that have a willing membership choose a “free” trail in their area of interest to adopt. Once agreed upon the Club liaises with the appropriate local government body be it BLM, Forestry Service or Department of Natural Resources to determine how they would like the club to conduct work on the trail and to arrange strategies for ongoing maintenance. Usually clubs will undertake working days on the trail once or twice a year with the consultation of the governing body. It is important to understand that this is purely a volunteer program which sees Four Wheel Drive enthusiasts, including many Land Rover owners, putting in many hours of hard labor to keep trails open.

My Club, The Solihull Society, has adopted Radical Hill as its project trail. Our club has been officially looking after this trail for 6 years now and unofficially for longer. During this time we have built up a good working relationship with the local Forestry Rangers to the point that they recognize us as responsible users of the area. Significant goodwill is generated through the relationship to the point that they do not just dismiss us when we want to discuss land use issues. We recently undertook our yearly work day on the trail under the supervision of Tyler Kirkpatrick the Back Country Ranger responsible for the area. The work we completed on the day was fairly basic, i.e. building some barriers to stop vehicles taking inappropriate bypasses, moving rocks and repositioning fences that were no longer required. The Ranger appeared genuinely grateful for our work and assistance.

Talking with Forest Rangers about Four Wheel Driving and Land Use I was somewhat surprised to hear that they are not all anti Four Wheelers, but that they actually want to encourage multiuse of the land. Unfortunately with limited resources and finances they are sometimes pushed to prioritize and hence closures are sometimes forced by matters outside of their control. Interestingly they viewed the “Adopt-A-Trail” program as a benefit for them as they know that work needs to be done on trails to maintain them and keep them open. With Four Wheel Drive Clubs chipping in by providing labor and enthusiasm they can get more work done. In fact they told me that without the Four Wheel Drive movement and this program most of the work would just not get done. Feedback from the association confirms that many of the trails now adopted would have been closed or would be under threat now if not for the “Adopt-A-Trail” program.

This type of activity needs to be encouraged by the Four Wheel Drive movement and also needs more publicity to show that we are putting back into the environment and are actively trying to make our passion for the outdoors sustainable. Over the past 18 years since statistics have been collected, clubs have averaged 4,471 hours per year of volunteer work on trails. In 2003 a mammoth 10,338 hours of volunteer work by Four Wheel drivers was contributed to keeping trails open so all of us can have continued access.

In Colorado alone there are 78 trails that have been adopted by 27 different Four Wheel Drive Clubs. There are also still another 20 plus trails waiting to be adopted. We are giving back and need to ensure people know this when radical well funded environmental groups start attacking our pass time. My thanks go to Doug Russell of CoA4WDCi for providing the statistics quoted in this article. For further information check out http://www.hightrails.org/adopt.html