Saeger: As you hit the trails, respect wildlife closures and use proper etiquette
During this unprecedented time of the coronavirus pandemic, we are all trying to find connections that make us happy such as Zoom meetings with friends and family, Netflix, and many home projects. One outlet that we are fortunate to have in beautiful Eagle County is access to trails and public lands.
With ski resorts being closed and no desert escapes available, it is very noticeable that trail use has dramatically increased over the last month. This is a good thing. Exercising outside is known to not only improve your physical health but also your mental health. We encourage you to get outside but please do so in a responsible way. We are in this together and need to respect guidelines and policies or there is a chance we could lose access to trails and our public lands.
You can read further about how to recreate responsibly during a pandemic through the Eagle County Outdoor Stewardship Coalitions “Guiding Principles for Stewardship and Responsible Outdoor Recreation” and on our website. One of the most important responsibilities of getting on the trail is following proper trail etiquette. Just because we are in the midst of a pandemic does not mean that these principles are thrown out the window and forgotten. If you are a new trail user, please learn and practice these principles.
Seasonal wildlife closures
Many closures remain in place from the winter and many closures go into effect on April 15 until June 20 or July 1. The reason for the trail closures are deer and elk winter range, calving, and migration corridors.
Spring is a sensitive time of year for pregnant and nursing female elk. It is a fact that eliminating human disturbance with seasonal trail closures gives the wildlife time and space to nurse calves allowing them to become strong, grow, and survive. This promotes a strong calf/cow ratio and allows a herd to grow and be sustainable.
Want to help protect wildlife and educate trail users on the importance of seasonal trail closures? Learn how you can join our Wildlife Trail Ambassador program. For a full list of seasonal wildlife closures and what trails are open, visit here.
Muddy trails are closed trails
The damage from hiking, running, or biking on muddy trails creates a bad user experience for all and is very difficult for a volunteer trail worker to fix. In the end, you are wasting valuable trail maintenance efforts that could be focused on bigger trail projects such as reroutes and new trail building.
Be a community
We are all out on the trail for the same reasons — exercise, being in nature, socializing and having fun. Let’s remember that. When you approach other trail users be nice, smile, say hello, thank you, and have a great ride or hike. And remember bikers yield to hikers and equestrian users.
Leave no trace
Essentially leave the trail, trailhead, and nature as it was or even better than it was before you got there. Don’t litter and even pick up trash if you see it, stay on the trail and don’t disturb plants, flowers, and sensitive vegetation. And please clean up after your dog and understand local leash laws.
As a trail user, it is up to you to be a steward, take ownership, and understand, educate, and practice proper trail etiquette. As an advocate for trails and trail users in Eagle County, the Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance believes that practicing proper trail etiquette will improve trail experiences and make us healthier, happier, and ultimately will lead to an improved community of trail users, trail systems, and a sustainable environment.
Ernest Saeger is the executive director of Vail Valley Mountain Trails Alliance, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization VVMTA is the leading advocate for soft surface trails in Eagle County whose mission is to maintain, educate, advocate for, and build sustainable non-motorized soft surface trails while conserving the natural environment of Eagle County and our public lands. We promote stewardship of our public lands, sustainable trail building practices and a balance between recreation and conservation. The VVMTA manages trail advocacy programs such as Adopt A Trail and Wildlife Trail Ambassadors, coordinates and trains volunteers, educates outdoor recreational users, organizes events, and contributes its talents, guidance and time to support local land managers in various soft surface trail initiatives. For more information, visit https://www.vvmta.org/.