The Equestrian Trail Riders Alliance of Washington State - came in to being - after an informational meeting hosted by the Department of Natural Resources. That evening, those in attendance were informed that over $1 million had been set aside from the department's sustainable recreation capital budget for user-specific mountain bike trails on North Mountain, outside Darrington, WA. This information came as somewhat of a surprise to local horsemen who have ridden trails in the area for years.
|View from Stimson Hill|
After the meeting, Butch was speaking to one of the local representatives of the Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance. (These groups are large, well funded & well informed.) They were talking trails - trails in the North Mountain area & other areas outside Arlington, where an influx of bike riders have made their presence known in greater & greater numbers. Something was said about horsemen "aging out" & that those trails, made in many cases by horsemen, would be taken over by attrition.
On the way home, I couldn't help but think about all the horses in this state, all the money that is spent on their care & all the trails that we now are sharing... My thought was to start a Facebook page in the hope that it might unite Equestrians. A place where riders could go to find out about local trail issues, upcoming public land use meetings etc. What I've discovered since, is that there are so many horse related pages, organizations, etc. that trying to combine those groups into one large alliance is a daunting task.
As members of Back Country Horsemen - we are strong proponents of the largest & oldest nation wide Equestrian group that has traditionally lobbied for our continued use & expansion of Back Country Trails. That is a huge undertaking in & of itself! In volunteer hours converted to dollars, Back Country Horsemen Washington State alone contributed 2.5 million dollars to trail-clearing. Nation-wide that figure jumps to 11.2 million dollars.
The challenge, as I see it now, is our lack of a coordinated effort to protect our privilege to ride on Front Country trails - those trails that we use close to home for daily or weekly rides. Parking for horse trailers is the most limiting factor in where we can ride. Where parking is designated for horsemen - it's become the norm for those areas to be filled by small cars with bike racks. When I mention it - the response is usually; "Well, no one was here." What other users fail to realize is that when we do arrive - we need the space! Three or four friends who plan a morning ride - take up a lot of space & space for us is at a premium.
Horsemen have traditionally been non-confrontational, they keep to themselves & stay busy maintaining their farms, stables etc. Each discipline sees the others as different & very seldom do they mingle. That makes it so difficult for us to gain the numbers needed - to make enough noise - to be heard by local & governmental agencies.
Even on the local tree farms, traditionally our go-to place to ride, the bike presence continues to grow. New bike only trails have been built & more are in the planning stages. Without change, without horsemen stepping up & to attend public meetings, to write letters when riding trails are at risk of closure, or when we are told that we will be sharing our trails.... While new trails are built for single user groups - the future does indeed look bleak.