Moab area off-road motorcyclists with the group Ride With Respect (RWR) recently worked with the Bureau of Land Management to complete construction of the Enduro Loop, a thirty-mile motorized single-track trail which goes from Levi Well to White Wash Sand Dunes on BLM-administered lands.
The trail traverses classic desert terrain north of Moab, and has become more popular in recent years. Three steep sections had been eroding at a rate of roughly one inch per year. A more gradual climb was needed to conserve soil as well as to preserve access to the trail.
“Essentially, the trail systems were already in place, but needed to be enhanced to accommodate many riders, for many years,” said Clif Koontz, executive director of Ride With Respect. “Around the trails that we’ve worked on, compliance has been very high.”
The steep sections on the decommissioned route alignment were reclaimed as part of the project. The new route alignments are more gradual and will be more durable as well as more enjoyable.
RWR volunteers worked with BLM to construct the more gentle grades with proper drainage. Where the grade could not be reduced, the group buried large rocks beneath the trailbed.
The thorough design and construction may appear to some to be excessive, said Dale Parriott, board chairman of Ride with Respect, but the intent is to create durable trails that will stand the test of time.
“At first, some riders may find the trail to be overbuilt, or even too easy. They probably don’t know how few resources we have to maintain trails. The bottom line is that trails have to be built to last.”
Stewardship demands of balancing Moab’s precious environmental resources with increased recreational-vehicle use are being partly met by RWR through educational programming and good trail management. RWR works to create and maintain multi-use trails, with those goals in mind, in accordance with plans set forth by the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
RWR has also worked on many ATV trails (less than forty-inches in width) and some 4WD trails for larger side-by-side and full-size vehicles.
“Limiting the number of vehicles of all types – mountain bikes, motorcycles, snowmobiles and ATVs – which often ride off-trail, through ignorance or careless regard for resources, to riding on established trails is the best way to guarantee a future for nature and recreation to co-exist,” said Koontz.
Twelve years ago, RWR began developing Sovereign Trail System on state land, including motorized single-track and an ATV loop, along with 4WD alternative routes that allow full-size vehicles to negotiate the loop. They then partnered with the School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA) to develop a similar trail system around upper Two-mile Canyon in the southwest La Sal Mountains. With help from the USFS, they rerouted a couple of motorized single-tracks in the Abajo Mountains. To date they have marked and delineated over a dozen motorized single-track and ATV trails surrounding White Wash, implementing BLM’s travel plan. RWR also rerouted more than six trails to avoid riparian areas, unstable soils and cultural resources.
Future plans include maintaining the trail systems on state land, Sovereign and upper Two Mile, and further improvements to many of the old trails on USFS and BLM lands. Many trails still need to be delineated (with signs, rocks, and entrance gates). Some need to be rerouted. More plans are to construct a few new trails that will improve trail connectivity and make the old trails even more useful, Koontz said.
Ride with Respect applies the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council’s Four E’s of management: engineering, education, enforcement and evaluation. Engineering refers to making trails that flow and drain (keeping people off of the drainage systems). Education refers to on-trail etiquette. Evaluation means monitoring trail conditions and making repairs as needed, and advancing the field of off-highway vehicle management, Koontz said.
“In my opinion, there should be a fifth “E” of management – ‘Enjoyable trails,’” Koontz adds. “There’s no substitute for providing the public with an ample quantity and quality of diverse recreational opportunities. When fun trails are nearby, it’s dramatically easier to steer riders away from sensitive areas.
When travel plans become too restrictive, gaining compliance can be a lot more difficult. We’ve developed a working relationship with the state and federal land managers. Our projects are helping to keep the trails open and in good shape.”
The work of RWR seems to have earned it the respect of those who recreate on public lands. Frequent Moab visitor and mountain biker Doug Odenthal said, “the local trail builders are doing a stellar job.”
Group advocates for well-designed, multi-use trails
“Essentially, the trail systems are already in place, but should be enhanced to accommodate many riders for many years. Around the trails that we’ve worked on, compliance has been very high.”