A view of the Colorado river from the Mary’s trail, near Moore Fun in Loma, Co. Photo: Matt Miller

Usually, when we hear about trail vandalism, there’s some intent to harm involved, by hanging a trip wire, or putting a log in the middle of a trail, or something to outright disrupt a mountain biker’s movement down the trail.

This case in Loma, Colorado, just down the road from Fruita is a little different. On November 24, the Daily Sentinel, a local newspaper reported that the Moore Fun trail had been vandalized.

“Several large rocks on the Moore Fun Trail, which had been strategically placed by the trail crew to improve trail sustainability, have been removed, resulting in dangerous trail conditions,” BLM Public Affairs Specialist Eric Coulter told the Daily Sentinel.

While these fairly routine maintenance operations make trails less susceptible to erosion and keep them in better order, it seems that there are some out there who would rather not have the trail teams in place.

BLM Ranger Mike Jones added to the Sentinel’s article, “Anytime we do trail maintenance, it ends up being pretty controversial. You’d think trail maintenance is pretty straightforward and easy, but people think you’re dumbing down the trails…”

To get a further understanding of the rock migration, we reached out to the Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association (COPMOBA) and asked them a few questions.

“The destruction of trail work done by both COPMOBA and other volunteer groups has been something that we have unfortunately experienced a number of times in the valley,” says COPMOBA member and co-owner of the Fruita pizzeria, Hot Tomato.

Keller says that she hopes the damage was exclusive to the Moore Fun trail, but hasn’t had a chance to examine other trails in the network. She believes that there is a disconnect in the community, and that it seems like some riders are taking the trail construction into their own hands, and swiftly.

COPMOBA says they have tried to be proactive about announcing trail maintenance projects and getting the word out, but the projects continue to be dismantled.

“I think how it feels to me is that an attitude in the valley has been allowed to develop where difficult trails or difficult sections of trail have been viewed as these sort of sacred cows immune to the needs of maintenance. There was another section built by a youth core crew in Grand Junction that was destroyed within 24 hours.” Keller added that this may in fact be because the location of the work was in fact well publicized.

“I think it could be a bit of a failure on our part as a trails community in our less frequent attention to difficult trails in light of easier trails generally seeing more use, and therefore needing more obvious maintenance.”

This also comes at a time when the trails are used more and more by tourists, requiring more maintenance due to sensitive soils and landscape in the desert.

So, not only is COPMOBA tasked with repairing the damaged sections of trail and maintaining the highly used sections of trail, now they have one other job, if there are in fact rogue trail dismantlers: Get them on the same page and make them understand the needs of routine trail maintenance and structure.

“Hopefully the end result of examining this is that we can find ways to both foster better care and attention to all of our trails,” says Keller. “And also come up with a collective agreement that the folks involved in the destruction will agree to cease doing so and instead add their voices to the mix in a productive manner.”

# Comments

  • Zoso

    I’m sure the changes are done naively. If my local trails suddenly sprouted rocks that looked as if the trail was dumbed-down, I think I’d move them as well. Sanitizing a trails is a pet peeve of many.

    Maybe in addition to community education, a sign should be left for a bit a the site of maintenance explaining the issue.

    Years ago someone did just that on Sovereign trail in Moab. People kept removing a rock ramp in favor of a 1′ drop. The sign went up explaining that the trail will degrade substantially without the ramp. The ramp stayed that way and eventually the sign came down. Win.

    Just a thought.

  • Sum Guy

    I think we all hate rock gardens.Not sure this is vandalism.

  • Oldandrolling

    Just another new feature to deal with. As long as they are trying to protect the integrity of the trail in is fine by me. If the result makes the trail less challenging, I go find a new one.

  • howlieboy

    I use to see that kind of vandalism on certain projects as well.
    Ignorance of the intent of the improvement could be a factor, people simply do not like change.
    While I can’t answer for every circumstance, dumbing down the trail is never the intent. Sustainability and usability a.k.a. rideability are the overriding reasons that improvements are usually made.
    While there is a small crowd that does not need any improvements at all ever, the viability of a trail that gets used even by a moderate amount of traffic most always does. If riders cannot ride a section they will inevitably go around the section or widen it in their efforts. That probably wouldn’t happen if it had been improved.
    Probably? Just like anything, it’s all about averages. You can’t stop people from trying, and I guess if they try hard and long enough they will eventually make it, but I will guarantee that beloved section will be destroyed because of it.

  • m.krupp

    Sounds as if the action was innocent enough. We are a cultural out of touch with nature. We all could probably stand to learn more and understand how to protect and preserve our trails and environment. I tend to agree with Zoso about putting up signage for a time. Maybe a generic weather proof sign could be posted (zip tied to a tree etc) near the new maintenance explaining new work was done proactively to protect trail system and to leave changes be. I think most bikers will respect that. Once again probably done out of ignorance and maybe even thought they were helping.

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