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    Editorial: OET VP of Public Lands

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    March 18, 2018
    I have been hearing from equestrian trail riders around the state who feel they are being pushed aside, left out, or ignored, and they don’t know what to do about it. Not everyone feels this way, of course, but enough do that it’s worrisome. The concerns come from several sources, including:
    •  Exploding Trail Use – some trails are now so crowded with hikers and mountain bike riders that they’re not fun to ride anymore.
    •  User Conflicts – the type of trail experience desired by mountain bike riders is often very different from what equestrians want, leading to unpleasant and potentially dangerous encounters on the trail.
    •  Land Manager Unresponsiveness – whether because they don’t understand equestrian issues or because their budgets have been cut to the point they don’t have the necessary resources, land managers may not respond to trail issues when we bring them up.

    On top of that, we’re vastly outnumbered by other trail users. We aren’t as young and physically strong as they are. We don’t have as much money. And a hotshot bike rider speeding around a corner can put us in the hospital. But what we DO have is brains, determination, wisdom, and experience. We have tools at our disposal, and we can work together to wield them more effectively. So how do we go about standing up for equestrian use of public land?  I suggest we let these three initiatives guide our efforts:  
    1. Focus on Keeping What We Have. I don’t hear equestrians saying that we need a lot more horse trails. Instead, I hear us worrying about losing what we have. Our trail access may be in jeopardy because of lack of maintenance, because of overuse by all types of trail users, because of the potential for dangerous mountain bike encounters, or because non-horse campers are using our horse camps. Focusing on keeping what we have will help us concentrate our advocacy efforts on things that will protect equestrian access.

    2. Fight for Equestrian Safety. I hear from riders all the time who tell me there are trails they no longer want to ride because of the number of mountain bike riders they encounter there. We need to develop strategies for dealing with this issue, so equestrians
    don’t stop riding the trails because we feel we are in danger.

    3.  Speak with One Voice:  OET needs to form a statewide public lands committee whose members will share ideas and expertise, develop strategies, and establish close ties with other equestrian trail groups. It’s that old “United We Stand” idea, and it works.

    If you have thoughts on these issues, or if you’d like to participate in the Public Lands Committee, please email or call me. I want your feedback. Together, we can make a difference!

    Kim McCarrel
    Kim McCarrel, OET VP of Public Lands

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