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    OET Members Take Away's from the Oregon Statewide Trails Coalition

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    November 13, 2017
    By Leslye Wing, Eugene Chapter

    In an effort to create a statewide trail advocacy group, a summit was held to encourage collaboration between all trail advocates. The idea is that one collaborative voice can speak to raise awareness for trail projects, as well as lobbying for funding or trail-friendly policies. This new group is referred to as the Oregon Statewide Trails Coalition.  Organizer Steph Noll spoke to us about the need to organize efforts to  benefit trails for the greater good. She called us “kick-ass” trail advocates, eager to work together to promote, maintain and improve Oregon trails. During the summit we were introduced to the benefits of trails, including physical and mental health and economic gains. We also discussed funding, which is a serious issue.
    Information in the Lobby
    Many groups had booths in the lobby.
    • American Trails Magazine – National organization promoting working together for trails for all interests
    • Travel Oregon – A semi-independent state agency promotes Oregon tourism. They believe Oregon’s Scenic beauty is our greatest asset and trails are the number one way to experience it. Travel Oregon implements a marketing plan which includes advertising, publication development, and tourism product development.
    • Metro - Metro works with communities, businesses and residents in the Portland metropolitan area, promoting and creating recreational opportunities and connecting trail systems.
    • Parametrix – Engineering and planning company using environmental solutions. Developing the Salmonberry Trail in Tillamook County.
    • Trailkeepers of Oregon - Taking action to save Oregon’s hiking trails via stewardship projects and volunteer trail maintenance. Committed to restoring proper funding for trails.
    • Progressive Trail Designs – Specializing in design and construction of soft surface trails and Mt Bike Parks.
    • Oregon Equestrian Trails – Of course!
    Keynote Address
    Bill Sullivan opened the summit with an inspiring and entertaining talk about why we are passionate about trails: creating adventure, learning history, finding solitude, experiencing beauty, and finally, the necessity to preserve our wild lands.
    Increasing Access
    We then heard about ways to increase access from the following groups:
    • Vive Northwest – Supports diversity in the outdoors by increasing Latino involvement in outdoor activities.
    • Oregon Adaptive Sports – The first blind woman to scale the Grand Tetons discussed the importance of outdoor activities for people with disabilities. Their greatest challenge is finding “buddies” and getting transportation to wild areas.
    • East Portland Action – Provides opportunities to poor, immigrant, or refugee communities to recreate outdoors by supporting walking and biking paths where they live.
    Tackling Overuse of Outdoor Resources
    Columbia River Gorge is a National Recreational Destination that is challenged by overuse.  Overcrowding, congestion, and ecological impact need to be balanced with tourism benefits, respect for the land, and recreation. Visitation in the Gorge was 4 million visitors in 2017, up from 3 million in 2014.
    Discover Your Forest stressed that we need to provide a mechanism for visitor participation and contributions.  They created a “$1 for Trails” campaign, whereby retail and hotel establishments ask if a customer would like to contribute $1 to trails with their purchases.
    SCORP Update
    The Statewide Comprehensive Outdoor Recreation Plan by Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is still in its information gathering stage. Their information regarding the importance of physical participation, health and social benefits, and beneficial tourism effects on local economies will assist all government agencies with trail management. They support walking trails or paths close to where people live. Trails have a desperate need for funding, with a $19 million deferred maintenance cost at this time.
    Community and Trail Updates
    Representatives of the following trail projects gave updates. Almost all stated that funding still needs to be found and maintenance is needed, but all are optimistic that completion is in the future.
    • Coast Trail – 372-mile trail along the beaches and coast.
    • Oregon Timber Trail – 670-mile, single-track, back-country mountain bike trail.
    • Metro Plan – Portland and surrounding communities plan for miles of connecting walking and hiking trails.
    • Salmonberry Trail - 84-mile trail over the coast range.
    • Historic Columbia River Hwy State Trail – From Portland to Hood River
    • Deschutes Trail Alliance – Discussed many mountain bike trail events in Bend area.
    • Forest Service – Promotes sustainable recreation with aspects of financial, social, and ecological factors.
    • Oregon Desert Trail – 150 mile trail-less route through remote landscape in NE Oregon.
    • Progressive Trail Design – Designing Big Sky Bike Park in Bend.
    • Klamath Trails Alliance – Constructing 50 miles of new mountain bike trails, promoting tourism.
    • Mt. Hood – 40 miles of new back-country mountain bike trails.
    • Applegate Trail – 50-mile hiker and biker trail along the Rogue River, from Jacksonville to Grants Pass/Applegate Valley.
    • Corvallis to the Sea Trail - A 50-mile hiking, equestrian, and mountain biking trail, from Corvallis to the Pacific.
    • Pacific Crest Trail – Had 100,000 hours of volunteer work last year, but it needs 300,000 next year, especially after the 2017 fires.
    • So. Oregon Coast – Proposes a 30-mile single-track mountain bike trail (Whiskey Run Trail System). Many water trails on wild and scenic rivers.
    • Silver Falls State Park and Salem – Adding mountain bike trails. Equestrian concerns needed to be considered during planning.
    • Hall Trail – Paved trail from Bend to Sunriver.
    • North Umpqua Trail – Due to 2017 fires, many bridges were destroyed, and they need money and
    volunteer help to re-build.
    • Team Dirt – Mountain bike group that has offered their services to OSU Research Forest (McDonald
    Forest) and Starker Forest to add and maintain mountain bike trails.
    Collaboration Models
    • Tillamook Water Trails – Created instruction and recreation guide for water ways.
    • Central Oregon Trails Alliance – Created to get consensus from all diverse trail stakeholders. Will
    provide guidance to public agencies, and promote public awareness of trails to its users.
    • Metro – Portland Urban Trail System, which has acquired 17,000 acres for 400+ miles of trails using following model: “Constant Contact, Communicate, Collaborate to achieve, Consensus, and Cash.”
    • Alta Planning – Created Rio Grande Trail in New Mexico, using concept of “Give and Gain.” 
    Next, attendees at each round table were to identify the needs that a Statewide Trails Coalition would  affect.   Funding, and working collaboratively seemed to be the most popular responses.
    Lastly, the First Gentleman (Dan Little, husband of Kate Brown) gave a closing. He worked for Forest Service for 30 years.
    Kim McCarrel, Central Oregon Chapter
    I was thrilled that we had so many equestrians there.  Between OET, Back Country Horsemen, and the Sisters Trails Alliance, we had 25+ equestrians, out of total of 180 attendees. That means we were 14% of the attendees! We split up and all sat at different tables, which means that pretty much everybody at the conference was exposed to the equestrian point of view, sometime during the day. Plus, we equestrians had dinner together the night before and the night after the conference, which gave us all a
    chance to get to know each other better. So much fun!
    Here are a few random observations from the conference:
    • A lot of people, including me, became more aware of the challenges facing the disabled, the poor, and minorities who want to use trails. Lack of transportation to and from the trails is an issue for all of them, and inaccessible trails are obstacles for many disabled people.
    • A lot of money is going into new trail projects; nearly all of them mountain bike trails and urban trails (for bikes and pedestrians).
    • More mountain bike trails make sense, because bike use is growing exponentially, and they need places to ride. More urban trails make sense, because they serve a lot of people, they make it easier for people to get outside and get exercise, and they have health benefits.
    • Many of the trail projects that were discussed were justified with statistics about the health benefits and/or the economic benefits of the project.
    • User conflicts are occurring all over the state, on all types of trails, and they’re often not being addressed very well.
    My takeaways from the conference include:
    • Both Travel Oregon and the Oregon Recreation Trails Advisory Council now “get it” that grant money is desperately needed for routine trail maintenance, and they’re taking steps to make this money available.
    • I applaud building more mountain bike trails, because every mile of bike trail that’s built takes some bike traffic off the multi-user trails we typically ride on.
    • I don’t see horseback riders asking for a lot of new trails. But we can ask land managers for other things, like keeping the access we currently have. And I don’t just mean that we’re allowed to ride on a given trail, but that we are able to ride that trail safely.
    • We need to be more of a thorn in the side of our land managers, reminding them not to throw us under the bus when they’re thinking about accommodating mountain bike use. Too often in the past, the easy solution for the land manager was to just let bike riders use all non-motorized trails. That approach has too often put horseback riders in harm’s way, and the land managers have an obligation to avoid that. While it’s great to build more bike trails, it’s not OK to continue to allow bike traffic on shared-use trails to jeopardize equestrians or chase us away because we don’t feel safe. For example, we might support the creation of a new bike trail in one of our parks, but 8 Riders’ Roundup November - December 2017only if a particular shared-use trail be made uphill-only for bikes so we are safer.
    • We will be more effective if we change the way we talk about trail conflicts. Instead of describing horse vs. bike conflicts, we need to talk in terms of fast and slow traffic. Land managers have unwittingly set up conflicts between trail users by allowing cars to drive on the sidewalk. Cars and pedestrians can mingle in parking lots, but only because the cars drive slowly there. But land managers can’t allow cars to drive at highway speeds on the sidewalk. Speeding bikes (and trail runners, too) endanger slower traffic (horses and hikers). If land managers can be made to see the issue in these terms, it will be easier to craft solutions to user conflicts.
    • I’m glad that Oregon Horse Country (which OET is a member of) is doing an analysis of the economic impact of horse ownership, because these statistics will help us justify our future grant requests, etc.
    Donita Elbert, Central Oregon Chapter
    There were several speakers who talked about the grants they’ve acquired from various entities to build trails in their area for hikers and mountain bikers. Though we had several OET members in the crowd, the equestrians, as usual, were very under represented by speakers at the podium and very seldom mentioned as an entity to be considered.
    While The summit, was mostly a networking session, the take away for me was that if we’re to have a voice, (or usable trails) in our future, we need to step it up!We need to ask our members to keep annual records on how much financial impact we have on tourism and the local community. It all counts! The purchase price of your horse, training costs, stabling fees, gas and diesel costs, truck and trailer purchases, hay, supplements, buckets, nets, ropes, tack, vet, farrier, insurance, hotel accommodations, campground and parking fees, and forest passes, and more!
    We need to work as one, showing Travel Oregon and others like them how much our dollars support our community and the state as a whole.
    We need to reach out to other horse groups, rodeo and show promoters, local stables, feed and tack stores, and ranchers, and ask them to help us support our cause.I fear that if we can’t show our economic impact, we’ll all be stuck in an arena (if you can find one), so get your thinking caps on and submit ideas and information to your OET chair or co-chair, so we can compile a cost analysis of our impact on the economy of Oregon.
    Leslye Wing, Eugene Chapter
    After the 20 trail project updates, it was clear to me that there are many trail projects in the works to increase urban bike and walk trails, as well as trails for mountain biking. I think all the reasons for these trails are justified: getting people out in nature, exercise, and tourism draw. Considering OET’s effort to maintain and keep our equestrian trails and camps, I see us fighting just to keep existing trails safe and enjoyable for horses and riders. Not only are other users getting more trails, but they want to use and possibly over-run trails that we use. We need to expect that trails for equestrians are kept safe and non-crowded and that our access is protected. We need to be at the table at all trail plannings, so that we are not lost in the crowd.  I would have liked an equestrian speaker. In hindsight, we could have given a short talk about our historic contribution to trails in Oregon and our concern for the loss of access and safe trails for horses.  Sadly, I did not hear any discussion or concern regarding the need to protect wild places and ecosystems from the increased trail construction and use. Are bird watchers, hunters, wild animal advocates, anglers, or watershed advocates going to wish they were part of the discussion?  User conflict was not an issue discussed at the summit. I think Kim has the right idea that when talking to others about horse vs. bike conflicts, it’s mostly a speed issue. This reminds me of an answer given by a mountain biker when asked, “How fast do you ride?” The answer given was, “We can go 30 mph downhill.” Fast traffic and slow traffic do not belong on the same roadways—especially narrow ones.
    Becky Wolf, North Valley Chapter
    Travel Oregon and mountain bikers are in lock step and appear to consider one another mutually beneficial and profitable. Urban building seems to be receiving significant support. We equestrians need to constantly remind trail managers, advocacy groups, planners, and builders that we are out there and that we also need support, money, and resources.
    We need to be more self-reliant because:
    • We don’t quantify our contributions to health or economy.
    • We don’t have a simple continuous flow of trail maintenance money.
    • We don’t have state-level presence and lobbyists.
    • We aren’t unified, nor are we outspoken about, or backed by, tourism.
    • Our population is smaller.
    • We may ride more localized.
    We are part of a bigger system, and although we can make some changes, we need to learn to exploit the heck out of what we have by:
    • State-level lobbying
    • Adding a state-level land use representative
    • Quantifying our financial impact to economy
    Barbara McKillip, Eugene Chapter
    The final session of the day was a strategic planning session with the people at your table. My table included Phil Chang, staff member to Senator Jeff Merkley. Phil serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which has jurisdiction over all discretionary spending in the Senate. According to Phil, Senator Merkley and the Senate Appropriations Committee have received no requests from constituents asking for more funding for trail maintenance and trail building. He said that unless we tell our representatives to make trail funding a priority, it won’t happen. Phil suggested the best way to show our support for more trail funding was to call the local office, make an appointment, and go in for a chat. Along this same line, I realized, after a particularly disheartening private conversation with a mountain biker, how crucial it is for us to keep reminding our representatives how important it is to keep our wilderness areas bike-free. I can honestly say that after this meeting, I can easily envision in the not-too-distance future the wilderness as one of the few places we can still ride our horses —and hopefully ride them bike-free.
    Rhonda Marquis, VP of Field Services
    The trail summit made me very aware of the need for equestrians to speak out about trail and horse camp concerns. It came across more as a bike trail summit. We will need to be prepared to make a presentation at the next summit.
    • We are better informed about money that’s available.
    • This summit has helped us realize the scope and influence of other trail users.
    • Keeping in frequent and close contact with our land managers is paramount.
    • While supporting the building of new bike trails I see an opportunity for equestrians to work toward separate trails for horse & bike riders.
    • Equestrians can’t count on the assumption that if more bike trails are built then there will be less bike riders on Pack & Saddle trails.
    • Trail conflicts truly are a speed problem between users. I like Kim’s analogy of cars on sidewalks.
    • There needs to be more public service ads on TV and radio to inform the public about volunteering on trails. Where are notices from Discover Your Forest going? Social media may not reach older trail users who want to get involved and have the time to do it.
    • We need to use Travel Oregon’s expertize to promote Oregon’s Horse camps and trails to out-of-state equestrians. I don’t see a huge increase in usage, but it should help us maintain access to them.
    Barb Adams, Mt. Hood Chapter
    In general, the summit was excellent: good topics and speakers, well thought out, organized, and on time.
    Here are some of my thoughts after the event:
    1. I felt rather overwhelmed by all of the projects and money being spent on bicycle trails.
    2. Living in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, I am very aware of all the problems caused by overcrowding in the Gorge. I am glad to see that Travel Oregon had overcrowding on the agenda, but worry getting dollars into the Gorge will override the protection of resources. The impact on the Forest Service, the volunteer fire departments, and the Gorge itself must be mitigated.
    3. We need to work with others where we can, and fight where we are getting pushed around or not considered. Keeping in close touch with our agencies is vital to this effort. What can we do state-wide? Can Travel Oregon money be tapped to fund trail maintenance?
    4. Who will be our leaders in the state-wide coordination with “higher powers” such as Travel Oregon? How will we communicate? Do we need to have a separate equestrian summit or have members who attend both OET and Backcountry Horsemen’s annual meetings discuss what needs to happen now?
    5. When I was a Wilderness Steward, the touchstone was “Protecting the Resource.”  Thank you for an excellent next step. And thanks to Kim who did an excellent job of arranging dinners and asking equestrians to attend.