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Observations on a Vision for Wickenburg – Part 5

If we value the legacy of Wickenburg, then preserving its culture, history and habitat offers the hope that we can carry them forward to future generations in a way that is faithful to the past.

In Part 5 of this series, I attempt to articulate a vision statement which deals with an aspect of Wickenburg that virtually defines its beauty and attraction to residents and visitors alike. That is — scenic open space — and particularly the places where there are horse and hiking trails. As with my article in Part 4, “Conservation — Light Pollution vs. Dark Skies,” open space and the trails around Wickenburg are threatened and at risk of being lost — not only to future generations — but to you and me in our lifetime.

Horse Trail
Figure 1, Horse Trail

Preservation of Trails and Habitat

We are supremely blessed to be in an area that possesses remarkably scenic lands, unique riparian areas, clean air, dark skies, rugged and historic terrain. These qualities are deeply valued by many Wickenburg residents and are undoubtedly important reasons why seasonal visitors come to our area.

It is conservatively estimated that there are more than 500 miles of horse and hiking trails within a distance of fifteen miles to the east of Wickenburg. If you think about it, that is an astounding number! By comparison, the entire metropolitan Phoenix area has 177 miles of foot and biking trails; with a working plan to add another 623 miles to interconnect the outer perimeter of the valley with central trails in future decades. To all intents and purposes, those efforts will involve the manufacturing of urban trails in their expanding metro area. Because the valley has already buried most of its land under asphalt and concrete, trail construction will include the use of such “scenic” habitats as canal banks, where hikers and bikers can safely travel until they reach another paved street. Some of the future perimeter trails may even afford hikers the opportunity to briefly ascend above the pollution that blankets the valley. More ambitious goals include eventual trail construction to places like Big Hell’s Gate; which would be the closest approach of this trail system to Wickenburg.

Without leadership from the Valley Forward organization, a private group with sponsorship from 250 corporations, cities and towns in the valley, there would be few, if any, trails in the valley today; much less a vision to create future interconnecting trails. In case you are wondering, our town is not a member of Valley Forward, so it has no voice in this group’s vision or future plans. It is much to their credit that Valley Forward is trying to restore something which has been lost; even if it will come at great expense and take decades to achieve.

In contrast to metro-Phoenix, we can claim the inheritance of a vast trail system that has been handed down to us from past generations. These trails — foot paths, historic stage coach roads and pack trails — are the legacy of Native Americans, pioneering miners, ranchers and unique individuals who have made efforts to preserve them. Some trails are truly ancient, while others date “only” to the 1860’s and later. To gain an appreciation of how extensive, but still undeveloped, the trail system is around Wickenburg, here are a few indicators:

  • In his book Desert Hiking — Out Wickenburg Way, Dana Burden documented thirty-two trails, of which half are suitable for horses. I have little doubt that he knew of many more trails than he chose to include in his book. Nevertheless, his years of efforts left us an important legacy to which we are greatly indebted.
  • Sixty-six horse trails, totaling approximately 495 miles, have now been either defined or documented (See Footnote 1) using GPS tracking tools. Most of these are east of town and some share common trail segments.
  • Only a few horse trails have been defined to the south and west of Wickenburg. This includes the areas east, south and west of Vulture Peak. None have been formally documented to the standards required by various governmental agencies.
  • Only a few of the hiking trails east of Wickenburg have been formally documented. Most still require extensive research, including clearing efforts and assessment.
  • There are many horse and hiking trails leading north toward Congress, Yarnell, Wades Butte and Seal Mountain. Few of these have been documented to various government agency standards.
  • Except for Vulture Peak, most of the hiking trails to the south and west of Wickenburg remain undocumented.

The exact number of horse and hiking trails is still unknown today, but is certain to far exceed 500 miles in combined length once all have been recorded. This claim is backed by research of old maps that show pack trails predating 1900 and by examining old aerial photos that reveal trail links between long abandoned mines, mills and settlements (See Footnote 2).

Why Are Trails Important to Wickenburg?

If you are a hiker or horse rider, you already know the answer — it is an important aspect of your quality of life. For everyone else, horse trail activity brings approximately $16 million to our local economy each year. There has been no comparable study of the impact that hikers may have.

But this cannot be the only yardstick for assessing the “value” of trails to our community. It is far more appropriate to say that open space and trails are integrally connected with all other factors that attract people to our area. If you can agree with that view, then these factors are equally vital contributors to our local economy. Perhaps one way to personally qualify these values is to answer the following questions:

  1. If current and future residential developers cut off all public access to open spaces and trails around Wickenburg, would you choose to live in or visit our town?
  2. As a resident of Wickenburg, if you “lost” access to existing trails, would you conclude that your quality of life had been degraded?
  3. If every horse or hiking trail that you used was filled with ATVs or dirt bikes, would you seek other places (away from Wickenburg) that provided greater safety and solitude for your activities?

Why Are Our Trails and Open Space at Risk?

Population Growth: Area residents may recall that Yavapai County mailed you a document titled “SR 89 Planning Study Wickenburg-Congress” in December 2007. Its purpose was to describe the characteristics of a future four-lane divided highway and readers were referred to a web site that contains the full study (See Reference 1). A rather sobering map depicts the projected geographic size of the population center defined as “Wickenburg-Congress” as it is likely to appear in 2050. See the oval area outlined in Figure 2.

2050 Population Centers
Figure 2, 2050 Wickenburg Population Area

The projected resident population within the future Wickenburg town limits is forecast to be approximately 28,000 by the year 2050. During the same period, Congress’ population could increase to the range of 10,000; although census projections seem to be a bit imprecise. Meanwhile the state’s overall population will have increased to the range of 16 million (See Reference 2). The studies do not address increases of seasonal visitors to our area.

As land is acquired by developers to provide future homes and businesses in this population center, there is absolutely nothing to prevent the developer from closing off public access to trails that may pass through their land. Similarly, they could block access to trails on public land. Even if we could succeed in keeping trail access open to public use, the addition of eight million state residents (many of them on our southern border) will place an unimaginable strain on these trails if they remain in their current unregistered and unprotected condition.

Jurisdictional Issues: Wickenburg is surrounded by BLM and State Trust lands that are richly endowed with trails. The BLM will recognize a properly documented trail only if it is entirely located within their administrative area. If the trail originates in, or crosses State Trust or private land, it is not considered for trail registration — even though the trail may have existed in the area for 100 years or more. State Trust land is, to put it bluntly, a “land bank” for future developers. There is no guarantee that a trail on State land can be preserved in perpetuity and is, therefore, at risk. In any case, most of the trails in our vicinity are in Yavapai rather than Maricopa County and are of no interest to our Maricopa County officials.

Funding Issues: Budgetary restrictions severely limit the stewardship that is (or could be) provided by the BLM and State Trust Land agencies. County agencies — both Maricopa and Yavapai — are more focused on areas with higher population density where they are able to concentrate their limited resources in an effort to prevent or mitigate the destruction of recognized and “managed” trails.

Mixed Use Competition: Horse riders emphatically do not want to be on a horse trail that is frequented by ATVs or dirt bikes. Such encounters constitute real safety hazards to inexperienced riders and horses alike. OHV users don’t seem to understand this, or care. Unfortunately, many horse trails are attractive to OHV users because they are often in proximity to roads or washes; thus, they are easily accessible. Hikers tend to use trails that provide separation from horse and OHV activity. In other words, there is very limited competition between hikers and horses for the same space, but there is a persistent and ever increasing threat to horse trails from OHV use.

OHV Dust
Figure 3, OHV Dust

When a traditional horse or hiking trail is forfeited to off road vehicles it means that hikers, horsemen and women have been forced to abandon a favored and long used area to seek trails that are both more remote and difficult for OHVs to find or use. It also means they have been pushed increasingly out to the geographic fringes beyond Wickenburg. If you press that issue far enough, you could force these individuals to places that generate revenue for other towns — to the permanent economic loss of Wickenburg.

Regulation and Enforcement: The Arizona Game and Fish Department estimates that OHV use has more than tripled since 1998. Such heavy use has led to numerous illegal trails that damage the natural watershed, causes erosion, destroys vegetation, disrupts wildlife and cattle and increases dust pollution. Yet, in spite of these well recognized negatives, the state legislature has never passed a bill that would address these issues. Figure 4 shows the damage that has resulted from one of numerous illegal trails in our area.

Illegal Trail
Figure 4, Illegal Trail

State and BLM land managers will tell you that it can take up to 140 years for the desert to recover from OHV use — assuming that all OHV activity has been terminated. One BLM study on the effects of OHV activity states that “Once damaged or destroyed, it may take 300-500 years per inch for soil stabilizers to recover or return to their original state.” I am hard pressed to visualize how nature will self-recover from the thoughtless damage inflicted on this steep hillside. See Reference #3 for additional information.

What we are left with is an area surrounding Wickenburg that should be of extreme interest (economically and as a heritage) to all of us, but which has been largely ignored by all of the right people for reasons that are jurisdictional, regulatory or budgetary. This means that individuals who actually use these lands for recreational purposes are left to their own devices and intentions — whether as an act of good stewardship or in a destructive manner. Regardless of the disparate and conflicting governmental jurisdictions, Wickenburg has the greatest stake in the future of the land that surrounds us and we need to take a much more visible stand in favor of the survival, quality and use of trails in our area.

Vision for Trail Preservation

1. Foremost, if the current and future leadership of Wickenburg remains content to simply harvest the economic benefits of open space and trails around our town — as if it was an irrevocable birthright — then future successes in preserving horse and hiking trails will be exceedingly few and far between. It is far more likely that we will loose our legacy, including the legacy of trails left to us by Dana Burden. Instead, Wickenburg’s town government needs to demonstrate visible, active and durable leadership — not just to its own residents — but to county, state and federal agencies to show that it is serious in its intent to develop and preserve these priceless trails. Frankly, it doesn’t matter that most of them lie beyond current town borders. There is no local government better positioned to take a strong advocacy stance with other agencies than Wickenburg. It is certain that no other town stands to gain (or loose) more from the success or failure to preserve these trails.

You may not have known, but our town has a Trails Committee that is comprised of dedicated volunteers who work under the auspices of the Wickenburg Conservation Foundation (WCF). This group works with the BLM, Yavapai County, Prescott National Forest and other occasional agencies to document and register horse and hiking trails. There is a great sense of cooperation toward a common goal, but it is an exceedingly difficult effort due to conflicting inter-agency interests, legal requirements and lack of funding, etc.

The Trails Committee has recently succeeded in registering a horse trail on BLM land in Sophie’s Flat, east of town. See Figure 5. This trail connects to the larger trail system and is an important accomplishment. Much work remains before this trail system can be considered safe, including the installation of trail markers, maps and kiosks.

Conflicted Horse Trail
Insert Photo: Figure 5, Conflicted Horse Trail

You wouldn’t know it from the photograph above, but this is a designated horse trail. The ATV tracks would seem to indicate otherwise. During the process of registering the trail, BLM surveys showed that motorcycles (dirt bikes) had been using the route, so the trail was technically designated as “multi-use”; thereby permitting dirt bikes and horses on the same path. It could take additional months of regulatory effort to reclassify it as a single-use horse trail. In the meantime, ATV riders will continue to drive around the barricade and use it to the risk of horses and riders. From start to finish, the Sophie’s Flat Trail took six months of coordinated effort to complete the research, documentation and signage effort — and that was considered to be a fast-track project.

2. The Trails Committee needs more support from citizens and town government than it currently receives. Public education would help, but financial support of its efforts is also needed. The committee depends upon voluntary donations to pay for the cost of barricades, markers and kiosks.

3. Some of the towns and cities that participate in the Valley Forward program have (belatedly) begun to require developers to provide trail access to the dwindling open spaces that remain in their area. When you consider that Wickenburg’s legacy (at least from a public relations standpoint) is founded upon “open space”, we can do no less. It is vitally important that Wickenburg enact and enforce ordinances that will require developers to protect access to existing trails. This means that trails must be documented and posted before developers move in. It also means that the master trail plan needs to be incorporated into Wickenburg’s Master Plan.

4. Conflicting inter-agency definitions of trails need to be resolved so that the entire route of any trail is equally recognized and protected. When a historic pack trail or stage coach road was cut through the wilderness in 1860, this was territorial land. (Actually, it was Indian land.) The State Land Trust and BLM did not exist. At present, any trail that passes from BLM to State Trust jurisdiction or that crosses private land and then back to BLM again is not considered.

5. Arizona House Bill 2573 offers real hope that OHV users will be required to pay fees that will target habitat and trail damage as well as dust pollution. Bipartisan support is much stronger than last year and there are 40 sponsoring groups. The bill would also fund trail signage, impose fines against OHV users who disregard the safety of people or property, damage wildlife or riparian habitat, use roads or trails that are closed by a government agency or private property owner, and other very welcome measures.

6. Finally and perhaps most difficult, mixed use trails do not work. No horse rider or hiker wants to find themselves enveloped in a swirling cloud of dust from a passing group of ATVs or dirt bikes — particularly if the trail already prohibits the use of motor vehicles. One single ATV can cause riders and hikers to abandon a long used trail system. Wickenburg and other governmental agencies need to develop a rational trail system that provides and enforces separate trails for these highly disparate users. As Wickenburg increasingly annexes land to fuel its growth, it will find itself the legal steward of more trails over time, including those that are in a state of conflicted use. It had better have a plan to address these issues — and a means to carry it out.

7. OHV organizations must also be willing to work with the Trails Committee to help in the identification and documentation of legal OHV trails in our vicinity. These groups must be willing to underwrite the cost and effort of documentation, signage and kiosks in the same way that horse riders and hikers do.


  1. The terms “defined” and “documented” are not a play on words. Many trails have been recorded using GPS tools to provide reference information that satisfies the personal standards of a rider or hiker. Dana Burden recorded GPS data for all thirty-two trails in his book. The process that is required to meet the documentation standards of various governmental agencies — so that a trail can be officially recognized and protected — requires that a more stringent set of criteria be followed. The GPS track and waypoint data must be converted to different formats to meet inter-agency requirements. These efforts, though tedious, are but one of the many functions of the Wickenburg Trails Committee.
  2. Old mining district maps can provide clues to trail locations, but were not always documented to scale. The USGS 1902 “Congress” map is perhaps the earliest reliable resource for identifying pack trails and stage coach roads east and north of Wickenburg. Old aerial photos reveal trails that can date to the 1860’s and earlier. A route that was persistently used will be visible for many decades even though it has been long abandoned.


  1. For more information on this important planning document, go to http://www.co.yavapai.az.us/Content.aspx?id=27104 for the entire report. See also the report titled “Growth Impacts and Challenges — Arizona and the MAG Region”. Go to http://www.mag.maricopa.gov/detail.cms?item=5320 for this extensive report.
  2. State population estimates are derived from multiple sources based upon the latest 50 year projections. Wickenburg population estimates are essentially derived from the same sources.
  3. See http://www.fort.usgs.gov/products/publications/22021/22021.pdf. This 225 page study, published in 2007, details the impacts that OHV traffic has on our fragile desert environment. The article title is “Environmental Effects of Off-Highway Vehicles on Bureau of Land Management Lands: A Literature Synthesis, Annotated Bibliographies, Extensive Bibliographies, and Internet Resources.” Authors include Douglas S. Ouren, Christopher Haas, Cynthia P. Melcher, Susan C. Stewart, Phadrea D. Ponds, Natalie R. Sexton, Lucy Burris, Tammy Fancher, and Zachary H. Bowen. This report contains sixty-three annotated bibliographies and hundreds of source references on OHV impacts.

Last 5 posts by Allan Hall

46 comments to Observations on a Vision for Wickenburg – Part 5

  • Brett M. Gerasim

    You’ve got good points all around, Allan. I don’t think people here realize that State Land is no preservation guarantee. It is possible, though more difficult, to take over BLM land, too. In both cases, we’re squeezed on one side by developers and on the other side by the ban-everything crowd. I don’t think we quite see eye to eye on ATVs and other off-highway vehicles. I hope that is not the case, because there are many groups out there who are just as dedicated as the horse and hiking groups. We need not throw one group to the wolves because we believe it improves our own chances of maintaining access or environmental quality. As the 7th point implies, we need as broad a coalition as possible, and reduce squabbling rather than promote it.

    Have you discussed “No Net Loss” legislation on here yet? I think that should be an important part of preservation efforts, too. If we’re going to use dedicated routes, we need to make sure that we don’t wind up with a situation where a growing number of outdoorsmen are concentrated on ever fewer trails. It might be something to explore in the future. Otherwise, you might win the battle but still lose the war via attrition.

  • Allan Hall

    You are certainly correct in your observation about the risk to BLM land. If you compare the amount of land under their administration today versus the 2050 forecasts, the area of BLM land will decrease over time.

    With respect to ATV/OHV users, I know a number of fine folks who are committed to good stewardship practices. They are not, however, the ones that concern me. They also are not the individuals who produced the effects shown in Figures 3-5. If you know any OHV groups that would like to help remediate the illegal hill climb trail shown in Figure #4, please let me know! I will be more than happy to put them in touch with several BLM officials.

    I ommitted references to the “No Net Loss” topic primarily to conserve space in an already lengthy article. In summary, if part of a trail had to be rerouted to ensure that it was entirely on BLM land, then an equal amount of BLM land already in use would have to be given up. This very likely means that some existing horse and hiking trails on BLM land could be lost. The issue is made more complex when you factor in State Trust and private land.

  • Brett M. Gerasim

    I’ll see what I can do, although I am pretty limited timewise. We’re both running into what I like to call the fragmentation issue. It does make you appreciate all the more how hard Dana Burden worked on this, doesn’t it? There are plenty of places at the table, and all the seats need to be filled, but getting the word out is hard and highly dependent on who you know and how well you know them. I know that this is a major concern/difficulty of BLM’s (it is mentioned at length in that OHV report you linked up to), and I’m sure the same thing happens at all levels of government. Like you said, though, folks aren’t used to thinking about the long-term viability and planning of the public lands and their offerings because they’ve always been there.

    I do think that communication among the various groups is improving, though. The turnout on proposed Town Ordinance 984 (large animal restrictions) was impressive, with the ranching and horse communities putting forth quite an effort. Perhaps that will develop into a network of sorts.

    Incidentally, for those of you in any of the various outdoor communities in the Wickenburg area, if you have an event that I could help promote, feel free to stop in down at the Old Livery or email me.

    Have a great day, and I’ll see you around.

  • James Ferman

    You make some excellent points, Allen. You’ve taken a lot of time to research this issue and your love and concern for our area is quite obvious. The citizens of Wickenburg are slowly awakening to what is going on here, and you are an excellent narrator to expose the real goings on here. Unfortunately, the problem lies in the fact that apathy runs rampant. The only real cure is for people to become actively involved and be willing to make self-sacrifice in order to right a wrong. People need to dig deep and determine just how much they want to give of themselves in order to affect change. We need to encourage responsible individuals to run for Town Council in order to truly dictate this change. The powers-that-be in town are counting on the fact that in the past this apathy allowed them to do whatever they wanted. Up until now this small group has followed the principle that money is the desired end product (the only end product). How long will it be that this apathy continues?

  • Allan Hall

    Hello James:
    I would prefer (optimistically) to think that what you characterize as apathy is actually lack of public information. When citizens are well informed and understand the long term issues, I would like to think that they will respond in a positive manner. Unfortunately, the Town of Wickenburg has been content to simply reap the economic benefits that horse trail and hiking activities bring to us, but it contributes nothing to the preservation, management or improvement of these trail systems.

    If the current or future Town Council, manager and mayor come to understand that this is an important issue to residents and seasonal visitors, I would hope that they will respond with actionable agendas to address these complex issues.

  • Allan Hall

    Hello Brett:
    As you said, “folks aren’t used to thinking about the long-term viability and planning of the public lands and their offerings because they’ve always been there.”

    I couldn’t agree with you more! We are easily wrapped up in our day-to-day issues and rarely think about the long term prospects for the environment that surrounds us. In my view, today’s residents of Wickenburg are the ones who must meet the challenge of the future to maintain open space and trails.
    If we leave that task to future generations, it will be too late. Indifference bears a very high cost.

  • Daryl

    Dear Allen:

    Great article! But, once again, you have lumped all OHV users under the same stereotype. Reminds me of the folks railing against them thar infernal iron horses and horseless carriages back in the day. Or when racists say “blacks are lazy.”

    BTW, Arizona OHV users have been paying registration fees and fuel taxes to mitigate problems, provide opportunities and education, as well as enforce regulations for many years, since State Sen. Doug Todd was able to pass his legislation, championed by the OHV community statewide, and signed into law by Govenor Rose Mofford.

    Unfortunately, the state legislature has seen fit to eviserate these efforts by redirecting most of the funds collected to the Highway Users’ Revenue Fund. Perhaps your ire should be directed towards your representatives for their failure to uphold the will and wants of the people by refusing to provide funding to enforce existing laws.

    Furthermore, horses are no more indigenous to the Southwest than any other technological advance. Just another thing the Europeans brought with them.
    What should give them precedence over any other form of transport?

    The elite status of most equestrian users as compared socio-economically with their motorized brethren?

    Why can’t we all get along and share? I have no qualms sharing my street with horses, and they don’t pay any road taxes. Yet.

    Thanks again for the opportunity to comment, please keep your articles coming. But I will continue to point out perceived bias and prejudices.

  • James Ferman

    Allen- A lack of public information is one thing, but in this situation, the information is available, but people have to be open to educating themselves and be willing to invest the time to get involved. In Wickenburg, people tend to remain uninvolved until the time comes when something occurs which directly involves them. There have always been a few people who have stepped up to the plate and who have made the effort to attempt change, but unfortunately it always seems to be the same people all the time. We need to see more folks who care about themselves and care about the future of Wickenburg get up off their butts and do something. It would be too bad if it continues as it is- waiting until its too late to do anything.
    The more you become involved, Allen, the more you will realize that our town officials are most concerned about the almighty dollar. It’s sad, but if you take the time to review their past actions you will note that they do everything they can to promote developers and change rezoning to allow for maximum roof counts. They speak out of both sides of their mouths- they say they want to preserve Wickenburg’s flavor, but their actions dictate otherwise.
    Allen, I really don’t want to portray myself continuously as Mr. Doom and Gloom, but I have lived here now for 19 years and I have seen a town where democracy doesn’t seem to matter one bit. Our leaders get an idea in their heads and will pursue it without any reference to what the majority of the citizens want.

  • Daryl, I assume you’ve never been on the back of a terrified horse who is galloping out of control because a pair of loud quads have just come screaming around a bend in the trail. I was one of four riders who went on a more exciting ride than I bargained for. My friend was thrown and suffered a broken arm.

    It’s nice to say “share” but in reality, that’s not always possible.

    Yesterday, my husband and I went out for a ride in Cemetery Wash. I heard a quad coming and slowed my horse to make sure he could also hear the arrival. When the rider saw us, he slowed down and passed politely. He was a good, responsible rider. When he passed us again on the way back, he even apologized for possibly bothering us.

    But not all riders are like he was. The two guys who sent our four horses running for safety weren’t thinking about sharing. They only cared about how fast they could scream up and down the trails. They didn’t even stop to help when my friend was thrown.

    I think that Allan, like most other area hikers or horseback riders, has probably experienced all kinds of quad riders and remembers the bad ones more clearly than the good ones. I’d love to go horseback riding down in the Box Canyon area, where my horse can walk in the water, but I can’t take him down there on weekends because of all the quads. I’ve seen too many narrow horse/hiking trails torn up by quads, so it’s not just the possibility of frightening a horse enough to throw a rider, but it’s the destruction of the landscape. Wickenburg has hundreds of miles of old mining roads and other dirt roads appropriate for quads. Why do these people feel a need to overrun the horse/hiking trails or cut new trails across the otherwise unmarked desert landscape?

    Please don’t accuse us of being unfair to OHV riders until you take an objective look at what some of them are doing to the area. Sure, it might be only 5% of all OHV riders doing the damage, but until it’s 0%, there will always be a problem. As a responsible OHV rider, it’s in YOUR best interest to talk to your fellow riders and urge them to be responsible — not to whine and complain when the people who have been seeing the effects of their carelessness and inconsideration speak up about it.

    As for equestrians — you’re wrong. There are far more equestrian activities in western states like Arizona than elsewhere throughout the country. Horseback riding is not a means of transportation as much as it’s an outdoor activity. Horseback riders rejoice in the slow, quiet crossing of terrain, being able to see and hear nature around them. Seeing the cactus and flowers along a well-worn horse trail crushed by OHV wheels isn’t what we’re riding for. If Wickenburg continues to try to sell itself as a “western” community, it’s in the town’s best interest to preserve this western tradition. It’s the only “western” thing we have left.

    I say: keep the horse/hiking trails for the horsemen and hikers. Put the quads on the old mining roads that already exist and in sandy washes that they can’t destroy. There’s enough desert out there for all of us. Horsemen/hikers don’t want it all. Why do the OHV riders?

  • John Wemesfelder

    Hats off to Allan for a great article!
    To Daryl- rather than use historical indigenous/nonindigenous as a factor for legitimacy, can we use ‘impact as perceived by other users’ as the measure?
    I’ve seen Tohono and Paiute foot trails in Arizona and California, and the impact of those footpaths is far less than that of horses or OHVs. The reality of the present is that we as a civilization need to provide for all three of the user groups, even though each user group presents negatives to the other user groups.
    Perhaps OHV users are the natural group to ‘jump on’ the legislature for diverting dedicated tax revenue.

  • Allan Hall

    Hello John:
    Your point concerning “indeginous versus impact” is well said. Every human activity in our fragile desert environment has an impact – and it is almost always to the harm of the habitat. When you compare the trail impact of a horse to that of an ATV, as in Figure #1 versus Figure #5) it becomes much more evident that foot and horse activity is far less damaging. To my way of thinking, horse riders and hikers don’t set out to destroy the land. Unfortunately, many of the OHV riders that I encounter conduct themselves in a manner that seems to be indifferent to the consequences of their actions. If there are OHV organizations in our area that are dedicated to the preservation of trails, they need to step forward.

  • Daryl

    I don’t have a quad or dirtbike, although I did have a couple motorcycles in my past.

    Maria, how am I wrong? I don’t believe there were horses before there were Europeans in the Southwest. Please correct me, please don’t just tell me I’m wrong. Transport? Recreational riding? Seems merely a matter of semantics.

    My family did use horses as transportation, and as farm implements, when my father was a boy 100 years ago. Since then, I guess we viewed them as toys or pets mostly. Not coming from the monied, or rural, side of the family nor being a horseman, my knowledge is lacking, but can’t a horse be conditioned to not overreact to outside stimuli? Didn’t they used to use horses in battle? Aren’t police horses taught to handle RIOTS?

    If you rearend me because I “stopped short,” why should I pay the price? Just because you failed to control your ride? I toot my horn, you drive your Jeep into a pole, it’s my fault?

    I’ve always been an advocate of the Less Sound=More Ground theory, staying on existing roads, trails and washes, and being courteous to other trail users. I shut off my truck, and my quad-riding buddies do the same, whenever we encounter equestrians; and wait for the horse peoples’ directions. I encourage other users to do the same.

    Indeed, Sam Steiger called me “a Great American” for taking what he termed “direct action” against OHV users attempting to make new, illegal trails in a Phoenix park. I’m also a past president of the Arizona Outdoor Coalition, former Land Use Director for the Arizona Desert Racing Association, and have worked with the Arizona State Association of Four-Wheel-Drive Clubs, as well as various state and federal agencies and am on record for supporting responsible OHV use and regulation. I am politically opposed to any form of prohibition.

    I have taken an objective look at the impact of OHV’s, and the real reality is that they do cause environmental destruction when used inappropriately (just like horseshoes and hiking boots), although not as much as the D-9 Cats that always follow as developers accommodate the population explosion. But in any case, should the responsible users be put to task because of the actions of a minor percentage of users that do cause problems? Seems patently unfair to me, the same kind of reasoning that saw the routine lynching of Blacks in my father’s young days in rural Missouri.

    And Maria, you’re whining and complaining about me whining and complaining about Allan’s whining and complaining? 🙂 I thought we were having a succinct online discussion.

    I don’t believe OHV users want it all. I believe you are presenting what is known as a “straw-man argument” in Logic 101 when you assert that.

    Maybe there is a legitimate reason for separating uses, but the argument is not bolstered by bias and prejudice.

    To John W.: Thanks for your comments. I think the various user groups are too polarized to use your perception measure. For instance, I believe federal Wilderness users should be banned from using Vibram soles, Nylon and Sterno, only taking natural, non-manufactured items into the wild. The Sierra Club, Columbia Sportswear and REI would disagree vehemently, I’m afraid. The OHV community HAS complained for over 35 years about the misuse of funds, but we aren’t a big enough voice. The Native trails you mentioned saw far less use than trails of today experience.

    Hope you all are having as much fun as me! Thanks again, Maria and Allan!

  • Daryl


    Your anecdotal evidence of fig.s 1 & 5 belies the fact, that in ACTUAL field studies, a motorcycle tire exerts less pounds per square inch than foot or hoof. ATV tires, by their very flotation design, exert even less pressure on the environment.

    Another anecdote: the late Johnnny Carson once let an ATV drive right over him as he reclined on the Tonight Show stage, to no ill effect. Imagine the result if Ed McMahon had ran across his midsection, let alone if it were one of the Budweiser Clydesdales. Or even Billy Barty’s Shetland Pony.

    In practice, misuse IS abuse, but no reason to banish an activity. Look at the photos of trail degradation near Tucson in the mid-eighties, caused entirely by overuse by eques- and pedes-trians. Don’t let your prejudices sway your reasoning abilities. There is a solution. We’ll find it.

  • Allan Hall

    I would simply invite you to read the 225 page report cited in Reference #3 of my article. You might also want to read the following literature, also written by scientists and researchers:

    – “The Impact of Vehicles on Desert Soil Stabilizers” by Howard G. Wilshire
    – “Recovery of Compacted Soils in Mohave Dsert Ghost Towns” by Robert H. Webb, John W. Steiger, and Howard G. Wilshire
    – “Soil and Plant Recovery After Historic Military Disturbances in the Sonoran Desert” by Anja Kade and Steven D. Warren
    “Anthropogenic Degradation of the Souther California Desert Ecosystem and Prospects for Natural Recovery and Restoration” by Jeffrey E. Lovich and David Bainbridge

  • Daryl


    No doubt Patton’s tanks impacted the Sonoran, as did the packmules and ore trains, riding on their narrow steel treads. Southwest of Superior, Arizona, one can still easily discern a trail cut into solid rock, made by wagon wheels over a century ago.

    And MISuse of OHVs has an impact today, just like the misuse of aluminum and packaging resources mars our countryside.

    But to catagorize all use as misuse, … how can we then take to heart the rest of your words? I also take OHV advocates to task when they show bias.

    But, on a positive note, please take a look at this thread pertaining to an East Valley OHV group effort last weekend:


    You’ll note other users wanted to cooperate as well.

  • Brett M. Gerasim

    The go-to folks for trail funding misappropriation, and the lobbying to correct that, are the American Motorcyclist Association. They usually do a few reports on that sort of thing every year. The main thing the larger OHV groups are working on at the moment concerns the trail designation on USFS managed land.

    I really don’t think anyone is talking about banning any activities, let alone keeping the entire pie for themselves. I certainly wasn’t, anyway. I can see how folks get offended over the stereotypes, though. That being said, I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t seen people behave inappropriately on OHVs. The same would be true about target shooters that don’t clean up their brass and don’t watch their backstops or folks whose “visiting” of old sites either involves taking a piece of it home or littering there. It is very hard, if not impossible, to reverse the damage these people cause, both in terms of environmental damage and bad blood with other user groups. It’s frustrating, because there certainly is enough space for all of us. This is supposed to be about keeping it that way, with an emphasis on the long term.

    The BLM report is a worthy read. Their findings about user group overlap are of note. I imagine BLM has a handout on erosion mitigation for things like that hillclimb? The AMA has a trail construction and management handout, but it does not seem suited to that problem.

  • Allan Hall

    I certainly am not an advocate of outright banning. Instead, I advocate preservation, responsible use of trails and respect for the safety of users and our habitat. That necessarily includes horse riders, hikers and OHV users.

    In one of my communications with the BLM, they have offered the following statement regarding the repair of illegal trail damage shown in Figure #4: “…if you, or someone in the Wickenburg Trail Committee, are willing to take the lead in helping us organize a rehab workday, we welcome the assistance and would be glad to offer what resources we can such as tools, trail rehab training expertise, and some signage. I estimate a group of 6 could get it done in less than 4 hours.”

    This is a great opportunity for folks to get involved, get some great training, and restore a small piece of our habitat. Sadly, there are three more illegal trails with comparable damage adjacent to the photo. There is another illegal trail less than a half mile away. Even so, the experience of repairing one trail could help us organize groups to deal with the others in this area.

  • Brett M. Gerasim

    Golly, Allan, you’re up as late as I am! We’re on the same page. Please keep us posted on that rehab project as things develop. Like I said, the store and my other businesses keep me pretty busy, but you never know.

    With regard to the litter situation, some of the items back there actually have value. The American Legion takes aluminum, and the Wickenburg Rifle Team is always glad to get brass. That gives folks an opportunity to turn a bad thing into something good. Otherwise, there are folks who pay for scrap metal, too. It might help pay for gas or feed, or perhaps to underwrite future projects for the WCF.

  • Daryl


    The web is great for organizing such an event. Look how many of us showed up for the trip to Bradshaw’s grave Maria hosted last year and check out the link I posted about the Four Peaks clean-up.

    I’d certainly be willing to participate. And, no, I don’t have a D-9 Cat :)!

  • John Wemesfelder

    To bring this back on topic, whether you ride a horse, an ATV, or your boots, the developers in Wickenburg couldn’t care less what you enjoy, because they enjoy the profits of uncontrolled development. It doesn’t take a Phd. to see that the local government (town council and Cof C) want commercial development, unimpeded by the interests of the general community here in Wickenburg.

    One has only to look at the pages of the ‘Wickenburg Sun’, and ask oneself, “when was the last time that a member of the local Chamber of Commerce wrote a letter to the Wickenburg Sun, criticising an action of the Town council?’

    Does the reader think that the developer members of the Chamber of Commerce have ever been stymied in their commercial efforts, but choose not to protest? Counter that with the almost continuous letters to the editor
    which protest the espoused position of the Publisher of the Wickenburg Sun. Those letters come exclusively from members of this community who do NOT have commerical interests here.

    Granted, the Publisher is an employee of Brehm Communications, and his paycheck is probably directly related to his advertising and subscription revenue, but the Publisher is also a member of the Board of the Chamber of Commerce. To think that the weekly column by this individual reflects a balanced concern for our community, is to think that Elvis is still in the building.

    The historical and cultural heritage of Wickenburg can be maintained, along with riding and hiking trails for all users. But this can only happen if each of us is willing to challenge the good old boy network, challenge the status quo, and take an active part in the community.

    Get Involved, and get your desires heard. Watch TV, and wish things were different!

  • James Ferman

    Amen, John! It is encouraging to see other people who have opened their eyes and are educating themselves and are willing to step forward and not be content to just complain and do nothing. Getting involved is what it is all about!

  • Allan Hall

    One of the earlier comments suggested that OHV tires (particularly dirt bikes and ATVs) exert less pressure, that is, fewer pounds per square inch than horse or foot traffic. It might be easy to conclude that OHV tires are therefore less damaging. Unfortunately, weight distribution based upon tire width or pressure is irrelevant to this argument.

    Except for sandy locations, any repeated activity, including even foot traffic, will compress the surface soil and lead to higher soil strength. This can reduce the ability of the compressed soil to absorb moisture – thereby increasing the potential for erosion.

    BLM research papers point to a number of factors (one paper examines seventeen) that lead to the degradation of habitat by OHVs. Principal among these are “shear stress” and “debris fans” that are caused by tire tread design and speed. In the case of shear stress, the tread bites into the surface, loosens the top soil, breaks down the soil stabilizers, and re-deposits the soil. Debris fans are produced when a vehicle makes a turn and ejects the soil across an area that may measure from a few inches to several feet. The greater the speed, the greater the impact.

    This is but one reason why the type of terrain used for OHV trails is so important.

  • Daryl

    I asked a woman who lives in California (which, with its population has had much more trail user conflicts than Arizona) to review this article.

    Here is part of her response:
    “As a person who off-roads and rides horses, I know both can get along. It’s simple; you spend time with your horse around OHV’s to desensitize your horse. I do that with my horses and so do most horse owners I know. OHV’s and horses can get along, it’s that simple. Educate your horse and educate OHV groups to be aware of horses.”

    BTW, when I was helping to work Sen. Todd’s bill through the legislature twenty years ago, I pushed for a noise level component as did the Arizona Motorcycle Dealers’ Association and the Arizona Cattlemans’ Association.

    It was shot down by state and county agencies as being too much trouble to enforce.

    But ultimately, like John says, population increase and development pose the biggest threats to outdoor recreation. That’s why I find it so appallaing when one user group labels another because of the actions of a few. How is it different from the lind of logic that says most illegal immigrants are Latino, therefore most Latinos are illegal? Seems to be the same form of bigotry, just a different target.

  • Micah

    Figure #4 is nothing but natural erosion. It will be back to normal within the year.

    The desert is self preserving. After every severe storm the desert awakes and comes back to life with amazing scenery, fresh blossoms, and little creatures scurrying around that seem just excited as we are to be out there.

    It truly is an amazing place. Offroad enthusiast just like to enjoy and experience it in a different mode then hikers & horse riders.

  • Daryl

    Please watch the video at: http://trailsintrouble.org/ It applies to our desert as well.


  • Wow, Micah, are you ever wrong on that one.

    It’s definitely erosion, but it certainly isn’t natural. And no, it won’t be back to normal in a year. I’m very familiar with the desert and it’s “self preserving” tendencies. I see, from the air, trails that haven’t been used in decades. Sure — you see them from the ground and there are bushes and shrubs in them. But from the air, they’re clearly visible as two-track roads.

    This particular view is not natural at all. It’s exactly what it looks like: the remains of a quad’s hill-climbing games after a few rainstorms have turned the wheel ruts into runoff streams. The only way that’ll go back to “normal” is if someone blocks the runoff streams with rocks and dirt and plants hearty native plants there. I guarantee that if Allan went back there this time next year — or five years from now — it’ll look the same, if not worse, than how it looks now.

    My husband and I own 40 acres of high desert land atop a mesa. Three two-track roads criss-crossed our land before we bought it and fenced it in 8 years ago. Our land gets far more precipitation than the Sonoran desert around Wickenburg, yet there are still traces of those roads from both the ground and the air.

    Please don’t try to brush off the damage done to the desert by man. Trails laid in by wheels, horse hooves (or cow hooves, for that matter), or feet leave scars that last a long, long time.

  • Allan Hall

    Foremost, you are entirely wrong in your assertion that this is “natural erosion.” The photo in Figure #4 is but one of four illegal hill climb trails in Blue Tank Wash near Sophie’s Flat. The trail in this photo, and the three to the right of the photo were created by OHV traffic. The BLM is quite aware of these illegal trails and is seeking support from volumteers to remediate the damage.

    Two of the trails have become so eroded that they have been abandoned by OHV users, who are now using the two newer trails farther east. There is also a new illegal trail less than a half mile away from this location that has been cut into the terrain within the last year.

    Second, this trail and the others will not self-heal within the next year. Without human intervention, they will never recover. What you see in this photo is the progressive damage from erosion that results from hill climbing activity. The BLM takes the position that no hill climb activities are valid, permissible or sustainable for habitat protection.

  • Allan Hall

    For anyone interested, here is a new BLM web link that outlines their policies and plans for use of BLM administered lands, including those that are defined as “opened”, “limited”, and “closed”.
    The web site is: http://www.blm.gov/az/outrec/travel_mgmt/index.htm

  • Daryl


    Thanks for the links, did you note that while OHV use has rapidly outpaced our population increase, less than 1% of BLM lands are fully open to OHV use?

    Did you watch the Trails in Trouble video?

    I am a firm believer in utilizing only existing trails, roads, washes and travelways, as are most OHV users. Between mining and cattle interests, there’s a trail to anywhere in Arizona.

    But as those trails disappear to development and restrictive government edicts, more users conflicts are inevitable.

    BTW, the state’s Arizona Off-Highway Vehicle Program has been up and running since 1991. It just limps because of its abusive, neglectful parents in the legislature.

  • Daryl

    Hey Allan,

    Did you find the time to watch that short “Trails in Trouble” video over the last couple of weeks?

    What did you think of it?


  • Daryl

    From the SUN:
    “BLM studies trails for off-road vehicles

    The Bureau of Land Management Phoenix District, Hassayampa Field Office is continuing to evaluate proposed Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Routes on public lands north of Phoenix.

    Public lands involved in this effort include the Wickenburg Mountains east of Highway 93 and north of State Route 74 as well as the Black Canyon Corridor west of Interstate 17, and the Lake Pleasant and Hieroglyphic Mountains areas north of State Route 74.

    The ultimate goal of this evaluation and designation process is to create a managed network of roads and trails within the field office that will be available to a variety of users while limiting impacts to the resources.

    Three maps have been created to provide a range of preliminary alternatives for consideration. The Proposed Route Alternative map seeks to create a management network of routes available to a variety of users while limiting potential impacts to lands and resources. The Alternative 1 map provides less OHV access due to dust management concerns, resource and land ownership issues, and other factors. The Existing Routes Alternative map reflects the current status of OHV routes and travel management.

    The maps are available for public review on the Arizona BLM website at http://www.blm.gov/az/outrec/travel_mgmt/index.htm. These maps and more detailed versions will also be available to the public at the BLM Phoenix District office.

    Public comments on the preliminary route alternatives will be accepted until Sept. 30. Written comments may be provided by mail, e-mail or fax. Tom Bickauskas, Transportation and Access Planning Coordinator, may be contacted at 623-580-5502 for more information.”

  • Matt Valenzuela

    As an OHV enthusiast who frequents many of the trails, I take issue with several of the statements in Mr. Hall’s article.
    His so-called conflicted horse trail is not conflicted at all. It has been designated by the BLM, as has all of the Sophie’s Flat area as multi use. While there may be trails designated for non-motorized recreation in the area, the one pictured is clearly not one of them. This begs one to ask why the apparently illegal barricade at the trailhead was placed there in the first place.
    In the early nineties, the trail system in the Phoenix Area was the subject of much controversy between mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians. On multi-use trails, a system of hierarchy was developed. The bikes yielded to everyone and the hkers yileded to the horses. It was pretty simple and made sense as horses can sometimes act independently of the rider since they have a brain of their own. There was angst at first, but it worked out well enough.
    Mr. Hall writes as though those of us who ride OHVs are somehow second class citizens and have less of a right than people who ride horses or hike to access trail systems on public lands. He should consider the fact that many of us engage in all three of these activities at one time or another.
    I will stipulate that there may be areas and trails more appropriately suited to horse and foot travel than OHV travel, but OHV groups can no longer afford to tolerate further access restrictions. One of the reasons for the current conflicts are the large areas that have been closed to OHV use entirely. Closing more will simply bring about more and more problems.
    The legislation that Mr. Hall mentioned, failed last year. Most OHV organizations and users supported this legislation. Most of us would agree that illegal trails, habitat destruction and other issues are problems in need of being addressed. We have also made it clear in the past that we are willing to “pay to play”. I wonder if those who participate in other forms of recreation would be willing to do the same. They would after all also benefit from the fees that we would pay.
    Some of the other responses bring up good points, as well. All of these areas, especially those on State Trust Land are in serious danger of development. This is not a time for us, public land users, to be bickering between ourselves. It is important to keep in mind that no matter what activity we engage in on public land, there is someone who thinks that we should not be allowed to.

  • Allan Hall

    Regarding your comments #25, #29 and #30: Yes I have viewed the video. Although the URL link is “trailsintrouble.org” the organization behind it is called “Advocates for Access to Public Lands.” The latter is a lobbyist organization. I was unable to identify any of the financial backers when I visited their web site.

    It was nice to see ATVs traveling on established trails at ten to fifteen miles per hour and not driving “wheelies” around cattle. Perhaps we could import some of the folks to Wickenburg. They could provide sensitivity training to the people in our neck of the desert who create illegal trails and dust clouds.

    Otherwise, it was a very nicely produced video…

  • Daryl

    How do you suggest we lasso the “rudes with a ‘tude”? Education will help in the future, but we’ve needed something NOW too long.

    Years ago I called on the USFS to impound vehicles destroying mountain meadows, then charge the violator with the cost of rehabilitation of the damage.

    The government’s response? “Too draconian.” But then areas are closed down to all but the most fit and able users, excluding a large segment of the population.

    Thanks for watching the video. I found the links you provided helpful as well.

  • Allan Hall

    Thanks for your comments. Regarding the trailhead at Sophie’s Flat, this trail significantly pre-dates the advent of ATVs and has been a horse trail for approximately five decades. It is presently designated for horses and dirt bikes (which makes it multi-use), but not ATVs. I would add that the BLM does not engage in the practice of creating “illegal” barracades.

    A way to understand the processes (and hurdles) involved in establishing a registered trail or trailhead is to become actively involved with the Wickenburg Trails Committee. At these meetings you will have the opportunity to meet “face to face” with BLM, Yavapai County, U.S. Forest Service and local town representatives. Other members (all volunteers) are local residents who are deeply committed to preserving – and protecting – the system of trails in our area.

  • pipelineaudio

    Excellent article! I’m glad to see others express some of the concerns I have, not just for Wickenburg, but for this entire state. Especially someone much more eloquent.

    I would go a step further: not only do we need access to the trails, but the wildlife from different areas need access to each other.

    In the Phoenix “preserve” we have seen that making islands of nature fenced in by walled communities and busy streets has led to an absolute stoppage of gene migration from island to island.

    While the islands themselves may have been somewhat protected and even seemingly pristine, the inbreeding depression that occurs in isolated gene pockets quickly spells the end for any species in the area. Never mind that their food sources, water sources and nesting environments have been denied to them in a large part.

    Once the deleterious genes become prominent, the reproductive fitness of the species is severely compromised. As soon as they start to die off, there are less and less objections to the developers creeping up the island until you have the state of affairs such as papgo park or shadow mountain: areas that appear to the eye as a pristine paradise but in fact are devoid of all but the hardiest of species originally present.

    About the ATV’s I part company with a lot of conservationists, in that I believe these are also people who share our love for open spaces and the conservation of such spaces. In much the same way zoos lead to an awareness and desire to conserve what little we have left, who among us hasn’t seen a motorcyclist step off his quad and peer closely at a desert flower?

  • Allan Hall

    Hello Aaron:
    Thanks for your comments – and they are well stated.
    The research literature (referenced lightly in the article) is replete with examples of how OHV traffic disrupts wildlife movement in our desert areas. So, it isn’t only developers who create “islands” that causes long term damage to our habitat. The mere presence of OHVs and even the trails they create also negatively affect wildlife movement.

    I think I would part company with your comparison of OHV traffic to the experience of walking through a zoo. No habitat destruction occurs while someone is walking on an asphalt path from the zebra pen to see the ostriches. If you can find someone on an ATV who has stopped to smell the flowers (rather than driving over them), please take a photo and send it to me.

  • pipelineaudio

    I certainly share your concern about the ATV”s, but I see it a little differently. Like they say “politics make strange bedfellows”.

    The last thing in the world the ATV guy wants is for walls to be put up, pavement laid down, bleaching death gravel killing any semblance of life except for alien grasses, and homeowner’s associations moving in telling him what color he has to paint his truck. If he wanted it easy, he’d be at the track where he was assured of gas, food and water, but something compels him to be out here.

    I contrast this with the last “environmentalist” meeting I went to. This was at a stucco crackerbox, inside a walled community responsible for killing off at least 9 square miles of habitat and severely compromising a few more on top of that. This house was bought not to live in but as an investment module. I could go on for days about how much the hypocrisy of “damn the environment for a buck” while complaining about “those rednecks in the boonies killing the environment” makes me seethe in frustration, but I digress.

    I’d just like to compare for a second, for a ‘mile in the moccaisons’ type of footwetting two contrasting views: OHV enthusiasts taken to their most extreme ideal vs developers taken to their most extreme ideal

    In the OHV world some animals would probably get run over from time to time. Nowhere near at the rate they get run over on the highway, but there would certainly be casualties. The noise would scare some species into more rugged areas or into no OHV zones. Hikers in dual use zones would probably have more conflicts than they do now with the ATV’s and such…Probably some serious injuries and deaths. But the land and most of the diversity would remain, with some populations offset aways.

    In the developer world, the same result could be made with the carpetbombing of atomic weapons. Complete and utter destruction of almost every native species and biome, not to mention draining of all the water tables and damning or diverting all above ground riparian zones. Not only would life be destroyed in these developemnts, it would also be denied. The very environment itself, turned to concrete, asphalt, calls and foreign lawn decor would prevent resettlement of most species.

    I’m not trying to suggest we face a false dichotomy at the moment, but if I had to chose between the two, I know who I’d take.

    I remember as a little kid in Hawai’i watching my mom and representatives of wildlife societies battling it out on the issue of horseback riding in the wilds and trails. Its like deja vu with the motor replacing the hoof.

  • Daryl

    My ATV riding friends made many trips this season to see the flowers, but they took photos of the flowers, not themselves. Last Saturday, we went to find a couple natural arches and met a group of ATV’ers coming from the other direction. We stopped and chatted for a while and I noticed that none of the men and women were under 50 or driving over flowers.

    It really troubles me that you feel you must defend your prejudices and cling so tightly to them, Allan, despite evidence to the contrary.

    And until zoos are on space stations, how can you deny the habitat destruction evidenced by their very presence? You can’t really claim there was no habitat existing previously on the grounds now occupied by the Phoenix or San Diego Zoos, for instance, with any degree of “plausible deniability.

  • Allan Hall

    I do believe that you are using poor terminology in your missive response to the article. You also (evidently) have not read any of the cited reference material. I would challenge you to find a single positive reference to the use of OHVs in any of the material I have referenced.

    According to Webster’s Dictionary the term “prejudice” has the following two principal definitions:
    1. an unfavorable opinion or feeling formed beforehand or without knowledge, thought, or reason.
    2. any preconceived opinion or feeling, either favorable or unfavorable.

    My opinions are not preconcieved nor are they formed beforehand – they are based upon direct observation of the behaviour of ATV “enthusiasts” in our area.

    Perhaps you lead a sheltered life, or perhaps you don’t get out into these areas very often. Either way, your accusation of “prejudice” is quite misplaced. My suggestion is that you need to become a bit more informed.

    You might also consider writing an article or two about the proper and responsible use of ATVs on this web site. That would be a more worthy goal.

  • pipelineaudio

    Well, here’s a pic from today on Constellation Road. I was on my way up to try some more of the trails in my Dana Burden book and I saw my first snake of the year, this really large Sonoran gopher crossing the road, lounging in the road more like. So I pulled to a stop, through my hazards on and got my door open. Some guy barreling up with a horse trailer just went right on by. By some miracle the snake avoided becoming buzzard bait.

    Apparently a stopped car with hazards on, a outstretched arm in the “stop” gesture and an open car door in the road is a difficult thing to understand.

    I’m just glad it ended well. I stuck him across the road a ways into a wash


  • pipelineaudio

    I didn’t mean to start a flame war on here. Its all a matter of perspective.

    If you are an amateur herper, like me, you aren’t thrilled about the handful of smushed snakes and lizards you see on a trail in the year (nothing compared of course to the highway or housing developments)

    If you are a equestrian, joggers running around a blind corner right into your horse probably isn’t high on your happiness index

    If you are a hiker, you may not appreciate the “silent death” of a downhill mountainbiker running at full clip, bearing down on you willy nilly

    And if you are a birder? I am not sure a substance exists, animal, mineral or vegetable that does not upset the birders

    This circle of hate doesn’t do any of us outdoor enthusiats any good, but I bet it makes the developers smile

  • Allan Hall

    Hello Pipeline (again):
    I am not a herper enthusiast, but I also do not shoot snakes. I give them a wide berth and recognize their importance to the ecological balance of our desert habitat.

    I am not a horse person (although I admire their beauty) and I’ve never encountered a jogger in the remote areas where I hike. Such an individual would have to be on a “super-marathon” for me to encounter them. Or, perhaps, they would have to be on the wrong side of a mountain curve on a jeep trail.

    As a hiker, I have never encountered a mountain biker and I sincerely hope that I never do. It will mean that I have misjudged the difficulty of the trail(s) I have selected. That will mean it is time to relocate to a more remote area.

    As a hiker, I thoroughly enjoy the riparian habitats where migratory birds can be abundantly found in the spring and early summer. I am, however, not a birder.

    My issue is with seasonal and weekend recreationsts who’s irresponsible behavior damages our fragile habitat, and that places other people at risk due to their driving behaviour.

    I passed ten OHVs on Constellation Road this past Saturday. Two of the drivers were underage children on vehicles that had no license plates. Of the remaining eight vehicles, four adults were holding beer cans as they were driving. If you want photos of trailers hauling unlicensed ATVs in this area, please let me know.

    I have collected nearly 60 beer, liquor and soft drink containers in the last two days on Constellation Road.

    Am I hypersitive to ATVs? – Yes. Is my sensitivity based upon direct observation? – Yes.

    Regarding your comment about “smiling” developers – I hike on BLM-administered land. With a bit of luck, these areas will remain open to genuine and responsible outdoor enthusiasts to decades to come. In my opinion, some (or most) developers are a scourge. If you want an example, just look at the scars on the land north of Wickenburg between US 93 and State Route 89.
    Thanks for your comments.

  • Daryl

    ” I hike on BLM-administered land. With a bit of luck, these areas will remain open to genuine and responsible outdoor enthusiasts to decades to come.”

    BLM stewardship does allow land exchange:



    An area used by miners and recreationists near Lake Pleasant recently suffered this. Now annexed by Peoria, soon to offer major retailers and residential development.

    Stay informed.

  • Allan Hall

    You are correct that some areas of BLM administered land will eventually become state land – in which case the developers to have a feeding frenzy.
    This is a concern that may endure beyond our individual lifespans. I can only hope that younger residents will take up this long term challenge.

    However, along with other members of the Wickenburg Trails Committee, I met with BLM representatives at the Trailhead for Sophie’s Flat at 09:30 this morning. According to these spokepersons, this area is not targeted for any type of “land exchange” with the state.

    We are working with BLM to designate horse, hiking and other trails in this area. If you would like to become more informed and more involved, please become a member of the Trails Committee.

  • pipelineaudio


    I say they dont get ANY land, ever again, till they either bulldoze what they cant pay for now, or pay for it.

    There’s a rule about realty speculation: if noone cares about the land, it becomes a parking lot. We’ve all seen this too many times to count. Having a few areas designated as trails is great and all, but they’ve got that in the Phoenix “preserve” for all the good that’s done.

    The best way to get people to stop caring about the land is to deny them the right to see what’s on it or in it…why should you care about an area if you are told its just dust, “just desert”?

    I say get people out there, running around, biking around, driving around (within reason) and they’ll be less likely to let these trades happen.

    My mom moved here to Prescott for a little while, and the only way she could manage with her groups to preserve a swath in that area was to actually give up the area on and behind her property along with many others as a trade to at least keep a contiguous area further east. She had to sell that house at a horrendous loss because of it and moved back to Hawai’i in disgust.

    Now we have developers who thought they could outbuild the mortgage bust, now crying that they cant pay for the land they destroyed. Lets count this a lesson learned.