Tuesday, October 25, 2005
ATV Riding Hoodlum Spotted at Ah Nei!
So anyway, Monday, my wife and I decided to take a little ride out to the Shepherd Ah Nei Recreation Area and snap a few pics of the recent improvements for my blog. I must say that we were not disappointed. While it did suck moderately that we couldn't take the quads along and explore a little more thoroughly we did enjoy a nice walk together. Gotta get that damned trailer finished.
The first thing we noticed was the ongoing effort to improve the area for all who might plan on using it. A road grader was making the rounds of the parking lot and upon seeing us drive up and start snapping pictures the operator came over and very cordially asked if we had any questions and if there was anything he could help us with.
He very proudly pointed out the new information kiosk containing a map and a summary of the rules for the area, he also pointed out the new fences and gates that were erected in order to enforce the width restriction for the area and I must say, they look good. While there are some people who are absolutely determined to break the rules just because they are there, driving into this area with anything other than a motorcycle or ATV will be extremely difficult thanks to the efforts of the BLM and the off road community volunteers that helped with improvements, I only regret that I wasn't part of it. As much as I would've liked to help out, it's difficult to work all night and then build fences and shovel dirt all day, I know, no excuse, next time there's a volunteer day I'll make a serious effort to be there.
I also regret that I did not get the fellow's name, I don't know if he would have wanted me to use it on my blog anyway, but since he was so kind and helpful I feel obligated to mention it, in other words, he knows who he is. Thank you sir, you are doing a wonderful job, keep up the good work. It's great to know that in an age when people like me unfortunately tend to make the assumption that the government is always against us, that there are still government agencies that are trying to balance the interests of everyone, and quality employees like yourself that are going above and beyond the call of duty to insure that our favorite form of recreation remains legal, safe, and legitimate. People like this guy are the reason I haven't invented a shovel that stands up by itself yet, there are still some government employees that deserve their jobs.
This is one of the improvements we observed. It's unfortunate that there are still people who need to be reminded of the rules but in this case, there's no excuse for not knowing them, they are clearly posted for all to see.
None of the rules on the list are overly restrictive, most of them regard the usual fare, stay on the trails, respect other users, observe trail closures ect., but I was happy to see that rules regarding the maximum noise level allowed and also the requirement for a USFS approved spark arrestor were posted in plain sight. Both are just good common sense but there's always people around that don't have any common sense so I was glad to see that the BLM removed all question. While the noise restriction, I believe, is a relatively new development especially important at Ah Nei due to recent happenings, the requirement for an approved spark arrestor has been around far longer than ATVs themselves. Off road motorcycles have been factory equipped with them for decades due to the fact that they are, and have been for a long time, required for operation on public lands but some people out of defiance or ignorance or both insist on removing them.
I admit, moderate power gains can be achieved by the removal of a spark arrestor, but it's simply not worth the risk of starting a fire. While I have never, in all my years of involvement with motorcycles and ATVs, observed sparks coming from the exhaust, one can never be too careful when it involves the risk of fire. I don't want to ride through a field of charred treestumps, neither does anyone else. Still some people insist on running race pipes on their trail machines, fine on private property, but if we are going to preserve our ability to enjoy trails on public lands we all have to step up to the plate and be responsible.
Most manufacturers of high performance exhaust also make pipes for trail use that feature USFS approved spark arrestors and reduced noise levels. Many manufacturers make clamp on extensions for their race pipes that make them legal for trail use, the best of both worlds, maximum power when it is appropriate, fire protection and reduced noise emissions when operating on public land, all the while gaining performance over the factory system. More noise does not result in more power, if that was the case no one would be buying $400 pipes for their machines, they would just cut the muffler off for free.
Be responsible, and do your part. This land belongs to everyone so let's be respectful not only to our fellow users but also to the property owners in the area. If they still try to shut us down we can always pull the baffles out of our pipes and go do donuts in their driveways later. I'll even lead the parade, now that's volunteerism for ya.
This system of colored dots is another great addition to the area. Simple, green - go, red - no go, green and yellow - go but be careful, can't get much simpler than that. If you're color blind, don't worry, the closed trails have the markers in the middle and are obviously closed, the ones that are open have the markers alongside. Anyone caught on the wrong trail really doesn't have any excuse except that they were obviously trying to ruin it all for the rest of us. I wonder if the Sierra Club and similar groups employ people to do just that? Wouldn't that make an interesting expose if I could find proof? Hmmmm. . . .
The picture above represents the main reason why myself and many others were very hopeful that Ah Nei would somehow reopen someday.
The area above, immediately adjacent to the parking area and marked with the white painted posts shown here, is clearly posted with a 5 mph speed limit. This area is reserved for beginning riders only. While I usually prefer to ride in more challenging and remote mountain areas these areas do not lend themselves to a learning curve, the chances for someone getting hurt because they don't know what they're doing are just too great in areas with steep, rocky grades and treacherous drop offs.
An area like Ah Nei is the perfect place to take anyone from your small child to your recently retired parents and show them the ropes regarding off road riding. I'm really looking forward to taking my wife riding out here, I observed many trails that she could easily negotiate, and therefore build the confidence and experience necessary to perhaps tackle some of the more difficult mountain trails. Hats off to the person that thought up the idea of the kid's and beginners area, great job.
Oh yeah, I almost forgot, I promised to tell you all about the interesting person we chatted with at Ah Nei. (Yeah right, I've been waiting far more anxiously than all of you people who are probably really pissed at me now for keeping you in suspense just for another 4 wheeling story)
As my lovely wife and I were getting in the truck to leave, a nice looking young lady on an ATV came over the hill from the interior of the use area and proceeded across the parking lot to her pickup. I thought perhaps I could snag a picture and maybe even ask a few questions regarding what she had observed since we really hadn't had much time to snoop around.
When we arrived at her truck we struck up a conversation immediately about our individual takes on public land use issues and the like and found that we had similar views on the matter. I figured that she was a BLM employee since I had observed the government license plates on her truck but I was surprised to learn that she was none other than Lynn Anderson, Recreation Coordinator for the BLM Billings Field Office.
We had a friendly chat about some of the events that led up to the much anticipated reopening of Ah Nei and also some of the plans for the future. She told us how impressed she was with everyone's behavior on the extremely busy opening weekend and how the very few individuals who did violate the rules were quickly corrected, not by fines or police or BLM staff, but by other users who are determined that this area will be cared for properly, and remain open. That spirit of self policing is what will keep this sport viable in the future. With this lady at the helm, Ah Nei is going to be a first class riding area for a long time to come.
I have to admit my lack of involvement in the entire Ah Nei affair, I am probably the only member of the Billings off road community that wouldn't have recognized Lynn on sight, but I also have to admit that in my usual pessimistic fashion when Ah Nei was initially closed I immediately assumed that it was closed forever so other than the occasional web search for the latest info I was largely not involved in the whole process. Lynn is an enormous part of the reason why it wasn't, closed forever. This self described motorhead wanted a place to ride just as bad as everyone else did, and she really went to bat for us to see to it that the complaints of the few didn't ruin the recreation of many. Lynn is a top level nice person, very cordial and approachable, and, in my opinion, a perfect spokesperson for all offroaders.
It also doesn't hurt that she doesn't fit any of the stereotypes of the typical dirt biker or ATV rider. While many assume that all off roaders are overgrown adolescent boys hell bent on destroying all things natural, Lynn proves that the offroad community is a diverse group of not only hell raising kids and beer guzzling rednecks, but even strong and independent career women approaching middle age. I'm looking forward to meeting up with Lynn on the trails hopefully someday soon, if I can catch her that is.
See Lynn, I told you I wouldn't say anything bad about you. ;)