A Lesson Learned for All – Note from Jeff Slavens

June 28, 2914
Jeff recently shared this message in his weekly Slavens Racing email:

Last week was a rough one for dirt bikers in Colorado, both residents and visitors.  Several guys from out of state came to southwest Colorado for what I’m sure was expected to be the experience of a lifetime, and that it was. It just wasn’t exactly the experience they were expecting or wanting.

Not knowing the laws of the land, the guys went to a high elevation area that was not yet open for riding because the trails were full of downfall trees and snow drifts. They rode around the downfall trees (not easy to do because of the steep terrain) and snow drifts and committed what locals consider a Cardinal sin, they cut the switchbacks. All of this did significant damage to the fragile high alpine tundra and gave ammunition to the tree huggers during a time when that area is in its 3rd round of litigation to keep the trails open.

Some local dirt biker trail advocates caught them in the act and the conversation began. The first conversation did not go well. I’m told (I was not there) that the visitors position was “we drove a long ways to get here and we’re going to ride no matter what”. The locals were outraged, trail advocates from around the western U.S. were angry, tempers flared, emotions ran high, innuendos, and accusations were coming from all involved, me included. The lynch mob was looking for a rope and a tall tree.

After a restless night, local Matt A. manned up, drove to where they were staying, and confronted the 8 guys allegedly involved. (To give a little background, Matt has lived in the area for a long time, taken care of the trails, and been involved in the legal battles). The conversation went much better this time and the guys asked what they could do to reconcile their actions. Matt reluctantly handed them a chainsaw and asked them to get to the dirty work of fixing the damage and cutting the downfall trees.

Long story short, the guys manned up, stood by their word, and worked all day repairing the damage and cutting downfall trees. In their defense, there were no closed signs posted by the USFS, there was no easily accessible information on the internet, and in their part of the country there is little snow and riding around trees is acceptable, so I’m told.  Bottom line is, these guys have been verbally beaten up by all involved and deserve a break. These are our dirt bike brethren that made an honest mistake and have paid their dues. Hopefully they will become trail advocates, join the local trail cub, and donate to our legal defense fund.

What have we learned? Bottom line is, Colorado trails (and other mountainous states) are usually not ready to be ridden each year until around the 4th of July. It takes until then for the snow to melt and the locals to clear the downfall. It is a federal offense to go off trail in Colorado and if caught you will have to appear in front of a federal judge. Tread lightly, stay on the trail and leave the trails better than you found them.

Please join the trail club that takes care of the trails in the area you plan to ride. For me that is about every club in Colorado. If you want trails in the future, donate to the group that fights our battles in Colorado, Colorado Trails Preservation Alliance.

Jeff Slavens

NOTE: I’m not naming the area because it does NOT need more internet exposure and the resulting trail damaging traffic. Please do NOT post ride reports or videos about your trails.