Endurance Riders Come Together to Benefit Trails
By Lisa Schneider
It is a cultural phenomenon that trash begets trash, meaning if people see litter somewhere, they behave as if it’s appropriate to add more litter. The desert has long been a dumping ground for junk like wrecked cars, bed springs, washers, sofas and refrigerators. It is beyond me why people do this because there are a lot of dumps that don’t charge any fees and the litterbugs are already transporting the trash!
Two Southern California endurance rides use desert trails that for years have had a lot of trash and graffiti. The icing on the cake is the trash is then used for target practice so there are thousands of shotgun shell casings left on the ground.
Our local hero is Gretchen Montgomery, who manages the Fire Mountain Endurance Ride each January and helps with the Twenty Mule Team ride in late February. Both of these Pacific Southwest Region rides use a common canyon trail that has general trash and extensive graffiti on the desert rock formations that include vulgar words and offensive symbols—things you certainly would not want a child to see.
As an endurance rider herself, Gretchen has logged over 10,000 miles and conditions in the southern California desert where she lives, and she was sick of seeing this junk. We talked about the need to clean up the trails the endurance rides use and Gretchen sprang into action. On January 21, Gretchen coordinated with BLM personnel, volunteers from the local equestrian club called Valley Riders, High Sierra Cyclists, local high school students and staff.
The BLM had previously planned on eliminating the painted graffiti using a sand blaster but that equipment is no longer considered environmentally safe because it destroys too much of the rock. A new process with a chemical gel paint remover was used instead. This was the first time BLM had used the gel method, and the product did not work as well as expected due to the cold weather. The chemical gel was sprayed on the paint, then brushed heavily, then sprayed off with a pressure washer. It is going to take many attempts to get the entire canyon free of the offensive graffiti and the BLM will concentrate on removal when the weather gets warmer.
Gretchen said it was “a true team effort with volunteers picking up discarded tires, plastic coolers, tin, plastic cases, beer cans, water bottles and remnants of a hot tub.” She continued, “We also raked up numerous empty shotgun shell casings and broken bottles. Valley Riders, Inc. provided lunch to all people who showed up to help. Local businesses such as Home Depot and Walmart donated shovels, rakes, trash bags, gloves, bottled water, and buckets.”
Members of the Valley Riders equestrian club helped with providing their property as a meeting place, the lunch stop, and also provided a dump trailer to take all the trash to the local landfill. Valley Riders also provided transportation to the site.
Hats off to Gretchen, all the volunteers and the local businesses. This project took many helping hands and demonstrated how endurance riders can help the environment, improve the trailsand the overall outdoor experience for riders, hikers, runners and cyclists. I know several riders who carry trash bags in their saddle packs because they don’t want to see (and have their horses spook at) the trash left behind by inconsiderate users of the parks.
Imagine the difference we’d make if we all carried out just one piece of trash on each ride! Please consider organizing a cleanup day on your local trails and making a positive difference in the name of endurance riding.
Lisa Schneider is a Pacific Southwest Region Director for the American Endurance Ride Conference, and heads up both the Competitions and Rules committees.
Published with permission from the American Endurance Ride Conference, a nonprofit founded in 1972 to promote the sport of endurance riding in the U.S. and Canada. AERC strongly supports the development, use and preservation of equine trails. For information or a free copy of Discover Endurance Riding, contact the AERC office: 866-271-2372 or email@example.com.