When it comes to living the off-road lifestyle, there’s nothing that peeves an avid riders more than a trail being shut down or closed. And while many UTV riders and Polaris RZR owners alike choose to play the victim card — lamenting about trail and park closures, pushing for decriminalization, and blaming everyone from local legislators to landowners for restricting their riding range — it only takes a bit of introspection to identify a number of issues with the off-road lifestyle.
Nevertheless, off-roading is undoubtedly a great family activity that promotes the outdoors and gives children a sense of both freedom and responsibility. It teaches navigational skills, shows the importance of preparedness, and brings the idea of culpability to the fore — if you break it, you fix it. Not only does off-roading build strong character, it also encourages environmentalism. There are few people who love trees and the outdoors more than UTV riders. After all, the difference between riding in the wilderness and hitting curbs in your Polaris RZR on your way to the mall downtown is pretty stark.
If you look into it, the people out there riding side-by-sides are typically the people who are actual assets to the community; the people paying the taxes, the business owners, the linemen, the fire fighters, etc. Yet you have many towns and communities catering to the people who are complaining about off-roaders, and these are the very same people who typically add very little real-life value to the community.
Many RZR owners believe that if the government supported their community instead of vilifying them, the USA would be a better place. That being said, however, one should always tread lightly and respect where they’re riding. If you abuse your rights, you’ll loose them. And this, unfortunately, has become all too common throughout the US. Sure, you don't see anyone closing McDonalds when somebody throws their trash on the ground. But people who eat McDonalds aren’t ripping up the ground either.
Why UTV Parks And OHV Trails Shut Down
No matter the vehicle type, be it quads, four-wheelers, side-by-sides, or 4X4s, you’re always going to get a small number of riders who destroy trails, create ruts, disregard local rules, and dump garbage everywhere. As the saying goes, one bad apple spoils the bunch, and this is nowhere more salient than in the off-road community. More than a few riding places have been ruined by people who abuse them; the small few who don’t respect the property, use the land to dump trash or strip stolen cars, or think intersections are for doing donuts. Add people who ride where it’s specifically prohibited and those who rip down posted signage and it’s no wonder why more and more towns and landowners prohibit riding on their property.
Trails on public land have also been closed for similar reasons. We’re the first people to encourage mud riding. But aggressive Polaris RZR mud tires should be used exclusively in mud parks or on tractors. Take them on trails and they’ll soon become trenched out and no longer ridable without getting hung up. Another problem is that many municipalities are opening up roads to ATV and UTV use, but a lot of RZR riders want to ride trails — and some go absolutely everywhere without checking if they are allowed and not even thinking about the damage they are creating.
What Can Be Done To Keep Trails Open For Off-Road Use?
We know that most off-roaders are great people, and it’s usually the non off-roaders that dump trash and leave areas in a state of disrepair. But even still, people drinking and riding, then throwing their trash on the side of the trail is a surefire way to get trails shut down in a hurry. It’s easy to blame quad riders or the “other” for ruining the sport of off-roading, but frankly, we’ve seen riders from every style of toy disrespect a park.
Taking ownership is the best way to ensure that trails in your area stay open for UTV use. Pick up trash, repair trails, and organize a local UTV club to affect change. Having your club mark illegal trails to keep people riding where they’re supposed to is a great gesture that can go a long way in a community. Your organization should also nominate someone to run for council and commission positions to make changes from the inside.
There is little incentive to open trails for most land owners, as it often leads to noise pollution, destruction of property, and garbage being left behind. When governments give tax breaks or clubs give a little kick-back to land owners, there is sure to be more progress made. Clubs can also lobby logging companies, railroads, and governments to open their land for OHV use.
In Louisiana, for example, the railroad pulled up 65 miles of tracks and gave it to the state. It is now a part of the Louisiana trails association. You can’t ride after dark due to it passing by houses, but it's great for the community. There are stores along the way to buy gas, drinks, or food, and you just have to pay 50 dollars a year to ride as much as you can.
Michigan has parts of old railways open for riding as well. Although the trail systems for snowmobiling are far more expansive, progress is being made. With a little ingenuity and organization as well as a stronger push to respect the land and tread lightly, we expect more and more places will open up for you to enjoy in your Polaris RZR.