Staff column: Reality of locked land without action
When I was 14 years old, my father bought me my first two wheeled powered vehicle. It was a Cushman Trailster, with an eight horsepower engine and a two speed transmission. I rode that thing all over our dairy farm, while many of my friends looked on in envy. Soon they too had found a way to obtain two wheeled machines. My friend Hal came up with an old Tote Gote, my buddy Steve found a regular Cushman scooter and my best friend Brent, worked all that first summer for his dad to make enough money to buy a Honda 50, the first real motorcycle any of us had ever owned.
We all cruised around the farm in a "gang" and had a great time day after day. One day I was working on my Trailster in the garage by my parent's house and the "gang" all showed up in my driveway all at once. They were watching and helping me as I adjusted the sprocket/chain on the machine and then one of them began to ride around the house in circles. Soon all three of them were riding around the house and then, with my machine back in service, I began to tool around the dwelling on the lawn too. After about 15 minutes of roaring engines, torn up grass and chaos, my mother came out of the house and started to yell at me.
"You're ripping up the lawn and it's too noisy," she said. "Go across the street and ride where you normally do. I don't want all of you over here."
My friends all skidaddled, and I followed. As I pulled out she yelled, "And don't come back here and do that again."
We had been locked out of a fun place to ride. Sure all the trails on the farm were fun, but the grass around the house was great, and on top of that we could ride through the lawn sprinklers,cooling off from the hot summer sun as well.
That evening I walked around the house and saw the lawn we had ripped up with our tires and the mud hole we had created where the sprinkler had been running. I also realized when I walked in the house, that with all the windows open (my parents never had any kind of air conditioning), I could understand the problem my mother had had with the noise from the engines and all us yelling as we drove around.
We were dumb kids, having fun, not realizing the damage and the distress we were causing to others. After that my mom and dad put some restriction on us about where we could ride, when we could ride and how many could ride. We had really screwed up.
Today, most of us that ride either dirt bikes, ATV's or side-by-sides realize that we can disrupt the ecology of an area; we realize that not everyone appreciates the noise or the disturbance that we sometimes cause. And we also know that many areas need to be protected.
But those of us that know about these things are careful not to go into areas we are not supposed to go to and we also try to be courteous of those that may not share our love of riding. Unfortunately, a few people who don't restrain themselves cause the rest of us problems.
Those that are opposed to off road vehicles on public lands have a lot of ammunition against us; we have had a lot irresponsible people riding machines in the deserts and mountains for over a half century, and they have done a lot of damage to the reputation of law abiding bikers and ATVers.
That is why it is important for everyone who rides an ATV or dirt bike to show our support for open public lands whenever we can. We need to do it with our actions when we are out in the wild, with our comments at public meetings, and in political circles when we get the chance.
For most of us, it is easy out in the wild; we can just do what we are supposed to do. But that isn't enough. We need to rally when lawmakers are together, to show them we are a force for good, not for bad. We need to show them numbers so they know our votes will count at election time and that our issues with the way public lands are being handled can affect the outcome of those elections.
We don't get this chance very often; but this Friday we have that opportunity. A rally for those of us who are tired of ever increasing restrictions on where we can ride will be held between noon and 1 p.m. in the rotunda of the newly rennovated Utah State Capitol building. It is being held now, because the legislature is in session, and even though many of the lands we want to ride on are federal, state government has a lot of influence on what happens on public lands in the state.
Utah has more registered ATV's and dirt bikes per capita than nearly any state in the union; yet last year only a handful of people showed up for a similar rally. True the capitol is a long ways away; it will take the better part of day to get there, be at the rally, and then come home. It will cost some money for you to go. You'll have to buy gas, food and probably will make a stop at Cabela's or at the mall.
But if you want to keep your rights to ride on public lands, it is a small price to pay. Who knows, if we don't act and get involved today, we may be out of action tomorrow.
And we won't even be able to ride our machines around the house on the lawn.