Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

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Aimless
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by Aimless » February 4th, 2021, 11:16 am

Bosterson wrote:
February 4th, 2021, 10:56 am
How about we keep this discussion only about crowding in forests, LNT, etc - if people continue to talk about COVID statistics, whether government is doing the right thing, who is to blame, yadda yadda, the thread will be locked.
Seems to me that pony is already long gone out of the barn. Thread moved to Idle Chatter in the interim.

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SWriverstone
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by SWriverstone » February 4th, 2021, 12:54 pm

OP here—thanks for all the good and civil replies (despite things heading off into a state-by-state analysis of Covid prevention strategies).

I'm sensitive to the prospect of being called an elitist because I have a certain idea of how people should recreate in *relatively* wild places ("relatively" meaning national forests as opposed to designated Wilderness). I don't think I'm an elitist, but maybe I am? I simply believe that wild and scenic places should be valued and appreciated for what they are, and for the qualities inherent in those places (solitude being one of them)—and not viewed as merely a "pretty backdrop" for me to do whatever recreation I choose (whether playing a drumset by a stream, playing video games, or shooting at cans and bottles and old refrigerators—all of which I've seen in national forests).

I don't personally believe these two ideas are compatible in the long-term. But regardless of what I believe, I'm pretty sure that overall, use of public lands has continually gone up year over year. (If someone has access to actual summary data on this, I'd love to see it!)

In one of my original posts, I wasn't being judgmental so much about (for example) someone practicing rhythmic gymnastics or playing a Nintendo Switch on a national forest trail. The key is that I said I didn't think it's a good idea if these kinds of uses are normalized. Meaning if we reach a point where having car rallies in national forests is normal...and having video game tournaments in national forests is normal...and hearing the sound of (literally) hundreds of two-stroke engines screaming through the forest is normal...then we will be absolutely on the path to destroying what our public lands represent (or at least on a path to national forests no longer representing any traditional wilderness values).

If many people believe in the letter of the slogan "Land of Many Uses" to the point where national forests are considered perfectly fine places to do any and all of things people do in big cities and suburbia, then I won't support national forests any more—and consider designated Wilderness as the only place left where I can appreciate traditional wilderness values. (No, we're not there yet—but see my point above about use continuing to increase.)

I totally understand and agree that people are sick and tired of being cooped up at home during the pandemic (me too!) and need to go somewhere. And I fully support people engaging in healthy activities. But as others have also pointed out, it's definitely NOT the case that all these people embrace traditional wilderness values, and many apparently have little to no respect for wild and scenic lands as evidenced by the mountains of toilet paper along roads and trails and countless other behaviors that are, in fact, against USFS regulations. (No, not everyone is guilty—but many are.) I'm *not* talking about people who follow regulations and respect our public lands.

Everything I'm saying is better summed up by Aldo Leopold's famous quote:

“Conservation is getting nowhere because it is incompatible with our Abrahamic concept of land. We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

If Aldo Leopold was alive and well today and a member of this forum and posted the above, would he be told he's an elitist and to shutup and go away? :D

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drm
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by drm » February 4th, 2021, 1:26 pm

Given how overused the word elitist is these days, I have little doubt some people would apply it to Leopold. So I think the more relevant question is how we relate to people who want to enjoy the forest and outdoors in ways different than us - as equals. And I would leave out those who physically trash or damage it since that is a more obvious and objective issue.

I think you could take that same question and apply it to many things. People enjoy professional sports for different reasons. They enjoy music for different reasons. As somebody who has played piano all my life and delved deeply into music, I'm well aware that although most people enjoy it, they don't enjoy it necessarily for the same reason I do. Some just want to dance. And that's even more true for professional musicians, which I am not, looking out at a sea of fans in a stadium.

So I think that as long as people aren't trashing the outdoors, but they enjoy it a different way, if you have an attitude about that, okay, but keep it to yourself. Prioritize. Practice some tolerance. With some gritting if necessary. We have enough work to do with those who are actually causing real damage in some way. And my apologies for the brief engagement of the politics before.

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Bosterson
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by Bosterson » February 4th, 2021, 1:47 pm

SWriverstone wrote:
February 4th, 2021, 12:54 pm
...and having video game tournaments in national forests
I think you just took e-sports to the next level. :lol:

Seriously, this is not happening. If someone wants to sit in the forest and quietly play a video game, is that really any different (objectively) from someone who sits in a forest reading a book? And it's definitely way less dumb than people walking backwards off cliffs while taking selfies, which is actually happening...
#pnw #bestlife #bitingflies #favoriteyellowcap #neverdispleased

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retired jerry
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by retired jerry » February 4th, 2021, 3:05 pm

I've attempted to do that before. Take picture. Look through camera. Take a few steps to get into better position. Ooops, I almost stepped off that cliff.

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Chip Down
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by Chip Down » February 4th, 2021, 6:43 pm

On my last outing, I saw some footprints in the snow. When I was at my car getting ready to depart, a car drove by. That's all. And that's typical for me. After a hike in a beautiful alpine wonderland last autumn, I saw a car drive by on the road as I was about to depart the TH, and that was the only sign of humanity I saw all day.

On the other extreme, I've had some some trail-rage incidents in crowded areas, where I damn near whacked inconsiderate assholes with my treking poles. It's not the number of people, it's the attitudes that drive me over the edge.

Anyway, acknowledging that there is genuinely a problem, how about the U$F$ starts gating roads. And I mean really gating them, like they mean it: five-foot concrete walls on cliffy sections of roads where it would be impossible to bypass them with a motor vehicle. Leave a gap for peds and/or bikes, and designate OHV zones where appropriate. Something needs to be done about the shoot-and-pollute degenerates.

I so badly want to make a snarky comment about Ms Brown, but I'll be good.

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BigBear
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by BigBear » February 4th, 2021, 7:54 pm

I was born in Portland in 1962 and have lived in the metro area ever since. Back then, Portland's metro was a mere 500,000 people and now it is closing in on 2.2 million. Gresham had 3,000 people, Beaverton less than 2,000, and Hillsboro around 5,000. There was a lot of open space. It was so unpopulated that when I-205 was proposed, Portland leaders wanted it to extend off of the Marquam Bridge to 39th Ave. (you might have remembered the lanes to nowhere when the bridge was built). Oregon leaders wanted the freeway to go through Tryon Creek, but the feds saw growth and demanded it to come out of Tualatin and follow the route we know of today. Since its construction in the 1970s, the metro has grown and we wish there was a 2nd bridge at Wilsonville.

So, we have about 5 times the population in 60 years...on a trail system that was built by the CCC in the 1930s.

Up until the late 1990s, there was quite a bit of solitude. Most of it was due to a lack of population and a significant part of it was the lack of maps. Sure, there were Green Trails and the Lowe's books, but nothing compared to the internet of today. People know just enough to get themselves in trouble.

Initially, equestrians ruled the trails. Then hikers became the dominant form of recreation. Now, people want to bike, jog, fly drones, etc. A lot of users with competing hobbies. I say competing because it's hard to "bomb" down a trail when its packed with people, or the jogger who's "in the zone, man" and doesn't want to break stride on a narrow trail next to the cliff edge. No kidding: Eagle Creek at High Bridge.

In Glacier in 2018, I was appalled by both the hundreds of people on the trail and their pushing their way through other hikers because they didn't want to break stride for even a couple of seconds.

Then there's the radios in the packs - really, why did you drive two hours to get away from town if you were only going to bring it with you?

I have noticed that trail jogging increases congestion on the trail. I noticed this in Forest Park last month. Instead of maintaining a distance by having a naturally staggered starting time, the jogger makes up miles of distance by moving quicker through the route and thus increasing the number of contacts. I wonder how trail jogging even became a thing. It's only been around for a few years. If anyone jogged ten years ago, I didn't see you (and I log 1,000 miles a year).

My point is this: more people, more disperse ideas on how to recreate, and less concern for those around them. The result is over-crowded trailheads and user conflict on the trail. For me, it's just not fun anymore to hike to the beauty spots.

Limiting hikers isn't really the answer because people are ready to explode just to get out of the city.

The answer really lies in the trail system that is about 90 years old. There are not any more trails now than there were 90 years ago. Sure there are some new routes, but there are dozens that have been decommissioned. Just to meet demand there should be 5 times the number of trails now than in 1960.

Sure, there's the budget issue - no money to build the trails. We could make the trails one-way, but that was a laughable failure in Forest Park this past year, and not all people can hike the same distance.

I suspect there is no workable solution. There's just more people and the miles of trail remain the same.

The only real hope is the seven-year itch. It exists for jobs, for relationships and for hobbies. Limiting myself to hobbies: I've hiked for decades, but the types of hikes that I have done have moved from chasing waterfalls, to high-pointing, to flower photography, to animal photography at the refuges. Thus, my go-to destinations have migrated.

Have fun on that crowded trail, and to the next jogger who doesn't want to break stride... I'm in the zone too, man. It's just a slower-moving zone.

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drm
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by drm » February 5th, 2021, 7:27 am

There has been no seven year itch for my hobbies. My backpacking capabilities have changed as I age, but my preferences haven't really. Since I start 80 miles east of Portland, and have a more flexible work schedule than the typical 9-5er, it is easier for me to avoid crowds. Also, there are spectacular places on the fringe of Seattle, like the Snoqualmie Pass hikes, that I will never even try. Solitude is important for me, not total solitude, just not crowded. But I'm willing to shift locations to get that. And I'm not saying I don't have somewhat of an attitude about newfangled ways of enjoying the outdoors. But I know that has always applied, so I just keep it to myself, and look for more places to enjoy the way I want to. And I always find them.

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SWriverstone
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by SWriverstone » February 5th, 2021, 10:42 am

BigBear wrote:
February 4th, 2021, 7:54 pm

My point is this: more people, more disperse ideas on how to recreate, and less concern for those around them. The result is over-crowded trailheads and user conflict on the trail. For me, it's just not fun anymore to hike to the beauty spots.

Limiting hikers isn't really the answer because people are ready to explode just to get out of the city.

The answer really lies in the trail system that is about 90 years old. There are not any more trails now than there were 90 years ago. Sure there are some new routes, but there are dozens that have been decommissioned. Just to meet demand there should be 5 times the number of trails now than in 1960.
This! Thank you for your perfect summation of what we perceive as the problem.

I respectfully disagree with those whose attitudes suggest "Hey, they're public lands—people can do whatever they want—who are you to dictate how national forests should be enjoyed?" Because if that's truly your mantra, then national forests shouldn't exist—no designations of any kind should exist—it should all be just LAND, open to people, anytime, anywhere, to do whatever people want. (VERY bad approach.)

This goes back to my earlier comments about normalization. If the ever-expanding creep of built-up civilization (and all that it entails, including huge crowds of people) is allowed to overtake our national forests, wild and scenic lands are done for. We must draw the line somewhere. Maybe that line will end up being designated Wilderness? But as I type, there is a small but vocal movement to open designated Wilderness areas to mountain biking—case in point.
Sure, there's the budget issue - no money to build the trails. We could make the trails one-way, but that was a laughable failure in Forest Park this past year, and not all people can hike the same distance.

I suspect there is no workable solution. There's just more people and the miles of trail remain the same.
I'm a relatively recent emigrant to the West. I lived most of my life back East. And in the 6 years I've been out here, I've been struck both by the unimaginably vast amounts of public land out here...and the relatively few places where developed recreation exists. Surprisingly (to me anyway), for all that public land, I've encountered overcrowding FAR more out here in the West than I ever did, say, in Virginia or West Virginia. (In Oregon, you have to reserve a weekend campsite a year in advance—I never once had to do that in West Virginia, because there are a far greater number of developed campsites per capita than there are out here.)

Not only are there not enough trails, there aren't enough roads: here in the West, access to the mountains (for the average public) is limited to a relatively few number of paved state highways that cross mountain passes—so huge numbers of people are funneled into those relatively few access points. And of course now I'm seeing crowds even on unpaved forest roads that climb into the mountains from the foothills.

Some here have said "I never see anyone when I go out." That's because you're either going to VERY remote areas (e.g. farther from metro areas), and/or you're going out during the week. Most of us who aren't retired and still work full-time are limited mostly to weekends—so weekends are the context for the discussion.

Like some others, I've adapted by avoiding the popular beauty spots and limiting my outdoor pursuits to bushwhacking for difficult-to-reach waterfalls and cliffs, driving a LOT further to reach more remote areas, and keeping all the great places I find a secret.

Aimless
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Re: Public Lands Getting HAMMERED by Crowds

Post by Aimless » February 5th, 2021, 11:12 am

I respectfully disagree with those whose attitudes suggest "Hey, they're public lands—people can do whatever they want—who are you to dictate how national forests should be enjoyed?"

If this was meant as a paraphrase of a position taken by any participant of thread, it is a misleading one. I have looked in vain for anyone here advocating for people "doing whatever they want" on public lands. There are large numbers of laws and regulations in place concerning the use of public lands and there has been unanimous disapproval expressed for those users who ignore them to do "whatever they want".

Your consistent position so far implies the imposition of new rules and regulations that far exceed those already in place. You aren't very clear about how you expect these would be enforced, but the level of control you are advocating would absolutely require levels of enforcement which would also far exceed what the Forest Service is able to provide. My sense is that all the changes you would like to see take place are based in an ethos that I mostly share, but I do not see that ethos as something that can be induced through force or threats of punishment. It must be embraced voluntarily. That is best done by making it attractive and rewarding. In my view, shaming, ridicule, exclusion, and assertions of superiority will only produce willful resistance.

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