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UTAH OPENS MORE TRAILS TO RIDERS

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Common complaints of many ATV owners - that is, those who own vehicles made to ride rough country - is that there are few places to ride. Good areas have been closed, they argue, and poor areas lack challenge and views.

So, they confine themselves to old riding grounds.Truth is, there are places to ride. Putting riders on those trails, however, is the problem.

To help, the Utah Division of Parks and Recreation, in cooperation with several other agencies, has launched a program to divide the state into 52 comprehensive maps.

Scott Behunin, division OHV coordinator, says four of those maps will soon be released.

"Then we plan to produce eight new maps a year until we have all 52," he says.

"People say they have nowhere to ride, when, in fact, they do. We have thousands of miles of trails and millions of acres of open area. The maps will pinpoint where these areas are."

One new area is the Piute Trail near the center of the state. It is a 300-mile loop, complete with connecting towns and thousands of miles of linking trails.

Each of the state's national forests, too, has a travel map showing a number of trails with designated uses.

There are, on the Ashley National Forest, 226 miles of trails broken out for hiking, biking, ATVs, motorcycles and snowmobiles. A map, currently being revised, shows direction and access points.

Many of the trails are not new, says Gale Robbins, district trail coordinator.

"Some were used, probably, more than 100 years ago. Some of the old timers talk about these areas. Some are in pretty rough shape, but the country they take you into is beautiful," he notes.

Michael Bergfeld, recreation forester, adds that between the USFS and DPR about $129,000 has been spent on the development of two trails on forest land. One is open to motorized vehicles, the second, part of the Highline Trail, is a non-motorized trail.

The two, he says, "Are beautiful projects. In both cases we worked with user groups to come up with what it was they wanted."

The USFS is also getting help from the DPR's new Trail Ranger Program. It was started by Behunin and is directed by Garth Taylor, OHV education coordinator for the state.

Taylor says he offered the services of his crew to various agencies statewide. In response, the two-man crew - Ty Hunter and Mark VanWyck - will, before the summer is over, built water bars and bridges, and clean trees and rocks from more than 300 miles of trails.

Where permissible, they ride trails on specially equipped motorcycles, and where not permissible, they walk and carry their equipment - chainsaw, shovel and palaskis.

Taylor says there were requests for 30 weeks of work.

"We'll be able to fill 16 of those requests. We expect next year we'll get more requests. But next year we hope to have two teams," he adds.

Bergfeld says that limited funding has greatly curtailed work on trail systems by his agency, "so this comes at a time when we really need the help."

They will spend two weeks on trails on the Ashley District. One of the first assignments was the East Park Trail from highway 44 west to East Park Reservoir and southeast of Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

The trail leads to the water's edge of East Park and Oaks Park reservoirs. It is both scenic and challenging. Hunter and VanWyck plan to take some of difficulty out of it by removing fallen trees and big rocks before quitting time.

The single track, wide enough for an ATV but nothing wider, starts on a slight slopes, winds up a few steep faces, then levels out on a flat holding East Park Reservoir.

Other trails, says Robbins, fall on both sides of East Park - some are easier, some more difficult. All offer the unique experience of riding in a forest setting.

Always a concern, of course, is that riders will stay on marked trails. If they do, Bergfeld and Robbins agree, the country will remain open, accessible and beautiful.

And if they don't? Closures are possible, they agree.

For now, the trails are open and, after Hunter and VanWyck have finished, will be in ridable shape.

Best part of all, is one trail may be out of your league, a short ways away is another, possibly more suitable, and past that another and another and another.

There are, in fact, places to ride. Until the new maps are available, a few questions in the right direction can put riders and new country together.