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Horse club fights to save trails

LINDON — Hugh Jacobs loves to ride horses, and he wants his posterity to have the same chances he's had to wander the great outdoors on his steed.

Jacobs is starting the Utah County chapter of Back Country Horsemen of Utah, a group of outdoor enthusiasts who will carefully monitor — and fight for — accessibility to trails.

"This is not just a recreational riding club. We want to do all we can to support government agencies with volunteer work," Jacobs said.

"We do everything we can to keep public lands open," he said. "We tread lightly. We leave no trace that we've been there. We'll clear trails that have become overgrown. We'll clean up trash."

Jacobs said the newly organized Utah County chapter is looking for a pet project.

The group, which counts about 50 members, is thinking about clearing trails in the Lone Peak wilderness area, he said.

"We can go into a place and do a lot that can't be done any other way," Jacobs said. "For instance, in a wilderness area, you can't use any mechanized equipment."

John Hendrix, a Pleasant Grove ranger and a chapter member, has led volunteer projects involving the horsemen in nationally lauded projects, such as renewal of the horse paths connected to the Bonneville Shoreline Trail and the Great Western Trail.

"We're losing access to a lot of places because private lands are blocking that access. Planners forget about horsemen," Jacobs said. "And there's a lot of private land owners who have been abused by trespassers. They're shutting out the horses along with those who cause problems."

In some areas, such as Moab, there's a fear that horses pollute the scarce water with their droppings. That's a misconception, he said.

"We don't want to offend anyone but we want to be able to ride in the mountains. We want to be able to go where our grandfathers went."

Jacobs invites all horse-riding enthusiasts from Lehi to Payson to join. Members can be old and young, male and female, very experienced or novices.

Some rides will be moderately challenging. Others will be geared strictly toward pleasure and leisure for beginning riders. Some will involve packing.

Those who want to join don't have to have their own horse or mule, although it's preferable. Cost is $20 a year and includes a monthly ride and training and educational meetings. Family memberships are $30.

The meetings will feature experts in backpacking, wilderness survival, trail emergencies and preservation opportunities.

For more information, contact Jacobs at 785-8781 or Jessie Gardiner at 368-5072.

Meetings of the chapter, to be called Hi-lines & Hobbles Back Country Horsemen, will be the third Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. in the Lindon City Hall, 100 N. State.