Ridge to Rivers held a virtual forum on Tuesday night to answer questions and lay out their plans for a new management strategy in the foothills.
Since the pandemic started, foothills trails have seen record numbers, with some of the busiest trails having two to three times as many people.
Ninety percent of the trails are for non-motorized use, but hikers, bikers, runners, dog owners and horseback riders all share the trails.
“We’ve started realizing that it has become more problematic,” David Gordon of Ridge to Rivers said. “We are looking for input from everybody, so jump on that survey and make your voice heard.”
Next weekthe groupwill roll out a survey for users to share their opinions on some of the new strategies to limit impacts in the foothills.
Ridge to Rivers will look at creating directional trails, consider separating user groups onto their own designated trails, and at implementing seasonal restrictions.
Ridge to Rivers will do this on four of the most popular trails in the foothills, Lower Hulls Gulch, Buckskin Trail off of Military Reserve, Polecat off of Cartwright and Around the Mountain Trail up at Bogus Basin.
Besides taking the survey, people can help limit impacts by staying off muddy trails, practicing leave no trace and taking theHappy Trails Pledgefrom Ridge to Rivers.
“It takes a community to manage a trail system. We don’t have a large staff,” Gordon said. “We have tried a lot of different avenues clearly with respect to muddy trail use, but we are not reaching everybody.”
Muddy trails are always an issue this time of year, Ridge to Rivers puts out a daily report on trail conditions, but when it comes to enforcement, there isn’t anything they can do because of the complexity of the trails and how they run through several different landowners.
“I think we are at that need right now,” said Gordon. “But the challenge is how to do that with all the land management groups that we work with.”
Those include the City of Boise, Ada County, state and federal land and private landowners who have easements that allow trails to go through their land.
The foothills provide recreational opportunities that are close to the city, but if people can’t work together to limit the impacts to the trails, everybody will suffer in some way if Ridge to Rivers has to implement some of these new management tactics.