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'A challenging scenario': Officials look to combat trail overuse in the Boise Foothills

A meeting Tuesday night included a presentation on the Ridge to Rivers partnership, goals of the program, trail management and more.

BOISE, Idaho — City leaders met on Tuesday night to discuss the busiest trails in the Boise Foothills and to make a plan for the future of the trails. 

The meeting included a presentation about the Ridge to Rivers partnership, the goals of the program, trail management and strategies for mitigating damage caused by an increase in trail use, according to Ridge to Rivers program manager David Gordon.

"Growth, the pandemic, popularity of just being out on the trail system in the foothills, all those things," Gordon said. "A lot of people have moved to the area and one of the reasons they do come is for the access to the trail system. So all of those things combined make for a challenging scenario when you've got to manage narrow trails in the Foothills."

Ridge to Rivers is proposing two possible solutions. One of them would be requiring a one-way direction on trails and the other one would be limiting who can use the trails on certain days. 

This would mean the trail is open to certain user groups - such as hikers - on specific days and different user groups - such as mountain bikers - on other days. Gordon said this would help create a safer environment and would reduce overcrowding on trails.

Overcrowding has led to damaged trails this year.

"We’re certainly seeing trails widened, degrading of trails, vegetation lost along different parts of the different trails," Gordon said. "On any given weekday, our trailheads are full even during the middle of winter if it’s a sunny day."

Ridge to Rivers plans to post a survey on its website and Facebook page within the next week to get feedback from the trail users. The survey will be open for three weeks. 

If the feedback is positive towards the ideas, then Ridge to Rivers would implement the changes in April and through November. 

"Basically the field season in the foothills," Gordon said.

Ridge to Rivers would then look for feedback in late fall or early winter from the trail users to see what they thought of the changes.

The trails within the Foothills have also been "used and abused" when conditions are muddy, according to a post from the Ridge to River Facebook page. While they work on a plan to mitigate the damage and protect the trials, program organizers are urging hikers to avoid hiking through muddy trails to prevent further damage.

"There is no justification for trail use of this kind and our trails are going to be worse for the wear because of it," the post stated. "Please continue to be part of the solution and not the problem by following winter trail etiquette and turning around if you unexpectedly come to long muddy sections."

The Boise Parks and Recreation Dept. shared photos of the trail damage on their Facebook page.

"These photos are an important reminder that using muddy trails creates [irreparable] damage throughout the system," the post stated. "If you are making tracks, it's time to turn around. As temperatures warm during the day, please stick to all-weather options or the Boise River Greenbelt to prevent erosion. It's up to all of us to preserve the Boise Foothills trails we love for generations to come!"

For winter trail use tips and a list of all-weather trails, click here. For more information regarding Tuesday's meeting, click here.

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