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Protect Boise foothills by not using muddy trails

Melted snow and rain have made many trails muddy, and using those trails can cause long-term damage. Ridge to Rivers is urging people to use alternatives.

BOISE, Idaho — Hikers, bikers, dog walkers, and trail runners. People frequent Boise's unique trails systems for many different reasons. However, melted snow and rainfall have been making some trails in the foothills muddy - and using those trails can cause long-term damage.

Ridge to Rivers,  headed by the City of Boise, is a partnership between five land agencies that manages over 200 miles of trails in the foothills. They're urging people to avoid muddy trails, and use alternatives like all-weather trails. 

 "The problem with using trails when they're muddy, there's a few problems. All the use on it - it tramples the trail in a way that leaves it really, really rough," David Gordon, the trails systems manager for Ridge to Rivers said. "It doesn't ever smooth out throughout the summer on a lot of these trails. So people that are trying to use them responsibly when they're dry, find it very, very uneven and not a lot of fun to be walking on or riding on."

Muddy conditions on the trails are most common during the winter, the trails can take as long until April to dry out. 

"The other issue is people tend to walk to the side of the mud whenever possible. When they do that they're trampling the vegetation on the side of the trail, they're creating wider trails and a wider trail is more prone to erosion," Gordon said. 

There's an easy way to tell whether or not a trail is safe to use: if you're leaving tracks, turn back.

But muddy trails don't mean that you have to stay inside all winter. 

Rich Harris has been running Boise's trails for the last 30 years. He's also the owner of Bandanna Running and Walking in Boise, and has watched multiple generations be able to share and enjoy the trails. 

"A big part of our business is high school track and cross country. And a lot of those kids - we're seeing the kids, but we saw their parents when their parents were young before they were married," Harris said. "Everybody runs in the foothills at some point in time."

Harris says when trails get muddy this time of year, runners need to be a little more flexible when planning their routes in order to avoid them.

"We have so many options for places to run. Whether it is a trail, whether it is the Greenbelt, we're very fortunate here," Harris said. "So if we all just respect what we have, it makes it nice for everybody"

Ridge to Rivers maintains all-weather trails, which don't get as muddy as others in the foothills and are good to hike this time of year. One of those trails is Harrison Hollow. 

"The only reason we have these is because people take care of them,"
Kylee Simmons, a hiker who frequents Harrison Hollow with her dog said. "So going on a trail like this, that is an all-season trail, helps take the load off of those other ones, which helps us have them in the future."

"The fact that it's the same as it was when the kids were born, and we get to run into a lot of our friends. So I will quite often meet somebody I know on the trail - and the dog usually meet somebody he knows. But it hasn't changed, except for trail improvements," Bryant Forrester, another hiker out with his dog, said.

Ridge to Rivers posts trail conditions updates on their Facebook page daily. 

They also have an interactive map where you can see current trail conditions, and which should be avoided to protect the foothills - and the generational impact that they've had. 

"You're helping preserve it for people years and decades from now," Harris said. "If we all go up there and beat the heck out of them today, they're not going to be around long, and they're not going to be pleasant to use." 

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