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Muddy conditions lead to trail damage in Boise foothills

Hiking or riding through muddy sections of the trail can cause ruts and significant damage.

BOISE, Idaho — Hikers and bikers are urged to take care to stay off muddy trails to prevent damage in the Boise foothills. 

Multiple trails are extremely muddy after about 10 a.m. each morning. Park officials say that walking or riding across the wet surface can leave deep holes and ruts that are difficult to fix.

Popular areas like Table Rock, Hulls Gulch and Military Reserve, but even all-weather Ridge to Rivers trails "are often too wet for responsible use this week," officials said in a press release. Unless users are getting out early enough when the ground is still frozen. 

People have been asked to stay off the popular Heroes Trail, located behind the Boise VA Medical Center, entirely due to high use and damage.

“If you love and enjoy using Ridge to Rivers trails, please help us spread the word that using them when they are muddy can create lasting damage our trail team cannot fix,” said Boise Parks and Recreation Director Doug Holloway. “Unfortunately, Heroes Trail is an example of how quickly a trail experience can change due to careless use when it’s muddy.” 

Users are asked to turn around if they encounter mud on their hike or ride in order to preserve the trails for everyone. With few trails dry enough to withstand damage past 10 a.m. each day, parks officials are encouraging recreationists to pick paved paths like the Greenbelt instead. 

Idaho Trails Association (ITA) is a non-profit volunteer group that helps take care of Idaho’s hiking trails through stewardship projects, including trail construction and maintenance. They often partner with Ridge to Rivers for upkeep projects on the Boise Foothills trails.

"It's just a huge job and it takes everyone to keep those things open," Melanie Vining, the executive director of ITA. "The thought of seeing those things disappear from lack of maintenance is kind of scary and that is how ITA was born."

Vining said she teaches volunteers about the 'Leave no trace' tactic.

"Try to leave behind no sign you were there," she added. 

She noticed people who use the muddy trails oftentimes walk on the side, which she said widens the trail and destroys the vegetation.

"Working with Ridge to Rivers we've talked a lot about how a lot of what we're doing out there is just trying to fix those impacts of people traveling," Vining said. "We can narrow that trail back up again but that cycle can start all over again the next time it's muddy and people go out and use those trails."

Holloway told KTVB that Boise Parks and Recreation have had discussions in the past about possibly penalizing or citing those who ignore the 'Don't use muddy trails' signs.

"To create resource allocation for that is really difficult to do, and it almost seems counterproductive to having a free trail system that is owned and utilized by everyone," Holloway said. 

He added, for now, they're keeping their focus on education.

"We are pleading with the public to find an alternative right now and help us get through the springtime, this difficult time and hopefully the trails will be good for you to use in the summertime," Holloway said.

For more information, or to take the Happy Trails Pledge, click here.

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