Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Q & A with Dave Gordon, R to R Trails Coordinator

I requested the following information last week from BPR. I appreciate Dave's responsiveness and am posting here with his permission. I would encourage anyone with questions to contact the R to R folks through the contact us link on the R to R website

How many Rangers are there and what areas do they patrol when (frequency, weekday, weekend, approx times of day?)
We currently have 8 Rangers. Each ranger patrols 4 hours a week, which is generally broken up in 2, 2-hour patrols. Typical patrols include weekday evenings and weekends - what best fits into their schedules, as all but one (our lead, who is paid up to 15 hours per week to coordinate the program) are volunteers with busy schedules to juggle.

We leave it up to our Trail Rangers to decide where they would like to patrol. Some patrol more on the western trails, because they live nearby, while many patrol in the central foothills. We try to balance having a visible presence over a wide area, with the need to spend more time where more use is (such as the central foothills). They are all very avid trail users, and have a good idea as to when and where their efforts would be of most benefit.

Besides signs, what educational efforts have been made regarding:
a.. what "under control" means when a dog is off leash
b.. detrimental affects of poop (besides the occasional newspaper article)
c.. proper trails etiquette for ALL user groups-

Please see our website and go to Trail Tips, then Its a Dogs Life. This site, along with periodic media blitzes (newspaper, television), direct communication via Ridge to Rivers staff and Trail Rangers, and a flyer developed last year (Doo the Right Thing) have all been used for education. In addition signs have been enlarged and modified, and kiosks specific to dog rules have been installed at our busiest trailheads. Regarding other user groups (specifically mountain bikers, as they are the group of concern to many individuals, we have and continue to work with the Southwest Idaho Mountain Bike Association on education of local riders. Again, media blitzes, flyers developed and distributed at local bike shops and direct communication on the trail have all been employed. We currently have an improved rider etiquette flyer being developed, and interpretive signs specific to mountain bikers that once received, will be installed on what we consider to be our heaviest used trail ride - the Lower Hulls, Crestline, Kestral Loop.

What studies have been done tying trail braiding directly to dog use? is it clear that dogs are the primary culprits?

No studies that I have seen. However in 20 years of managing trail systems here in Boise, and on the Sawtooth National Forest, it is clear to me when a closed trail is being perpetuated by dogs, or when trail braids are run in by dogs adjacent to the trails. My trail crew staff concur on this point, based on visual observation of dogs on the trails, prints and tracks, and observation of our own dogs while on the trails - dogs like to go where other dogs go, and enough traffic, even from a dog, can lead to vegetation loss. Trail braiding also occurs from use (primarily foot use, as the bike community has done a much better job of staying off muddy trails in recent years) when trails are muddy and users attempt to walk to the side of the trails, and also occurs when mountain bikers try to straighten out trail meanders so that they can travel faster. Braiding and vegetation trampling from dogs is most apparent near trailheads, as dogs release their pent up energy once the car door is opened. The trailhead next to the Foothills Learning Center is a good example of this. This time of year the grasses are tall and lush, however after a summer of use the grasses and forbs have been flattened. This pattern is very apparent from the window of my office at the Foothills Learning Center. All this being the case, I don't believe that we can expect to have a trail system completely devoid of trail braids when we are so close to a large city, and incur such high use. Perhaps collectively we need to decide what we are willing to accept, with the understanding that as use increases, these impacts that would be allowed to perpetuate, will also increase.

What studies have been done tying dogs specifically to the displacement of wildlife?
a.. what areas are particularly affected?
b.. is it clearly a result of trail users, or possibly neighborhood dog owners who let their animals roam?

I will defer this question to Ed Bottum of Idaho Fish and Game, who was on the Working Group (I was not on the Group), as he is a wildlife biologist. (still waiting a reply)

What is the increase in overall users since 2001 when the policy was first implemented?
a.. have there been studies done by user group
a.. increase by user group
b.. percentage of use by different groups
c.. where majority of users within a group come from, geographically

We don't have hard numbers for use on the trail system, as this would be difficult to determine. I would estimate that overall use is typically increasing at an average of 5% per year. In terms of percentages of use on the trail system, again this would be difficult to quantify without a detailed study. I'm guessing that foot traffic comprises somewhere in the neighborhood of 70%, with mountain bike traffic making up the bulk of the remainder of use. I would also put use with dogs at somewhere around 35-38%, based on my observations, and those of our previous Lead Trail Ranger Tim Rosenvall.

How can the public get comments to the Foothills Advisory Committee?
If you send comments to Julia Grant with the desire that they be shared with the Foothills Advisory Committee, she will be able to forward them, as Julia is the primary contact.

Julia Kertz Grant
Foothills and Open Space Manager
City of Boise
office: 3188 Sunset Peak Road
mailing: 1104 Royal Boulevard
Boise, ID 83706-2898
fax 208-384-4127

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