My husband and I live in a recreational area in central Minnesota. As with most recreation areas throughout the country this means many frequently use 4 wheelers around us. We have 4 wheelers ourselves that we use to plow snow from our driveway, haul wood from the wood pile to the house and to travel the recreation trails of the area. We also use our 4 wheelers during the deer hunting season to get back to our deer stands and to transport the deer out of the woods. I think they are a useful and fun vehicle; however there are so many people who use their 4 wheelers to destroy the natural beauty of our State unknowingly or purposefully.
It all starts from the fortunate fact that there are several paths in the acreage behind our home for 4 wheelers. We normally use these paths to go from one neighbor’s home to another and to simply walk in the beautiful woods. The wooded area where the paths are located has quite dense vegetation filled with very old beautiful hardwood maples and ash trees. This wooded area is classified under tax forfeited land, so it is collectively owned by the State of Minnesota. There is an agreement among the neighbors that we will all do our best to keep the paths clear of brush and fallen debris. However, there are no rules or guidelines whatsoever about the use of 4 wheelers on the paths. Everyone used common sense and was courteous to each other as well as to Mother Nature.
Everything seemed to be going well, until one particular day. Recently our path system was discovered by a group of 4 wheelers that are now using it as a connection from one racing area to another. The racing causes an excessive amount of noise and some serious damage to the wooded area, which prompted the interference of the department of natural resources which stepped in and banned the use of ATV’s in this wooded area.
This has been a great disappointment to those of us who were using our 4 wheelers responsibly. When I mentioned this to some of my co-workers I was surprised to find out a majority of them thought that all ATV trails should be closed. Many people see these trails as dangerous and harmful to the environment. I was amazed that they saw the 4 wheelers as a bad thing per se. A close look at the situation should reveal that the real culprits are those irresponsible people driving them.
The woods behind our house are much quieter now. People still use the paths for walking and nature-gazing. The thing that still bugs me is that others are getting the message that 4 wheelers are bad for nature, when the true message should be irresponsible people are really what are bad for nature. It is unfair that thoughtless behavior by some people is over – generalized and affects the entire community. I love Nature. I love my 4 wheelers, too. They can co-exist.