The night before I left for the Calico Cleanup, I reflected upon what the next day's event meant to me. It was an important day for two reasons: First and foremost, it was a chance for me to do my part to protect the sport I love and enjoy - four-wheeling. Cleanups like this one in Calico, California, are a reminder that off-road areas need to be respected and well-maintained. An event such as this is an opportunity for me, or anyone, to do something for the community, set an example, and make a positive impact. My part may be small, but when combined with the efforts of others, it makes a big difference.
The second reason the next day was important to me is that it was my son Dylan's first four-wheeling trip. He just turned 3 years old and is now at the age where he can be pop's copilot. This is something I've looked forward to since he was an infant. I want my son to experience the great outdoors and learn about nature by way of a four-wheel-drive vehicle - it lends a sense of adventure to the experience and puts him directly into the wilderness. I couldn't have asked for a better opportunity to introduce my son to off-roading than by being a part of this event. An organized cleanup can be a highly influential and positive experience for a child.
Apparently, there are quite a few other off-road enthusiasts who feel as I do - 870 people and 379 vehicles were signed up for the event. There were so many participants, in fact, that the staging area had to be moved from its original location to an adjacent dry lake bed to accommodate the overwhelming response. The fact that so many enthusiasts showed up on a Saturday to clean up other people's trash makes me proud to be associated with four-wheelers.
Every wheeler I know and see on the trails respects the outdoors. But these days out in the wilderness, everyone's actions are accountable because the community is under attack and under intense scrutiny from unreasonable anti-access factions. We all know that the vast majority of off-road enthusiasts stay on designated trails and clean up litter whenever they can; however, the "green" movement has distorted the general public's view of the average four-wheeler to the point that it's becoming harder and harder for the average person to see enthusiasts for the responsible, caring, and passionate individuals that they are.
Hopefully someday, through efforts like the Calico Cleanup, the general public will wake up and realize that the anti-access movement's members' only aim is to restrict our rights to access public lands and not necessarily protect the environment. In their eyes, no use is good use - land should be viewed from afar. Don't be fooled by their false assertions that endangered species are being trampled by beer-drinking, gun-toting, 4x4 maniacs. There are always some who don't follow the rules, but such a minority can be found in any part of society.
Please make sure to support the sponsors who donated their time and money to make this a very worthwhile event (for a list of sponsors as well other information, log on to www.calicocleanup.com). And do us all a favor: The next time you're out on the trail, remember that your actions are a reflection on the recreational community as a whole. Let's make that reflection a positive one.