Sorting Out Land Use At Table Mesa
The world seems a bigger place each day, yet each day it also grows smaller. Those of us who find joy, serenity, or adrenalin highs out in the dirt expand our exploration to see greater expanses of the off-road world. However, as it seems, we are also rapidly losing access to some of our favorite playgrounds. Many of us who live near large metro areas and are all too familiar with urban sprawl that creeps its way out to what used to be our remote dirt spots. When this happens, conflicts can arise between the encroaching civilization and the off-road users of the area.
Such has been the case with the Table Mesa area just north of the Phoenix (Arizona) metro region that has long been a popular recreation destination for local inhabitants. It's a place that has garnered widespread attention as a location popular for wheelers looking to tackle sandy washes, rocky trails, and challenging boulder crawls. The area consists of about 11,500 acres of public land administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and has been frequented for decades. It is a popular site for use by off-roaders of all kinds, hikers, bikers, target shooters, campers, recreational miners, rock hounds, and equestrian enthusiasts. With this varied set of users, concerns merge between them, BLM, and private property owners that have land rights in parts of this region. Along with these many interests comes the potential for conflict between the various parties as to how each thinks the byways should be used.
As might be expected, with increased use of the area comes more potential for environmental impacts, possible trash, and spilled vehicle fluids that can be a concern for plant life and flowing water sources. Additionally, Arizona Fish and Game have from time to time identified riparian areas that may support certain plant or desert animal life and have restricted access near these areas.
What has, for many years, seemed to be a wild and open area, is starting to gravitate to a managed master plan for the region where multi-use needs are considered and some restrictions will be placed on each of the groups to continue to accommodate the needs of them all. BLM has recently released a planning document for Table Mesa after several intensive years of study of the area. Public collaboration and input over a two year period was also taken under consideration as this plan was formed. By the time you read this writing, a 30 day appeal period should have passed and the plan most likely adopted for implementation.
The plan includes, from an off-roading standpoint, what is described as an approved trail list that will be marked with signage. Some existing trails will be closed to access and a few new trails will be established. This will all fall under the establishment of a route system, defining where certain types of users can participate in their activities. Staging areas will be defined and constricted trailhead parking established to minimize the freedom of allowing people to park most anywhere they want. Animals that are deemed to need protection, such as the Desert Tortoise, are being carefully considered and their preservation monitored.