You will probably be reading this around the time of the 39th Easter Jeep Safari in Moab, and as you might know, that monstrous event has been changed forever. As a sign of the times, the BLM has granted conditional permits for the event, which allows the Red Rock 4 Wheelers to have exclusive use of certain trails during certain days, and making some trails one way during the same period. Some people think this is a bad move which restricts our right to wheel, while others see it as a way to ensure a safe, environmentally friendly, orderly event.
The fact of the matter is that the Easter Jeep Safari has almost always had to pull permits for BLM land use, and certain restrictions have always been in place for these very reasons. With the huge growth of wheelers coming into the town and trails of Moab in the last five years, the impact on the trails has been overwhelming, and the Wild West atmosphere that has developed has, at times, gotten out of control. The sheer number of wheelers on the trails during the Safari, not to mention hikers and mountain bikers on spring break, has made the week between Palm Sunday and Easter near madness as far as town and trail impacts.
If you are one of the lucky ones that have registered for the Safari, the result will be less traffic and congestion on the trail. The one-way trail designations mean that no one will have to stray off of the environmentally sensitive trails to pass each other. Parking jams will be diminished, and trails can be completed without some wheelers having to straggle back to town until late in the evening because of trail traffic problems. If you happen to be enjoying the local Moab trails on your own or with a small group of friends during this week, you might experience some inconvenience to your plans if you attempt to go the wrong way on some trails or try to run certain trails reserved for the Easter Jeep Safari.
As for my position on these developments, I can't see that the new rules are a bad thing for Moab, or our sport as it is. We've had rules for large groups on BLM land for a long time, and it's unlikely that those rules will change any time soon. To those who whine about our right to wheel on public land being threatened by these changes, I highly doubt it. If anything, it could be a very forward-looking program for any public wheeling area that is congested beyond control, where the Wild West attitude of doing anything you want prevails, without regard to your fellow wheeler or to the trail itself. Sure, it is our public land which is our right to use, but within reason. If we abuse the land, it will be closed off as it has been in other areas. The government has the power to do this because we as the public allow them to. To change the system, we must become more responsible as a group, and that starts with you.
In the meantime, as you decide to get involved in land use issues, you might want to approach Moab and the Easter Jeep Safari a different way. Many people that aren't registered for the event come a week early and wheel while no one is around, or wheel the following week to avoid the crowds. The hotel rooms are cheaper, campgrounds are less congested, and the night life scene is far less crowded as well. Some people I know split the week in half, while getting a full weekend to wheel before the event, then leaving town before the mad onslaught starts at the later part of the week. Whatever you choose to do, enjoy Moab and, above all, enjoy wheeling, as long as you do it responsibly.