BJ Hill says he wants to continue providing horse rides on SARA Park trails to Lake Havasu, but concerns from bikers that the horses left the trails in poor condition have canceled the 2013 season.
The city won’t allow Hill’s Swift Creek Outfitters and Teton Horseback Adventures — which operates out of Jackson Hole, Wyo. and provides horse rides, backcountry fishing and hunting trips there during the summer months — to continue the rides this year until the trail concerns are addressed.
Mountain bike riders and hikers were upset that the trails had devolved into several inches of dust and unexpected divots with horses being allowed on the same trails they use.
Many who enjoyed the horse rides on the SARA Park trails have contacted Hill asking him about taking a ride again on the trails, Hill said.
“We would love to come back, but we can’t,” Hill said. “Our clients are calling and we have no way to operate.”
There doesn’t seem to be any current movement toward resolving the conflict.
“Unfortunately we feel there are too many conflicts with existing uses and no plan or compromise is in place for sharing of the existing trails,” an Aug. 21 letter from the city’s Community Services Director Greg Froslie said, detailing the decision.
The city’s letter also stated that the city and the Bureau of Land Management could better address the trails issue through the BLM’s Travel Management Plan which is being crafted to address trail uses at SARA Park. The plan will “determine if commercial trail rides are compatible with existing trail uses.”
The Bureau of Land Management which owns SARA Park, but leases the property to the city for recreation and public purposes, hasn’t had any contact with Hill in recent months.
As a business owner, it’s on Hill’s shoulders to work toward a solution, Froslie said. It’s not the city’s responsibility to reach out to him, he added.
Hill had a differing perspective.
“I feel that we lost the 2013 season because nobody wanted to take the time to get us back on track,” Hill said.
Hill acknowledged the concerns saying “the bike community did not like the way the horses were tearing up the trails and basically didn’t want us down there.”
“I get what they’re saying,” Hill said. “But we only used about 10 percent of those trails and they have 90 percent to run on.”
Last year, horse rides were offered from February through April. Yet, Hill eyed a lengthier riding season at the park, starting just before Christmas and concluding May 1.
“To come out of the snow and pull into here is like paradise,” Hill said. “We got a good thing going there.”
While Hill said he wants to “adjust to the issues,” Froslie said it was “his understanding” that Hill hasn’t been cooperative with those concerned about the trails.
“We fight very hard for trail maintenance,” said Aaron Boatman, a mountain biker and founder of the SARA Mountain Park Trails Association. “It’s a very sensitive subject.” The group works many hours on trail maintenance, he added.
When the horse rides were allowed out there last year, “the horses turned the trail into a powdery mush,” Boatman said. There were big, two foot divots in the trails where the horses went, he added.
Craig Raney, owner of Havasu Bike and Fitness, who Hill specifically referred to as not wanting the horses on SARA Park trails, declined to comment for this article.
The Bureau of Land Management’s Travel Management Plan is nearly completed, said Jayson Barangan, assistant field manager for recreation and operations. Hill hasn’t requested any permits from the BLM.
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