Meet the Off-Road Enthusiasts Helping Conserve Our Public Lands
There are more people than ever exploring our nation’s backcountry roads. People like Marcus Trusty are helping keep them clean, safe, and open.
Marcus Trusty’s family has lived in Buena Vista, Colorado, for three generations. The trails he grew up exploring with his grandfather and father—hiking, biking, fishing, and off-roading —are the same ones he now takes his two young sons to. But over that same stretch of time, he saw more folks start flocking to his hometown to recreate in the backcountry. That’s not a bad thing, but along with that higher volume came a higher impact, and then talks of restricting access.
In 2015, Trusty heard something astonishing—a recent Forest Service settlement that had the potential to close nearly half of the trails he grew up using. In that moment, he knew he had to act. “For a long time I’d always thought that somebody should do something,” says Trusty.“ At that point I realized that I was the one.”
The following year, Trusty started Colorado Off Road Enterprise (CORE). While the group’s mission is simple—keep trails open—CORE does a bit of everything, from education and outreach to trail projects and cooperative efforts. What Trusty quickly realized is that, oftentimes, motorized users are simply underrepresented in decision-making on access to public lands, and that the folks who make those decisions often don’t understand what users like him are seeking. So Trusty has made it his mission to build a bridge of understanding and prevent negative behavior from having repercussions for everyone.
The surge of people Trusty noticed exploring Colorado’s backcountry were overstressing not just the land but those who manage it. That’s because one of the main reasons trails end up closing is that the impact gets too great for the land management agency to actually manage. In order to prevent user impact from hitting a critical mass, CORE works with the Forest Service and district rangers to help resolve issues that those agencies don’t have the bandwidth to deal with. By stepping in to mitigate these negative impacts, CORE and its band of volunteers directly prevent trail closures. This is a critical step in keeping Buena Vista’s trails open.
Take the recent issue that arose at Four Mile Recreation Area, a popular multi-use area close to town that has a lot of dispersed camping and allows for OHV traffic. When the Forest Service got word that somebody had dumped a bunch of tires and trash along an OHV route, they emailed CORE. A CORE volunteer immediately went out to take care of it.
“Now when there is an issue, we’re the first one on the agency’s email list. They ask us, ‘Have you seen this? Do you guys have a plan for this, what should we do?’” says Trusty. This open line of communication and collaboration is what he feels is CORE’s biggest accomplishment so far. “To me, that’s established our credibility as not just a motorized user group, but a solutions-oriented group, one where, if they have a problem, we’re one of the first ones that they are asking how to fix it.”
Other times it’s Mother Nature that causes the disruption, like in 2019, when Colorado had a historic avalanche season. The state witnessed destruction not seen in 100 years—one area near Buena Vista was buried by a quarter-mile-long avalanche. Many trails were riddled with huge debris, and CORE volunteers were out there cleaning up in order for the trails to open for the public to enjoy.
Today, CORE has 14 adopted trails where they do work projects, provide trail reports, and ensure that motorized users are represented when decisions are made about them. But individual users play a critical role here, too. The more people you have in a given area, the higher the chance that somebody is not going to make a good decision. “That’s the hard part,” says Trusty. “It only takes one person to drive off-trail. Then others follow in their tracks.” The number-one thing people can do to protect public land and keep trails open is to be good stewards by staying on the trail.
Trusty’s young kids, Jax and Ryland, are already learning how to leave trails better than they found them. They can spot trash and beer cans from a mile away and clear a rogue firepit in minutes. They’re learning that part of enjoying our public lands means taking care of them. “It’s really up to all of us to work together, to try and keep these trail systems open for my kids, for your kids, for future generations,” he says. “Our access is precious. We need to do whatever we can to maintain it.
Four Other Organizations Helping Keep Trails Clean, Safe, and Open
Like CORE, Stay the Trail is based in Colorado. As its name implies, one of its main goals is to educate folks and promote responsible OHV use––primarily by encouraging users to “keep your wheels where they belong.” They emphasize that the number-one way to keep trails open is to off-road responsibly—a topic that they recently teamed up with Outside and Toyo Tires on. From how to navigate obstacles to advice on matching tires to your vehicle and local terrain, check our tips on trail etiquette here.
This nonprofit promotes responsible vehicle use on public lands, encourages land managers to develop trails for OHV use, and seeks to prevent undue restrictions on recreational four-wheeling and keep trails open. They have member clubs all across the state of Arizona, from Tucson to Phoenix to Parker.
Like other state-focused non-profits in the space, CORVA’s sole mission is to promote, protect, and preserve off-road recreation and automotive access on public lands throughout California. Collaborating closely with land managers and California’s State Department of Parks and Recreation, CORVA and its affiliated clubs throughout the state work to educate members and off-road enthusiasts and help promote clean-up and trail maintenance projects.
The NOHVCC offers education and resources to promote safe and responsible off-highway vehicle recreation. They put out materials (like this PSA) for enthusiasts to learn how to recreate responsibly and be safe while doing it. They also work to ensure a positive and sustainable future for folks who enjoy OHV travel, which includes creating resources and hosting workshops on developing and maintaining trails. This nationwide organization also helps connect people to local organizations and individuals in their area, from the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition to the Midwest Recreational Riders in Iowa and the Maryland Off-Highway Vehicle Alliance.
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