When you take a look at the history of Tooele County, trails have played a vital role in the area’s development and renown. The Hasting’s Cutoff, the Pony Express Trail, the Overland Stage and the Lincoln Highway, to name the big ones, are major contributors to the county’s historical eminence.
Furthermore, in numerous instances wherever white man forged a trail here during the 1800s, more people and commerce eventually followed. For example, simple foot and horse paths led to the county’s blossoming settlements and mining towns before being replaced with wagon roads or rail lines.
Many of the county’s historically significant routes still exist today. In fact, one of the nation’s best remaining vestiges of the Pony Express Trail crosses nearly the entire width of Tooele County. But instead of scrappy, mail toting horsemen, today the Pony Express Trail, and scores of other local byways across the landscape, see flying dust of a different sort.
Tooele County has been known for years as providing ideal terrain and trails for ATV enthusiasts. That popularity, in addition to horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking, has grown exponentially in recent years. This adoration is expected to climb as outdoor enthusiasts from here and elsewhere increasingly use local trails.
As a consequence, the propensity for accidents by trail users is also expected to rise. Every summer there are numerous trail users, primarily ATV riders, who are critically injured— or worse — in accidents. A few have already occurred this spring. On the positive side, it doesn’t have to be that way.
According to Russ Steadman of Steadman’s Recreation in Tooele, the biggest problem with some ATV riders is every time they turn on the ignition key, “they turn off their brain.” Common sense, and respect for potential dangers that are inherent to ATV use, are forgotten.
But according to Steadman, those dangers can be vastly minimized if riders follow basic safety rules, such as wearing a helmet and protective clothing. Utah law requires that ATV riders under the age of 15 must complete an online safety-training course at www.vcourse.com. But Steadman strongly recommends that all new riders, regardless of age, should take the course, too.
Although driver error is often the cause of ATV accidents, ignorance of trail etiquette is a contributing factor. Because most developed and promoted trails in the county are of the multi-purpose variety, trail courtesy between ATV riders, horseback riders, hikers and mountain bikers is essential to avoid accidents and conflict.
For years, trail organizations across the U.S. have advocated the following simple guideline to ensure trail safety: ATV riders must always yield to all hikers, mountain bikers and horses. Mountain bikers must always yield to all hikers and horses. And hikers must always yield for horses, and hikers moving uphill.
Because horses can be easily frightened, hikers, mountain bikers and ATV riders must yield to horseback riders at all times. To properly yield for horseback riders on a narrow trail, stop and move downhill off the trail.
With summer arriving soon, Tooele County’s popular trails will again be enjoyed by thousands of residents and visitors. All are encouraged to keep safety and etiquette tantamount to trail enjoyment.
Additional safety guidelines and information about local trails are available at www.tooelecountytrails.com.