Winter trail etiquette in Boise Foothills
Boise’s popular Table Rock trail system will be closed at times this winter as part of a pilot program to prevent damage when the ground is wet.
Seasonal closures were supported by 85 percent of the public in a survey that was part of the Ridge to Rivers 10-year management plan process. The program will be tried just at Table Rock this winter.
Trailhead gates will indicate the status of the trails in the pilot program. They will be open, closed or only open during the early morning, when the ground is frozen. Updates also will be posted on the Ridge to Rivers website and on the Boise Foothills Trail Conditions Facebook page.
Ridge to Rivers has tried to attack the problem of wet-trail use through education but that hasn’t been enough. The nearby staffs at Warm Springs Golf Course and the Idaho State Historical Society are helping Ridge to Rivers manage the closures.
“The Table Rock area has the worst soils and is where we have historically seen the most abuse during winter months, so this is a logical place to try this,” David Gordon, the program manager for Ridge to Rivers, said in a press release.
Trails included in the pilot program are Table Rock #15, Old Pen #15A, Table Rock Loop #16, Tram #14, Rock Garden #16A, Rock Island #16B and Shoshone-Paiute Tribes Loop #19.
“When trails are dry or frozen, they are great for winter travel,” Gordon said. “However, when they’re muddy, use leads to deep rutting by feet, hooves and tires, failure of drainage structures installed to curtail erosion, and the loss of trailside vegetation as users walk ever further off-trail to avoid the mud. These conditions are further compounded this winter by the loss of stabilizing vegetation in the Table Rock area following last summer’s wildfire.”
Other trails that Gordon says should be avoided in “marginal” conditions: Cottonwood Creek (27), Polecat Loop (81), Big Springs Loop (113), Ridgecrest (20), Bucktail (20A) and Red Cliffs (39).
“We need to cultivate a culture of responsible trail use in Boise,” Gordon said, “and have our users help us preserve the trail system for the long term by staying off of trails when they are muddy and can be damaged.”