Keeping Trails Open for Washington Riders
by Teri Starke
During this past month I’ve been thinking about 2016 and what my goals were in writing a monthly article in NWHS. I think I can say it in one sentence: to inform Washingtonians how important Back Country Horsemen of Washington is to equine owners. After talking with horse owners (and even my UPS driver this last month) and thinking about how and what I am saying, I realized many folks still don’t know of the benefits of BCHW. The following list clarifies those advantages.
- The first and most visible assistance BCHW gives to public agencies is to keep public lands open. Unfailingly, BCHW gives annually over 60,000 hours of volunteer labor to maintain trails! That is a lot of hours and is an amazing feat given how small the group of volunteers is. BCHW has around 2250 members right now.
- The second most important thing BCHW does is to monitor public agencies and their planning. This ensures that those agencies do not abandon equine trails. I think it is safe to say that most riders want to maintain access to trails, even if they do not get out on them often. If an agency comes up with a plan to abandon a trail system, the word gets out across the state, and country for that matter. During any comment period members are mobilized to provide input to agencies to not close trails. Public input is a powerful message that helps keep the trails open.
- The third thing BCHW members do is dress up in their best boots and hats and descend on Olympia in February of every year. We are there to let state elected and appointed government officials know that public access to state lands is very important to equine owners, and the grant funding needs to be kept intact. BCHW has been fortunate to receive $150,000 per biennium in grant funding to spend maintaining trails in this state.
My goal in writing about BCHW each month is to let equine owners in this state be more educated about BCHW. It still amazes me that we are not as well known among equine owners as we should be. BCHW does need members; members willing to volunteer at the state level, chapter level, work on trails, or find new riding trails and riding buddies. We do need you!
When we go to Olympia every February, the more members we have the more impact we have. Our visibility is important when our president says we have a huge number of members who care about outdoor recreation and trails. We need to get our membership numbers up to compete with other user groups. There is a case to be made that other user groups do not face the costs of BCHW members for our recreation; the care and maintenance of horses costs more than bikes! We do put a heck of a lot of money into our local economies.
Please consider becoming a member. BCHW is a 501(c)(3) corporation so your membership dues are tax deductible. You will also be a member of Back Country Horsemen of America and will receive their newsletter as well; this will keep you informed on what is going on around the entire USA.
Save the dates for 2017 BCHW’s Rendezvous
March 17, 18 and 19 at Kittitas Valley Event Center in Ellensburg
Rendezvous will be packed with horse and mule clinicians in the Bloom Arena. We have packing classes, vendors and demos going on too. The Trailmeister (Robert Eversole) and Andy Breland from Trailhead Supply will be giving talks that you won’t want to miss. Check out bchw.org for more info and reservation forms.
As always, give me a call at 253-709-5052 if you have questions about BCHW.