The badge, right there above the front wheels, reads ‘Trail Rated’.
And thus we equip our Jeeps with massive wheels, suspension lifts, winches, bumpers, side bars. Pretty much everything we can to make the thing into the kind of rugged off-road machine we’ve envisioned since, well, birth.
So we go, and we ride through mud and dirt. Haul the vehicle up and down rocks. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we get a glimpse of the world few others see.
Then we leave and, unfortunately, sometimes what is left behind isn’t so wonderful.
Trash, broken parts, tree or brush damage from those who veer off the trail – all of which can add up over time and destroy the very land we love to enjoy.
With Earth Day just behind us and a summer of trail riding ahead, it is certainly important to take trail responsibility just as serious as trail adventure, says Lori McCullough, CEO and Executive Director of Tread Lightly!
“Sometimes people just do not realize how easy it is to do damage,” McCullough says. “Research has shown the majority of (trail) issues are not because people are being purposefully irresponsible, it is because they just are unfamiliar.”
“None of us are born with table manners and so, in the same way, none of us are born with outdoor manners either. We have to learn somewhere.”
And Tread Lightly! is here to help teach.
Founded in 1990, Tread Lightly! is a member-driven organization unparalleled in protecting off-road access and for promoting responsible outdoor recreation through ethics education and stewardship programs such as the ‘Quadratec Cares’ grant.
This grant is designed to help people and Jeep clubs across the nation organize their own trail clean-ups by purchasing tools, fuel, or other equipment for event use, provide food and water for volunteers, help with facility rentals, and distribute educational materials to promote better trail responsibility.
Tread Lightly! members who are organizing events can apply before one of four application dates during the year: March 30, June 30, September 30, and December 31.
For 2015 alone, ‘Quadratec Cares’ grants helped provide resources for 550 volunteers in several states who removed almost 40 tons of trash and improved about 4,000 miles of trails, as well as helping distribute nearly 5,000 educational trail booklets.
“These are projects which directly help protect our (trail) access by addressing infrastructure issues,” McCullough says. “This type of outdoor recreation is so important, not just for the physical value, but socially as well.”
“It helps make more successful people. There is value there.”
With more than 700,000 new Jeeps sold in 2015 between Wrangler, Cherokee, Grand Cherokee and Renegade, and thousands of used Jeeps changing hands – often to new Jeepers – there is also value for Tread Lightly! to reinforce trail etiquette to these potential first-time off-roaders.
Travel Responsibly on land by staying on designated roads, trails and area. Go over, not around, obstacles to avoid widening the trails. Cross streams only at designated fords. when possible, avoid wet, muddy trails. On water, stay on designated waterways and launch your watercraft in designated areas.
Respect the Rights of Others including private property owners, all recreational trail users, campers and others so they can enjoy their recreational activities undisturbed. Leave gates as you found them. Yield right of way to those passing you or going uphill. On water, respect anglers, swimmers, skiers, boaters, divers and those on or near shore.
Educate Yourself prior to your trip by obtaining travel maps and regulations from public agencies. Plan for your trip, take recreation skills classes and know how to operate your equipment safely.
Avoid Sensitive Areas on land such as meadows, lake shores, wetlands and streams. Stay on designated routes. This protects wildlife habitats and sensitive soils from damage. Don’t disturb historical, archeological or paleontological sites. On water, avoid operating your watercraft in shallow waters or near shorelines at high speeds.
Do Your Part by modeling appropriate behavior, leaving the area better than you found it, properly disposing of waste, minimizing the use of fire, avoiding the spread of invasive species and repairing degraded areas.
“This really isn’t rocket science – it’s mainly common sense,” says McCullough. “But even still, we may think we know what is best, but that’s not always the case.”
“When I first started with Tread Lightly, in one of my first classes, the instructor asked what type of soap was best to use on the trail. And I said, along with many others, that biodegradable soap was best. But the instructor just shook his head. Nope. The answer was no soap. Just water alone.”
“So sometimes we think we know, but it always helps to be informed.”
Just like owning that 'Trail Rated' Jeep with the massive wheels, winch, side bars and bumper. We may think we are ready for the trail this summer, but it can't hurt to be informed.
For more information, or to join Tread Lightly! visit https://www.treadlightly.org/join-tread-lightly/
For more information on the 'Quadratec Cares' Grant, visit https://www.treadlightly.org/programs/stewardship-grants/
Since 1990, Quadratec's mission is always to deliver Expert Advice and Unbeatable Prices to enthusiasts of the legendary Jeep® CJ & Wrangler, Cherokee and Grand Cherokee. Quadratec's courteous factory-trained sales & customer service staff has the knowledge to make sure you, and your vehicle, get exactly what you need. Contact us at 800-745-2348 or www.quadratec.com.