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Good Trail Etiquette – Sharing Our Trails

May, 2022 - By City Manager, Rachelle Rickard  

In an effort to help keep members of our community safer, I recently shared in this space some important roadway safety tips and etiquette reminders and for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. Similarly, recreational users of our local trails and riverbed areas should also remember to graciously share the outdoors with their fellow community members, watch out for others, use good common sense and treat everyone you may encounter while out on the trail with respect, decency and courtesy. Sharing trails and outdoor spaces can work for everyone when those that are using them respect each other and work cooperatively to keep each other safe. Please keep in mind that everyone is out there for similar reasons, just doing it in different ways and all trail users have the right to be safe while enjoying our beautiful outdoors.

All outdoor enthusiasts utilizing popular local trails should be aware that horseback riders are not only dealing with other trail users, including hikers, bicyclists and oftentimes motorized off-roaders, they’re also working with horses, which are relatively large animals whose natural instincts can influence their behaviors and affect their reactions to certain circumstances. I recently heard from someone who told me that they ride Atascadero’s trails frequently on horseback and 99.9% of their encounters with hikers, dogs, bicyclists and motorcycle riders have been wonderful. However, when those on horseback are suddenly confronted with conditions that startle or scare their horse, the horse’s natural instinct of flight can be extremely dangerous and could have disastrous results for both the horse and rider. Be sure to take extra care if approaching a horse from behind, as horses cannot see directly behind themselves and may kick out in what they perceive as self defense. Gently announce, well in advance, to let the horse and rider know that you are approaching from behind and wait for direction from the rider. Simply being more aware and taking care not to startle a horse when encountered on a shared trail can help keep everyone safer.  

It’s also important for everyone to be mindful of recreational uses in ecologically sensitive areas. The City’s Municipal Code prohibits the use of “private motorized vehicles, including but not limited to motorcycles, ATVs, dune buggies, recreational vehicles, automobiles, go‑carts, motorized skateboards or trucks in the riparian corridor” (5-8.02 Prohibited uses and activities Ord. 236 §1, 1992), such as the areas in and near Atascadero Creek, the Salinas River and the De Anza Trail. Unauthorized use of motorized vehicles in these areas can severely affect the protected riparian watershed, water quality, plant life and animal habitats. There have unfortunately been recent reports of a seeming disregard by some users for these protected areas, their fellow citizen’s health and safety, and even reports of lawful users being harassed or threatened. There have also been issues with motorcycles or ATV’s spooking horses and frightening dogs that are being walked on leash; as well as problems between pet owners due to their dogs getting into dangerous fights while off-leash.

I encourage all local trail users to take responsibility for their actions and to work to understand other user’s concerns. Be courteous, use common sense and good trail etiquette. Keep dogs on-leash while walking them, for their own protection as well as that of other people and pets. Atascadero Police Officers provide patrol and enforcement near high-use local trails and the riverbed areas as much as possible, but it’s impossible to have eyes on all places at all times. If anyone witnesses dangerous activity on our trails, please report it by calling 805-461-5051. In an emergency, always call 911.

Please, be safe, be respectful, be kind.  If you have any questions about this or any other topic related to the City of Atascadero, feel free to email me at rrickard@atascadero.org.  

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