Four wheeling in the Hills, etiquette and conservation with the Forest Service and local groups

Published: Apr. 24, 2021 at 6:22 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) -The Hills invite people to start their engines.

The 4 wheeler community is growing in South Dakota, Especially over the last year. All of the interest has sparked an urge for some local riding groups to educate people on how to tread wisely.

A few local groups got together in hopes to educate new riders, Ty Brown with Black Hills Jeeps, speaks to the importance.

‘We’re seeing how busy the trails are getting our here in the Hills. I think we decided it’s time to take action and take initiative, and try and put something together to show new 4 by 4 enthusiasts some of the basics of getting out,” Brown said.

The groups are teaching the public how to winch and recover and what things to bring with you when you go out.

There’s no particular ignition to this hobby, the key of interest can be found in just about anyone, like Shawn Hayford with Black Hills 4 Wheelers.

“I used to do a lot of off road riding, and I got old and lazy and I wanted a way to get outside and not be dead at the end of the day,” says Hayford. “So, I started getting to Jeeping!”

“It’s just like if you give a mouse a cookie. You go out 4 wheeling once and you’re like, ‘well, now I need a lift kit and rock sliders,’” says Brown with Black Hills Jeeps. “Then, you get stuck. Now, you need a winch. All of the sudden it turned into its own hobby for me.”

The high volume of trail usage has gotten the attention of the National Forest Service.

Austin Aluise, the Black Hills National Forest Motorized Trail Ranger Crew Leader, talks about what all of the added traffic is doing to the forest.

“What we see is trail damage, and things with people who are just not educated as well as they should be for proper trail use. As we call it, ‘tread lightly,’” said Aluise.

The Forest Service would like to see more trail etiquette, like leaving gates the way you found them, open or closed. Going through mud holes instead of around them, yielding to uphill traffic when you’re travelling downward and always to horses.

Above all else, “If someone who is new is coming up to me and asking what they would do, I would say, ‘the biggest thing is to stick to the trails,’” said Aluise.

Some trails are open seasonally and others are year round, but to prevent damage to the forest, stay on them.

“Yes, it’s public lands. It means it’s all of ours. We all get to use it, but some people make take it too far and think, ‘well, it’s mine. I can do whatever I want.’ In the broad spectrum of things, it’s everybody’s,” says Aluise, “and so we want it kept in good condition for people in generations to come.”

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