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Editorial: The fewer public land rules, the better

The possibilities for conflict are endless.

A snowshoer savoring the sounds of “easy wind and downy flake” as Robert Frost’s woods fill up with snow is startled out of her reverie by the roar of an approaching snowmobile.

A mountain biker rounds a curve on a trail only to roll through unavoidable piles of fresh horse manure, which sticks to the knobby tires for a rotation or two before it’s launched face-ward.

Equestrians fight to control their mounts as motorcycles whoosh by.

Boaters struggle to navigate around the many anglers’ lines criss-crossing the boat ramp, and on and on and on.

New Hampshire’s parks and state forests are owned by all and used by many for many different forms of recreation. Conflicts between users, and between a use and the need to protect natural resources, are inevitable. So even in the Live Free or Die state, rules are necessary. The state Department of Resources and Economic Development, which oversees the parks and forests, is in the process of revising the rules governing their use, holding hearings, and soliciting public comment. We applaud the agency’s efforts to involve the public in the governance of its resources and ask that as it does, it keep this advice from the National Highway Administration an the National Trails Association in mind:

“Use the most ‘light-handed’ approaches that will achieve area objectives. This is essential in order to provide freedom of choice and natural environments that are so important to trail-based recreation.”

To that advice we would add this: Use the process to shrink or eliminate unnecessary rules. Among them, we think, is the blanket ban of skim boards from state beaches. Their use creates some risk – so do sharks and sharp seashells – but is it really enough to deprive children of fun and exercise they offer?

Changes in technology and fads in sports require rethinking rules. Geocaching – hiding a container full of assorted objects that must be located by deciphering clues and following GPS coordinates – is a case in point. The sport started small and is now wildly popular. The department’s proposed rules would require people who want to hide a geocache on public land to first get a permit, a measure meant, among other things, to make sure people depositing the cache and searching for it don’t trample fragile environments. The requirement makes sense.

Another proposed rule would ban fishing from state-owned beaches and parks from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. This blanket prohibition is unnecessary. New Hampshire has a very small coastline that offers limited space for fishing, and activity saltwater anglers must now pay to engage in. The problem that could occur if an overzealous angler casts plugs with treble hooks near swimmers is obvious, but how often does it occur? In inclement weather, or even on cool days, beach-goers and swimmers are rare to non-existent. It makes no sense to close beaches to anglers on such days. A better rule, if common sense indeed isn’t be used by some anglers, is to set a minimum distance between angler and other beach users.

The most controversial of the proposed rules are meant to address the problem of horse manure on hiking trails. Dismounting to kick manure off the trail, as the rule suggests, as riders claim, isn’t safe or practical. Other measures should be tried. Since horses tend to unburden themselves in the first half-mile of a trail, some parks use two entry trails that later converge, one for horses and one for other users. More riders could voluntarily rake and otherwise maintain the trails on public lands. Other user groups do so.

The goal of the agency, as it creates rules for public lands, should be to arrive at the minimum number that gets the job done. The proposed rules can be found on the agency’s website:, with comments sent to

Legacy Comments6

People who equine trail riders share these trails with need to understand there are very limited options for where we are allowed and able to ride our horses as is. These trails are among the few we are safely able to enjoy our sport, hobby, recreation, as opposed to hikers, bikers, dogs, etc., who have a much larger array of options. It is not reasonable to expect all riders to get down should a horse relieve themselves for many number of reasons; many riders are not young and simply cannot get on and off without mounting assistance, among many other reasons. Stepping around manure, which is organic and breaks down to dirt that people will pay for seems like a small thing to ask, but having two entrance ways would be an ideal "fix." Sharing small trails with walkers is not a problem when both parties have mutual respect, and take a moment to have awareness of each other. A horse will hear of someone or thing approaching long in advance, and give their rider time to communicate with ongoing traffic. Reducing or removing access to wood trails, rail beds, etc., potentially pushes riders onto streets more, which has proven to be extremely dangerous. Education, mutual respect, acceptance, and tolerance are a much better solution so that ALL can enjoy these national treasures, as intended, vs. imposing more rules, regulations and discrimination that will make it difficult, dangerous and potentially impossible for trail riders to continue to enjoy the few trails currently allowed. Trail riding is a huge industry, brings in a ton of money, through real estate, retail, and fundraising. The public needs to become more educated and, in my opinion, more understanding, accepting and tolerant so the sport does not become extinguished. Countless people move to NH because of the large equine community and amount of areas in which to ride. Taking the ability to ride away will see an exodus of horse owners find elsewhere to lay their hat, have a huge economic impact from properties to hay makers, and simply, is just not fair.

Well, what do ya know? The Monitor got one right. I totally agree but the real issue is that people using these parks have to be adult and grown up about it; showing courtesy towards each other and the trails and parks.

Great editorial guys! I challenge any of the usual suspects to disagree with your laissez faire, anti-Nanny-state opinion. It should be right up their alley. If they poo-poo it, it proves they simply harbor an irrational hatred of you.

Hypocrisy of the left never fails to amuse me. What is good for the goose is good for the gander - to approve of laissez faire, anti-Nanny-state stance in only 1 area of public policy is pure political opportunism.... and a terrible trait of unprincipled democrats

There is only one problem with using the most ‘light-handed’ approach, in today's society the technicality no common sense abusers will jump right out. Just as with the horse trail issue - the path width was not exactly stated so they just ignore the rule and claim any trail is open to them. Strange that horse owners claim it is not safe to get off the horse, but it is safe to ride amongst walkers. How about that "set a minimum distance between angler and other beach users" - will the first one there establish the boundary. If 10 fishermen get there first and spread out can they close the beach down for the day? Strange too is the article is against rules but appears they want to map out the entire state to decide “exactly” which rock to put a Geocaching item under. There is even a proposed ski rule that says "Lift riders are prohibited from throwing items from a chairlift". I guess if you don't say you can't then they figure it is OK. ...... No one likes rules but the less you have, society has shown the more they will abuse.

It is depressing to see how quick freedom and liberty are abandoned by people because it is too hard for them to pursue a continuation of our American culture of personal responsibility and self reliance. Instead they are in favor of BIG Govt control of their lives

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