Central Colorado Mountain Riders President Chad Hixon grew up in Salida, but he said before this year, he remembers just one time when a trail was seriously vandalized: Someone dragged a bunch of debris into a blind corner of a trail so it couldn’t be seen until it was too late.
“I couldn’t believe it,” he said.
That incident happened more than 10 years ago, he said.
In the last couple of months, however, more malicious acts of vandalism have taken place.
First, someone cut the support on a bridge on the Gutz Trail. Andrea Wilson of Salida Mountain Trails said it looked like someone set up a booby trap. “They cut it in a way where it would collapse under weight,” Wilson said. Luckily, the damaged bridge was spotted before anyone got hurt.
Last week another booby trap was set. Someone put a board with nails sticking out of it in the landing of a dirt jump.
“The latest thing was pretty shocking,” Hixon said. “It was very aggressive. The board was covered with dirt so only the nails were sticking out.”
A dirt biker ran over the board, resulting in a pair of flat tires and a ruined day.
Hixon said the nails were about 3 inches long, which is long enough to puncture a lung if someone had fallen on it.
“The bottom line is somebody did something to hurt someone, and that’s not right,” Hixon said.
“It’s just cold-hearted,” Wilson said.
Other incidents of vandalism have also taken place on local trails lately, but it’s unclear whether any of the incidents are related.
Stickers signaling on which trail users are and aren’t allowed have been removed from signs. Rocks adding to the difficulty on the new Dream On Trail were removed.
And someone posted a bogus note on the vehicle of an SMT volunteer. Wilson said the car was parked on public property, but the note said the vehicle was trespassing and police were going to be notified. The police were in fact notified, but it was SMT who contacted them.
The two organizations now want trail users to be on the lookout, not only for other traps, but also for people committing the malicious acts.
“People need to be on the lookout,” Hixon said. “If you frequent the jumps, look before you leap.”
“If they see anyone doing anything like that (vandalism), if it’s safe, get a picture or a good description (of the perpetrators),” Wilson said, emphasizing details like if the person was on a bike or on foot, had tattoos or a weird haircut or anything else that could help the authorities catch the culprit.
“I just think it’s scary, it’s wrong, and we don’t want to tolerate that activity in the community,” Hixon said. “We want people to band together, be on guard and put a stop to this.”
Since the trails fall under several jurisdictions, anyone with information about vandalism can call Chaffee County’s nonemergency dispatch number at 719-539-2596, Bureau of Land Management law enforcement dispatch at 800-637-9152 or the U.S. Forest Service Salida Ranger District office at 719-539-3591. Hixon said he knows Salida police, BLM and Forest Service are all aware of the acts of vandalism.
“This is a recreational mecca, and we need to be working together and get along,” Hixon said.
“We just want people to be nice to each other and share the trails,” Wilson said.