By Eric Butler
All-terrain vehicles and horseback riders using the same trails can be a recipe for disaster.
On Wednesday, Clovis city officials held a town meeting to discuss how to separate the two groups at Ned Houk Park north of the city.
At the Clovis-Carver Public Library, assistant city manager Joe Thomas and Parks and Recreation director Rob Carter solicited suggestions from a group of 18 people.
“In the past, we’ve had conflicts between motorized vehicles and non-motorized, like horseback riders,” Thomas said. “We’re trying to come up with some solutions to alleviate those problems.”
At the end of the day, Thomas proposed that a suggestion be made to the city’s Ned Houk Park board that a former motorcross area — shut down after an accident occurred there in 1999 — be designated for motorized vehicles only.
“If we designated the old motorcross track and some land next to it for motorized vehicles, say around 400 to 500 acres, is that possibly a start?” asked Thomas, who didn’t receive any negative responses to that question.
The park, owned by the city of Clovis, is approximately 3,400 acres in size.
At any given point however, only around 500 to 750 acres are estimated to be available to trailgoers.
The majority of the park is leased on an annual basis for grazing rights, which earns 10,000 to $22,000 per year in grazing fees. City officials pointed out that ATV drivers routinely cut fences to use their vehicles in the pasture land, which is then damaged.
“It’s a big source of revenue to our park,” said John Meier, manager of Ned Houk Park. “It’s taken a big hit and, I hate to say it, we may not have that source in the future.”
All-terrain vehicle users in the audience said they would be willing to pay some kind of an annual, or monthly, user fee.
“I’d like to see 1,000 to 1,400 acres. You make it a one-way trail — make it to where you can have a long enough ride to be pleasurable,” said audience member Jim Hogg, after city officials first suggested that 160 acres be set aside for motorized use.
On the other hand, horseback riders said the ATVs and motorcycles made their current recreational use of the park dangerous.
“I think that’s the only way it’s going to work,” said audience member Wayne Hogan of the suggestion for separate trails. “When I’m on a horse, the horses get so scared by the motorcycles.”
Thomas pointed out that the effectiveness of this proposed solution, if adopted by the Clovis city commission, is still subject to users not violating the rules of the park.
“I think everyone is in agreement that we need to segregate the two major groups,” said Thomas at the end of the meeting. “If this doesn’t work, I think you’re looking at the city commission completely closing the park (trails) to motorized traffic.”