The most polite name I can come up with for this deplorable subset of park-users is Trail Jerks.
These are people who don’t get it — who think they can do anything they want whenever they want to whatever they want because, by damn, “we are taxpayers and no one is going to tell us what we can and can’t do.”
Not long ago, I was hiking the trails at our local Calavera Preserve in Carlsbad with friends and my spouse. Friends Jerry and Wanda have volunteered for several years to help create and maintain the trails and other areas of the preserve. Much of it is work that I probably wouldn’t do even if I could because it involves some backbreaking labor — moving rocks, digging trenches, hauling trash and pruning overgrown bushes, trees and poison oak. All the trail volunteers in the county’s various open spaces put in a lot of hours and take a lot of ibuprofen, at no cost to the cities in which they work (in this case Carlsbad). They value these open spaces and believe in donating sweat equity to keep the parks and preserves looking good and functioning well as places that work for both humans and animals.
One of the rules in these open spaces is that visitors must keep their dogs on leashes. It’s a common-sense rule; it keeps the dogs safe from coyotes, rattlesnakes and poison oak, and helps maintain the integrity of these sensitive habitats.
Many acres of these preserves have been restored at great cost (real money), and are home to critters large and small that occupied this territory long before we two-legged creatures arrived on the scene. Yes, we increasingly need land to build houses, condos, schools and commercial buildings, but keeping some of our dwindling free acres open and accessible to all certainly enhances the quality of life.
But back to the trail…
As we were enjoying our day, we passed several other hikers and dog-walkers whose pets were not on leashes. Our friend, Jerry, doesn’t hesitate to straightforwardly but kindly remind transgressors that they must tether their dogs. Most of the time, the owners comply without too much complaint, perhaps because Jerry is a hefty 6-foot-8-inches and has an authoritative baritone voice. (I, on the other hand, at 5-foot-4-inches and 105 pounds, take a less direct path of communication.
I tell them that we just spotted a big fat rattler on the trail — I point to whatever direction they are headed — and that the snake looks hungry.)
There’s a bad apple in every crowd, however, and we encountered a particularly rotten one on this recent morning. This man’s dog was running ahead of him about 20 feet, obviously looking for somewhere to do his business. We were traveling in the opposite direction and when we met, Jerry politely asked him to use the leash.
Suddenly this man launched into a tirade, with a smattering of unprintable words, that included the following points:
• I pay taxes; therefore, this park belongs to me.
• Because it’s my park, I can do what I want.
• You have no right to tell me what to do.
• And lastly, and here I quote, “I see people like you out here working all the time. You’re just tearing up the environment and wasting taxpayers’ money just so you can feel good about yourself.”
That last point was a new one for me. While I did a slow burn, Wanda related that this wasn’t their first encounter with this Trail Jerk.
It is sad that he is so angry, but if he happens to read this, I hope he understands that rules exist so that he and his dog and everyone else who visits Calavera Preserve will be able to enjoy it for a long time to come.
E’Louise Ondash is a freelance writer living in North County. Tell her about your travels at firstname.lastname@example.org