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Why shortcuts are bad for the Overlook Trail

By Fred Allebach

The Sonoma Overlook Trail stewards will soon be doing some trail maintenance to minimize switchback cut-offs and social trails. Six Hanna boys will volunteer to help.

Over the years, it has been a struggle to manage switchback cutting and keep people on the trail. The Overlook Trail hillside has a history of extracurricular use and many social trails are well established that predate the SOT itself. Current projects will focus primarily on switchback cut offs.

As it works out on the ground, trail users see ways to cut off long switchbacks and take a short cut. Runners and exercise-focused people may cut switchbacks because they are looking for steep inclines to get their heart rate up. Short cuts to the top are taken for multiple reasons and purposes. Whoever the user and whatever their purpose, when a new shortcut gets opened, more users feel tempted to go that way. The bulk of users may not know why it is important to stay on the trail, to not cut switchbacks.

Rationale for staying on the trail and not cutting switchbacks: The primary purpose of the trail is to give people access to public land, nature and recreational opportunities. The trail is the common avenue people use to access this land and possibly find something special, in contrast to life in the city. Over time, the trail erodes and needs to be managed and maintained. By keeping good trails, opportunities for people to experience nature are ensured for the long haul.


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