Saturday, August 22, 2009
In an April 19, 2008 post titled "Runners - Are We Taking Over The Trails?" we talked about whether or not an increase in the number of runners over the last several years translated into an over-crowding of your favorite running routes, trails, etc... In fact, back in April of 2008 signs appeared at The Rockefeller State Park Preserve, a park run by the State of New York, prohibiting group running (3 or more runners) in certain parts of the Park (basically around Swan Lake).
Signs Posted in April of 2008
In March of this year there were rumblings about park administrators instituting and enforcing an even more restrictive rule - a "walk only" rule during certain hours of park operation. This rule would act to completely prohibit running in the Swan Lake area during certain weekend and holiday hours (11:00 AM to 5:00 PM). Now, for me, I spend a good 4 to 8 hours a day at Rockies on a normal Saturday and Sunday, so typically my training runs would fall within the restricted hours. Yet, there are miles and miles of park trails available to runners, and such a rule would not have a tremendous impact on my training. However, there are many who feel that a rule such as this would be discriminatory, set without any reasonable or rational basis (despite any claims that park attendance is the greatest during these hours and that such a rule would act to keep the Swan Lake area more peaceful for those that do not come to the park to run). There are also those that feel it would create a situation where runners (particularly female runners) would be forced to leave the Swan Lake trails (located adjacent to the main parking lot) for more secluded areas of the park, thus creating a safety issue. Well, it is official. They have done it.
"To ensure tranquility for all," both Swan Lake and Brothers Path are "Walk Only" from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on Saturday, Sunday and Holidays during the months of July, August, September and October. On my run today at Rockies I met a runner who was actually chased down by park management (in a golf cart) last weekend and yelled at for running in the restricted area during the prohibited hours.
These signs are placed on various trails that act as gateways to the Swan Lake and Brothers Path sections of the park. While they may be there in an effort to ensure tranquility for all, they certainly take away a lot on an aesthetic level. Is this rule fair? Is it reasonable and rational given the facts and circumstances? Does the preserve manager have the legal authority to establish such a rule, and if so are there notice requirements coupled with a right of the impacted parties to be heard?
I for one have never experienced congestion in these areas of Rockies, let alone anywhere else in the park. Sure, there have been occasions where I have encountered large groups of runners, usually college or high-school track and/or cross country teams, that fail to yield to oncoming runners and walkers as they take up the entire trail running 3, 4 and more abreast (in fact, on two occasions I was actually shouldered off the trail by these large groups). However, this is a rare occurrence (although it is likely the type of situation that the rule should really intend to prevent). The reality is that the exercise of common sense and courtesy would solve it all, not just by runners, but by all park patrons. It is so simple, isn't it? When you see other people coming toward you, whether you are a runner or walker, move over a bit. If you are runners in a group of 3, 4 or more, run single file to the far right of the trail until you pass the oncoming runners/walkers. Similarly, if you are out there with your family and see runners coming toward you, move yourself, your 6 kids and 5 dogs over a bit and let the runners/walkers pass. Right? Isn't it that simple? Wouldn't that eliminate the need for a "walk only" rule?
And, why not a "run only" period? How about making the Swan Lake and Brothers Path sections "run only" during the hours preceding 11:00 AM and after 5:00 PM? Would that be fair to the non-runners? Not any more so than a "walk only" rule.
Well, one thing is for sure - people will have different opinions on the subject, and while I am indifferent to it all as it does not have an impact on my training, I do understand those runners that feel as if this "walk only" rule is discriminatory, and I do feel for those runners who typically run during the prohibited hours and do not feel comfortable leaving the Swan Lake area from a safety standpoint.
The debate continues, and it is sure to get heated. Regardless of how it plays out, Rockies will always be an amazing place for runners and non-runners to escape the hustle and bustle of city life. A gem in Westchester County, with miles and miles of beautiful, scenic trails. The only question is - can you run or do you have to walk? As they say in ultra running, run when you can, walk if you must, and make sure you can outrun the park management golf cart if you choose to run in the restricted area.