Commercial horseback rides have been banned from a popular national forest trail in Oro Valley following an outcry from other trail users, Coronado National Forest officials said Monday.
Many hikers had complained that the rides — from the Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort — were damaging and defiling the Linda Vista Trail north of Tucson.
More than 200 people signed petitions calling for the Forest Service to deny renewal of the resort’s permit for commercial rides.
“A decision was made to deny the proposal (for a permit renewal) because it unreasonably conflicted with current uses on the Linda Vista Trail,” said Heidi Schewel, spokeswoman for the forest.
“It conflicted with hikers, walkers and non-commercial equestrians,” Schewel said, noting that commercial rides ended when the previous permit expired earlier this month. “The trail receives a lot of use now and it is expected to increase with the development of Oro Valley. We were already experiencing conflict and that would be expected to increase” if the commercial rides continued.
Hiker Donald Harner, who collected petition signatures in opposition to the rides, lauded the decision to deny renewal of the permit.
“We’re glad the trail is going to be protected,” said Harner. “I expect there are a whole lot of people who will be happy with that decision.”
He and other hikers, including Don Ystad, maintained that heavy commercial horse traffic damaged the trail surface and left it littered with excessive horse droppings.
“I would imagine that trail damage would have been enough cause to terminate the permit,” Harner said. “Also, it’s a narrow trail, and people commented about how awkward — and even possibly dangerous — it was to have to share the trail with horses.”
Concerning repair of trail damage, Schewel noted that a permittee’s responsibilities include “hiring a trail crew for post-permit mitigation.”
“Our requirement is that they restore the trail to pre-use conditions utilizing a qualified field crew by June 3,” she said.
Efforts to reach Ghee Alexander, general manager of El Conquistador, or another resort spokesperson for comment on the permit denial and trail restoration were unsuccessful.