We live in the “Land of the Free,” but it seems like some of our freedom has been taken away. In the city of New Brentwood, Tennessee, it appears that runners are no longer allowed to trail run in a particular park. The reason that the city cited was for “the safety of folks.”(1) Local runners petitioned the city planners, stating that the trails are “IDEAL for running, they are wide and they are well groomed.”(1) The city manager said, “It’s about the safety of the runners and others using the trails.”(1)
Let’s look at that comment for a second. Should I not be allowed to walk on the sidewalk to get the mail because I might trip off of the curb? Maybe they should ban the use of cars because someone might get in an accident. The reality is that trail runners know the risks of tripping over roots or rocks, slipping in mud, or having a tree branch smack them in the head because they didn’t see it. Trail running is not a sport without risks, but that does not mean that we shouldn’t be able to make that decision for ourselves.
In another situation, the Grand Canyon will release a draft of its backcountry management plan in which it will call for the ban of running in the canyon. They have already banned other extreme sports in the canyon, like motor boating, mountain biking and paragliding. The explanation of the running ban is that runners get to Phantom Ranch or some of the campgrounds and vomit or cut in the water line. The runners have also been accused of clogging up trails by getting in the way of other hikers and leaving trash behind.(2)
Does banning all runners from the trails seem like the correct solution? If you were talking about a health risk or the cost of rescuing runners because of the extreme conditions, that might be one thing. If people are not responsible enough to take their trash with them or are blocking other people, it seems like a litter law or codes of conduct would be a better way to approach this situation. Are runners the only ones littering or are hikers just as guilty? Not all runners litter, so should we all be penalized for the actions of a few people?
What are your thoughts on banning trail running? Have you run into bans in your area?