Nevada continues to grow at a rapid pace and homes and other development is exploding everywhere you look. My question is does all of this development help or hinder hiking opportunities. I did a little research and did not find any hard data but there is some common sense and knowledge around this topic. What I realized is the answer to the question is it depends. Are we talking about natural hiking areas or developed hiking areas?
When you look around the valley of the Reno-Sparks area there is not any doubt that development is cutting into the foothills and moving dirt into low-lying areas. They are building houses, condominiums, apartments and businesses in all of these areas. Therefore, the natural trails throughout the valley and the surrounding foothills are definitely diminishing. I have also noticed that there are makeshift trails popping up in the foothills because the more people get pushed out to the ever-increasing edges of the valley the more they try to find new trails.
The developed trails in our area are improving and multiplying because of development. There are some valid reasons for the increase in improved trails with development. One reason that trails increase is demand by consumer and mandates by local government for contractors to include open space like trails when they build new neighborhoods. Another reason hiking areas improve is the tax base that is tied to these developments are then used to improve these areas. Yet another reason is the economic boost of the growing populations brings spending into the areas that are developed correctly.
The Tahoe East Shore Trail is one of these development marvels that took decades to plan and complete. This trail used funding from local, state and federal government to complete. The trail is just the start of a larger plan to have a trail all around the lake. This is an example of development and funding working to make a trail not only better but also safer. The demand for a safer option in this area of Lake Tahoe for hikers and bicyclists was the catalyst for this project. It is also more environmentally friendly to have a controlled trail that will limit erosion and other detrimental aspects to the lake.
There are pros and cons to all the development when it comes to hiking trails. The cons are that the natural trails tend to be consumed by land grabs and as building continues, pristine views are dotted with growth. The pros of development are that many new trails are created with development or improved and the environmental impact of those trails tends to be less than the impact of hikers on unimproved trails. If development is done correctly it can have positive impacts on hiking opportunities; done incorrectly it will just take hiking trails away.
What do you think? Is development good for hiking trails? Or does it have a negative impact on the type of trails you like? Remember you can do your part; leave no trace!