COURSEY: Love Annadel? Take care of it

It's spring in Annadel State Park, which means the hills are green, the grass is tall and the wildflowers carpet the meadows with fragrant color.

And as temperatures creep into the 80s this weekend, the park's 44 miles of trails will fill with hikers, runners, bicyclists and horseback riders.

Annadel, with more than 5,000 acres of accessible wilderness right on the edge of Santa Rosa, is a unique gem. It's a place where, despite the occasional grumpy encounter or nasty letter to the editor, all kinds of trail users have learned to get along. For the most part, horse people and bike people and foot people tolerate and even respect each other in the park.

That's no small feat. Annadel's "multi-use" trails – open to all comers no matter their mode of travel – weren't always integrated. It wasn't so long ago that bikes were restricted here, horses there, and conflicts abounded.

Today, we embrace Rodney King's plea and "all get along."

Or most do.

Still, there is strife in the park. Rangers estimate there are twice as many miles of illegal trails as legal ones, and the use of those illegal trails is increasing. That's bad for the land, bad for the wildlife and, ultimately, bad for park users.

The reaction to Julie Johnson's Sunday story about illegal trails (some call them "social" trails, but let's be real here) has been predictable. People who hate cyclists suggest banning mountain bikes from the park (even though equestrians and hikers also use the illegal paths). People who enjoy riding the illegal trails suggest opening them up for sanctioned use.

Since we're being real here, let's throw out the first suggestion. And let's talk about the second.

The illegal trails are getting more use, some say, because Annadel's 44 miles of legal trails are poorly maintained. Rough Go is beyond rough, Cobblestone is full of both cobbles and stones, Burma has holes in it that probably reach all the way to Myanmar.

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