THE Yorkshire Dales National Park is taking an experimental step to solve one of the area's bitterest confrontations over the use of so-called "green lanes."
These are ancient rights of way once used by local farmers and travelling tinkers. But in recent years, they have become popular routes for 4 x 4 off-roaders and motorbike trial riders - causing immense damage to their unmetalled surfaces and leading to angry clashes with walkers and horse riders.
The park authority has been trying for at least a decade to limit access by motor vehicles but because the laws governing their use go back for centuries to the days of the horse and cart, they are theoretically open to anyone.
Now, the park has joined North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC) in endorsing plans for the use of experimental Traffic Regulation Orders to limit the use of 'green lanes' by four-wheel drive vehicles and motorbikes.
Traffic Regulation Orders can be used for the purpose of conserving or enhancing the natural beauty of the area, or for the purpose of affording better opportunities for the public to enjoy the amenities of the area.
An experiment will now be tried to protect the area's unsurfaced tracks and the special qualities of the area that many walkers, cyclists and horse riders come to enjoy.
The trial, which will affect around four of about 80 'green lanes' in the park, has come about after a number of meetings to consider better ways to manage the use of these routes by recreational motor vehicles.
Steve Macaré, chairman of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: "Walkers, cyclists and horse riders all come out to the national park to appreciate its special qualities, its natural beauty and peace. This is increasingly being compromised by recreational motor vehicles and as an authority we need to look at solutions to the problem."
Sue Hilder, access and recreation officer at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, said: "Vehicular use of 'green lanes' is by far the most contentious recreational issue in the national park at present.
"Twenty four parish councils have written to us asking for better management and complaints to the police are on the up. By running this trial we will be able to assess whether this approach delivers the management we are after and better protects the special qualities of the National Park for the residents and the many millions of people who visit each year."
Park officials will work with NYCC to evaluate the effects of the orders and if successful will discuss with them the options for extending the approach to other parts of the Dales.