Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Trails and The Man

A couple of years ago, I spent several days riding the trail system built by Troy Rarick and his friends Fruita, Colo. Except for the fact that I went in the spring and suffered because of my flabby condition and rusty technical skills after a long winter in Anchorage, it was a great trip on wonderful trails. That’s my brother riding one of them in today’s photo.

Hoping to learn more about the creation of such an extensive and fun network, I stopped at Over The Edge and met Troy, and we discussed meeting later in the week so I could pick his brain for tips we could use in Anchorage. Between his busy schedule and all my time riding (and gorging on pasta at the Fruita Brewing Company), we never managed to get together, so I didn’t know until this week that most of Fruita’s trails were built with a wink and nudge rather than with the permission of public land managers.

Trail building presents interesting dilemmas. The permitting process is agonizingly slow and complicated, so the only people who can navigate it are those with some free time, a tolerance for homework, and a shitload of patience. Then there are all the people—even within the same user groups—who can’t agree on how to do things. By the time a trail is built with the blessing of a government agency, the people who pushed it through the process deserve some sort of medal.

I do what I can on the fringes of our local trail-planning scene. But I lack the time and patience to wade through all the red tape, so I have great admiration and gratitude for those who can do it.

Building bandit trails is an understandable temptation. We all love quick gratification. Unfortunately, most people can’t do as good a job as Rarick’s crowd, so I'm generally opposed to any unsanctioned trail work. Given the image problems that mountain bikers have always faced, building a bad trail does lasting damage to more than just the land; it breeds anger and resentment among other user groups. And when the free-ride crowd adds scrap lumber and other elements that offend the eye, it gets even worse.

Where am I going with this? I have no idea. It's just been on my mind this week.

I can tell you one thing, though. I really wish we could get land managers addicted to riding singletrack, because that would probably make the whole process much easier.


gwadzilla said...

tell me about it

the trails in the National Parks in Washington DC could use some TLC and the removal of the NO BIKES signs

they would do well to develop some of this stuff

there are basketball courts

why are there not singletrack trails

these NO BIKES signs and the National Park No Bike policy predate the mountain bike

gwadzilla said...


I need to go to Fruita

Smudgemo said...

We all need to go to Fruita.

Check out the book "Lightly on the Land" if you want to learn more about established trail building practices, and check out IMBA for information in your area. You might be surprised to find people already in communication and planning for various trails.

If not, one idea you might propose would be to take some bad trail and reroute or rebuild it for safety and aesthetics (as long as bikes were allowed of course.) We did a trail in Oakland like that, and it was a success for everyone.