It’s week twenty one of the 2010 Trail Care Crew year and week nineteen of rain. Despite the weather, we’ve only had a couple of Saturday afternoons where we couldn’t build any trail. Unfortunately, our most recent visit to Manchester was one of ‘those days’.
When the rain falls it usually means that we do two things; we dress in brightly colored, waterproof suits and we walk around in the woods and talk about what’s happening on the trail. Really, I think rain days can be some of the most effective days on the job; it allows everyone to focus on design. From our perspective, this is THE key element in sustainable trails. One can avoid many issues, especially erosion and user conflict, by just applying some common-sense, science-based guidelines.
It rained so much in Manchester that we had to ‘walk and talk’ twice. Our first session focused on some existing trails in the Green Mountain National Forest. Working with a group of area land managers, we surveyed an existing multi-use route to help the USFS determine if it would be suitable for mountain biking. During our time outside we discussed how sustainable trail design techniques (especially grade reversals and the half rule) could improve the trail. These types of adjustments will make the trail more durable for all users (including the two-wheeled variety) and provide a better overall experience.
On Saturday we walked outside in the rain again, this time with local trail users and advocates from Manchester and the surrounding community. We focused our efforts in the town forest and reviewed a new piece of singletrack designed the previous afternoon. The inclement weather directed us toward discussion rather than constructing new trail. It would have been great to put tools in the ground, but we felt that a demonstration of sighting proper grades, looking for control points, and pin flagging was better than making mud pies. Ultimately, the long term success of this eager group will be strengthened by mastering all aspects of trailbuilding, and that most definitely includes design. It will also go a long way to solidify the important relationships (with local land managers) that are an integral part of the success of developing trail systems.
Now we move on after two weeks in Vermont. Before we leave, we have to share that we’ve been pretty impressed with the level of effort being put into mountain biking and sustainable trails here. Success happens on a couple of different levels; it starts with the local clubs and is bolstered by the statewide advocacy group, the Vermont Mountain Bike Association. VMBA is an innovative organization that does many things well. One of their greatest attributes is connecting resources with opportunities. So Manchester is in good hands. It won’t be long before they will be added to all of the great places to ride in the Green Mountain State.
BIG thanks to Amy and Robin from Battenkill Sports for hosting us. As fellow bicycle touring travlers, we wish them the very best on their future adventures.
Thanks to Patrick Kell – Executive Director of VMBA, US Forest Service, Northshire Bicycle Club, and all of the volunteers who put together a great visit in Manchester.
More photos from the week: