A few weeks ago, one of our local trails was (once again) struck by a bandit trailbuilder. He cut new trail parallel to two different slightly steppy/rooty spots that are steppy/rooty because they’re built up the fall line of the hill they span, which causes water to wash straight down the trail. Unfortunately, the bandit built his bypasses straight up the same hill, just a few feet over, effectively creating another problem trail. I posted a photo and rant on the local mountain bike forum and got responses ranging from “those bypasses are terrible and we’re closing them down,” to “I think they’re ok/don’t know what the big deal is/they might work because they have more curve to them than the original trail.” As I explained in the post, it takes more than a curve and hopes & dreams to build a trail that isn’t going to turn to total crap within a year. Also, if a good reroute is actually built, the original trail is so compacted that it will take hand tilling in order to encourage nature to reclaim the path.
This situation revealed a more obvious problem- a lot of the mountain bike people in Memphis don’t realize that there is a real process to planning and building a trail. Heck… even the “legitimate” bypass trails that were built after a flood left large stretches of deep sand on the trail could stand some work to remove stumps that were left into the ground, improve flow, etc. Brad Corey (of the Mid South Trails Association) who I’d consider to be Memphis’ original/biggest trail advocate, had recognized the need for education in the past and applied two years in a row to have the IMBA trail care crew visit, only to be denied both times.
So, following my personal philosophy of “no complaints without a solution,” I contacted Steve Schneider, the IMBA rep from Arkansas who I’d originally met through trying to find help to fix the Syllamo trails. He has agreed to come to Memphis and give a trailbuilding seminar on April 25th. Not only will it be an opportunity for the people who work on the trails in town, it will also be an important learning opportunity for the North Mississippi Trail Alliance that’s about to start cutting new trail just south of Memphis.
Unfortunately for me, that’s the same weekend as the Ogre 150- a gravel road race in Missouri. The race will serve as a very important “dress rehersal” for the Dirty Kanza 200 at the end of May. I’m bummed, and I feel really guilty for catalyzing such an event and not being around. However, it’s in good hands with the guys in town (Brad from MSTA and Chris from NMTA) that are helping with the organization of the weekend.
If you’re reading this and interested in attending (or at least getting the notes afterwards, as I am), here’s the Facebook event page: IMBA Trail Seminar