Our Trails Need All the Help they Can Get

by Diana Lyn Rau

I’m not getting any younger.  When I moved to the Fraser Valley almost 35 years ago, l thought l could accomplish anything.  I’ve come pretty close to that with my crazy ideas and knack for organizing.  I loved the mountains and yearned to be outside so I ran, hiked, biked and skied like never before.  I joined the racing scene and found my niche as a travel agent with active vacations and runners, skiers, and bikers and the organizations that they travel with.   

The Valley has changed so much since that time.  We had long-term mostly family landowners, old wagon roads and logging roads to explore, and time to sit over a coffee or beer and listen to the old-timers tell their stories.  Various trails ran to beautiful lakes, through the Experimental Forest, across the Continental Divide and there were never issues at trailheads or campgrounds.  In fact, you often didn’t even see anyone at all.  But Grand County has grown, businesses wanted more clients, real estate agents wanted to sell more property and other people yearned for the silence and solitude of the wilderness in which we lived.

New landowners did not understand the historic usage of trails and old wagon or logging roads and how the locals depended on that ability to pass through an area to access their favorite parts of the county for recreation and their own solitude.  These new people cut off us locals  and said,  “not on my land” or “not in my backyard.”   Most were from the city and things work differently there.  We soon saw people bringing a lack of concern for conserving and protecting our fragile environment and the trails we loved so much. New twists on old sports became more and more important to our economy and it became vital to be recognized nationally as “Mountain Bike Capital” or “Best of…” or “No Pain No Jane”.  

Thank goodness some of us had the fore site to start preserving trails and setting aside land that could never be developed. Where would we be without the work of organizations like Fraser Valley Partnership for Trails and Headwaters Trails Alliance to be the watchdogs, asking towns to allow review of proposed developments and encouraging trail development and maintenance or the Middle Park Land Trust to help prevent development of lands in perpetuity.

HTA has gained momentum under the guidance of several good leaders in the last few years and the organization has become a force to be reckoned with despite cuts in funding.  The public has seen fit to help by voting recently for taxes that can be shared by many organizations like HTA but this has not eliminated the need for volunteers and donations direct to those organizations.  That need will never go away.  

Weather is a huge factor and the drenching rains of this year’s monsoon season has increased the need for volunteer help.  Trails have started washing and rutting in places never seen before especially where the trail is in the fall line. Here are a couple thoughts about creating and maintaining trails that come from the International  Mountain Biking Association.  Do everything you can to keep water off the trail and users on it.  Build on the contour lines and utilize the ups and downs to help create interesting riding or hiking and the encourage the water to run off the trail. Reverse the trail often on a steep hillside and even bank the turns slightly on the switchbacks.   Keep the grade under 15pct which means avoid the fall line which only focuses water stripping soil, exposing roots and creating gullies.  Take soil from above the trail and move it to the lower edge, known as bench-cutting but keep a slight outward slope to the trail tread  known as outsloping so water does not pool.  Create sloping waterbars to lead water off the trail and open a path for the water to go once it leaves the trail.  These are just a few tips to consider that save lots of maintenance work at a later date.  That is known as trail sustainability, a huge factor with our large volume of trails and never enough volunteers or funding.

Do your part to help when you are out hiking.  Clear clogged areas with a stick or small shovel or even your shoe. Where the ground is soft, refrain from riding or hiking around puddles and leaving more ruts known as braiding the trail.  Better yet, stay off that part until the ground dries out! Carry out your own trash or pick up that of someone else. Every small thing helps toward the final picture.  Participate in volunteer projects like the HTA Burnout Trail Turnpike installment Aug 15-17 shown on the headwaterstrails.org website under events or calendar.  Or come to the last Tuesday night Fraser to Granby Trail maintenance on Red Dirt Hill.  Met Aug 22 at the trail side of intersection of Cty Rd 86 and Hwy 40 from 5-7pm. Find a project like these to learn good trail building or maintenance skills and you can help out where-ever you bike or hike, even if it’s just the small stuff.  Every little bit helps!