Trails Behind the Scenes

October 16

I usually use “Exploring the Edge” to showcase our beautiful town, but what most people don’t think about is – how much work volunteers put in to make our area a great place to live.  Last week I had the unique opportunity to participate in the International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) Trail Assessment Clinic.  As you can see by this blog, I do enjoy going on the occasional hike, but it never occurred to me that someone had to build and then maintain these trails, and that there are is, in fact, a science to building a sustainable trail.

When I think about building a trail, I think of cutting down trees and pulling stumps, to allow you to move from one place to the other.  But it’s not as simple as that.  One element I found the most interesting it that the trail grade should be at least half of the side slope.  I also never took into consideration that trails need to be built a certain way to allow for drainage.  This prevents erosion and keeps maintenance requirements to a minimum.

With me being someone who uses trails to hike, I seem to forget that they have other uses.  For example, a hiker is looking for a trail that is destination focused, and is easy to get through, while a biker is looking for a challenging trail that will meet their fitness standards and push a few boundaries.

We spent the morning of the assessment clinic learning theory in a classroom environment, and then in the afternoon we got to put our knowledge to work, and asses a trail.  We worked in groups of three (which I was very happy about because to be honest, I was a bit lost at first), assessing a trail using all the information we learned.  My job during our project was to use the “inclinometer” to measure the slope of the trail.  When they first handed me this fancy device I had no idea what it was, and how to use it. After a quick lesson and some practice, I was an inclinometer pro!

Once we reached the top of the trail, each group went over their assessment and reposted their findings.  I really enjoyed taking this clinic, and I was amazed about how much there is to planning, building and assessing trails for safety and sustainability.  A big thank you to Kirsten Spence of the Nor’wester Voyageur Trail Club for coordinating the clinic.  The Nor’wester Club manages the Deer Lake Mountain Trail system and Mazukama Falls Trail, and is currently working on other trail systems to sign, insure and promote under its umbrella.   Trail volunteers and club members Rob Swainson and Chris Leale took part in this clinic to hone their trail assessing skills.  If you love trails and are interested in volunteering to do maintenance sweeps or join an active trails club, send me a message and I’ll connect you to the right people.

coordinator@nipigon.net

Until next time, exploring the edge – JZ