I recently attended the Professional Trailbuilders Conference in Asheville, NC on March 18th and 19th. After the conference, I participated in the a USFS Chainsaw Certification class in the Dupont State Forest.

The conference was set up in 1:15 sessions on various subjects pertaining to land use, trail building and trail management. I tried to hit the sessions of most benefit to me in relating to GORC issues. The first day I attended “Rigging for Trail Work”, “Trail Maintenance 101”, “Ecological Considerations for Stream Crossings” and “Wetland Structures”. The second day I attended, “Creating a Self-Sufficient Volunteer Crew”, “Current Trends in Public Bicycle Recreation”, “Design Considerations for Adventure Recreation” and “Design, Development and Management of High Use Equestrian Trails”. All were very informative and taught by knowledgeable people. Since this is a Professional Trailbuilders Association, most of the presenters were professional trailbuilders.

They also had a trail demo area that was stocked with all the latest mechanized trail tools. The hotel donated a putting green to put the equipment to the test. It had some pretty silly looking trail in it by the end of the two days. The riggers had also set up a very cool demo on how they move rocks using wire rope and a Griphoist. This was probably my favorite thing I witnessed and wished we had these tools. It made moving rocks very easy and fast.

I’ll say that the predominant attendees at the conference were land manager types. They were all most interested in the mechanized trail building tools and how they could speed up trailbuilding with them. Most did not seem to have the volunteer base we have or the experience.

I went to the conference expecting to learn our faults and/or weaknesses. However, I came away seeing much more of our strengths. This is based on the conference, but Land Managers don’t always trust their volunteers to build trail on their own, let alone, design the trail. Boulder is just now starting to let Volunteers organize trail work, but the LM is still the one that controls when, what and how they do it. What would seem like large trailbuilding centers don’t even set workday schedules. They organize workdays on a few days notice and wonder why they only get 10-12 people show up. That points to another thing we do really well. Our workday attendance is far above any I heard of except for big IMBA led workdays. People were amazed when I said we regularly had 25-30 people at our workdays. Even in Yosemite, they were lucky to get 6 volunteers to show up.

What we’ve learned at Greensfelder was reaffirmed for me. They referred to designing based upon the overall use of the trail system. You shouldn’t build trail the same for say a place like Greensfelder vs. Berryman. A high use system should stay in the 3-5% average grade where you can get away with 8-10% in low use back country trails. It was also interesting to see how crossing a creek impacts the environment, especially where equestrians are a user group. Having trails drop down fall line into a creek increases the amount of sediment deposited into the streambed which increases the potential for E-Coli. Adding grade reversals before a stream crossing will help. These are things we need to become more aware of. Also, recognizing rock armoring is not always the best choice when dealing with our four-legged friends. There are other techniques we can use to armor trails that will be less dangerous or harmful to them.

Our weaknesses may be our trail maintenance which seems to be catching up with all agencies. As more new trail is built, it just increases the load. Our best solution will be to setup a group that will concentrate on maintenance. This will be something we’ll work on in the next year. I would like to put together a self-sufficient, well-trained, knowledgeable group that can just handle maintenance on all the local trails. The other thing that I will stress, that isn’t really a weakness, but something we must focus on is QUALITY of our trail construction. We should not hurry construction to add more miles, it will only catch up with us in the end and require more maintenance.

It was a great trip and I had a really good time. It would have been nice to have had some company, but it was still fun. I got to end it by playing with a chainsaw for a couple days in the beautiful Dupont State Forest. I also did a road ride on the

Blue Ridge Parkway

that went up and up for quite a ways. I couldn’t have asked for a better place to visit. GORC should definitely consider visiting there sometime. I know, I know….it’s East! 

Bryan Adams, GORC Pres.