Missouri boasts some of the best riding in the Midwest region with St. Louis offering a dense network of trails within 30 minutes of Downtown. This didn't just happen on its own. Many individuals who understood the hard work and planning required to build new trails got together and organized trail building events.
Trail building events are a great way to meet people, give back to the community and learn more about the fundamentals of trail building. It takes countless hours of volunteer time to keep St. Louis' trail systems in good shape through maintenance, reroutes and expansion. The Gateway Off-Road Cyclists has established many strong partnerships with the region's Parks departments and State agencies. We focus on building sustainable multi-use singletrack trail that follows the terrain contour and creatively blends into Nature.
Averaging about ten trail building days per season, you can see that GORC is a very productive organization and is always seeking out volunteers to build and maintain multi-use singletrack. We perform our 'in-the-field' dirt work during the Spring and Fall seasons because it's simply too hot in the summer and we need a break in the winter.
Before the First Tool Hits the Tread
Much of the planning involved in hosting a trail building day is invisible to most mountain bikers. It typically takes over a year to establish a reroute or extend an existing trail and much longer to develop a completely new trail. What is the vision of the contour trail or reroute? Flowy, technical, beginner-oriented, twisty or a combination of styles? Who will use this trail? Bikers, hikers, equestrians, families? There are many factors that come in to play when planning, presenting and executing a design.
The overall trail length typically impacts our project timeline; a 200 foot reroute can be planned and executed much faster than a three mile loop designed from scratch. When your tires hit the dirt, remember that several GORC trail designers and the park's land manager probably stood on the very spot for the first time well over 18-36 months ago.
Volunteering Makes Reality
All of our trails are built by volunteers. That is a powerful statement! The majority of trails in the St. Louis region are constructed or maintained by 100% volunteer labor. GORC plays a large role in getting volunteers on the ground at trail building events. Some of our events also are supplemented by additional volunteer groups working in conjunction with the respective Parks Department or Land Agency. Collectively, our volunteers contribute thousands of hours to the region's trail network. Volunteer labor makes new trail a reality: from the initial vision, to a squiggly line on a topo map, to the dirt tread.
No Experience Necessary
Our volunteers do not need trail building experience. Every trail steward was a first-time volunteer at some point. No one came from a trail building profession; we do not have a paid staff of trail builders. At our trail building events the Trail Crew Leader performs a safety talk about the tools on hand and then a brief real-world demonstration is shown to all new trail volunteers. It's so much easier to 'do' than 'see' so many of our crew leaders have volunteers begin clearing the corridor and digging the tread. He or she then inspects and guides volunteers as needed - there's equal parts science and art to building trail.
A Strong Relationship with Land Managers
There is a misconception by the general public that singletrack trails are built completely by Parks Department staff. Our club recognizes the symbiotic partnerships between each GORC trail steward and the Park system's land managers. Ultimately, the land managers have the final say in the design and approval process but the actual construction work is performed by volunteers. GORC highly values the relationships that have been forged over the years with each agency employee.