IT'S NOT OKAY TO RIDE MUDDY TRAILS. IT'S NOT OKAY TO RIDE TRAILS WHEN THEY ARE SOFT, PERIOD!
Here's what people need to understand. Is it likely that there are places that riding is okay? Yes. Is it that big a deal if one or two people ride wet trail sections? Yes. Water is one powerful motherducker. One tire mark can cause a rut to develop. One mud hole will cause the following hundreds of riders to widen the trail by 20-30 feet in a matter of a few weeks!
Why is all this important? Maybe people don't understand the relationships at play. Most land managers are tasked with priorities. NUMBER ONE is the protection of the natural resources. They are also burdened with allowing us reasonable access. This strategy is clear in most parks. Notice that DE parks tend to place trails on the perimeter. This allows us access and protects the core of the woods from traffic. But that's the thing, they do not have to grant us access. They allow it. Each park employs a different strategy for managing all of these variables but they still have one thing in common. Protection of the natural resources. Riding when conditions aren't suitable does not only compromise the physical integrity of the trail but it also endangers our access to it. Furthermore, it not only causes erosion on the trail but also on the political end. The statement, "mountain bikers care about the environment," has very little weight when our land managers witness the damage our traffic has caused.
Officials at the National Monument, for example, have considered the closure of many trail segments that have been widened as a result of people avoiding muddy sections and/or features that many riders go around to avoid. The 24-36'' singletrack has deteriorated to a 12 foot corridor. This is not acceptable protection of the environment in the eyes and minds land managers and biologists. And they are right. It causes too much sediment migration, it allows invasive species to compete with native flora, etc. The involvement of groups such as the Trail Spinners and C2C have suspended these actions and alternatives are being considered. The Iron HIll race, a year or two ago, caused the local "Friends" group to complain and trail closures were considered. Luckily, those responsible and the Trail Spinners, addressed these concerns and closures were averted.
Why is Jim putting in all those bumps?! Because if we don't manage water trail closures follow. New Castle isn't going to do anything to fix trails. They will just close them. That's not to say they don't care. Its simply not a priority. There is no trail crew other than you, the volunteers. The protection of the natural resources is. So, it is necessary for us to lobby, build, and maintain if we are to enjoy the trails. DO NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE OF ASSUMING ACCESS IS OUR RIGHT; TRAIL ACCESS IS A PRIVILEGE. Don't like what Bob is doing at Fair Hill? Would you prefer that equestrians dictate trail design? Would you prefer that the trail crew decide? I volunteer at Fair Hill because I want to have a say. I volunteer at DE/Middle Run because I want to influence trail design toward more difficulty. I am race director so that I can rehabilitate trails that are more difficult than those we currently ride and I get to influence how they are rehabilitated. Awesome, right? It's a ton of work but it's the only way we can get that. You're welcome.
Long rant? Yeah... but, unfortunately, this is the tip of the iceberg. It's even more complicated than this. So, there are a lot of people working to make sure that we keep our access and even gain access. It takes physical labor, political involvement, and lots and lots of sacrifice by less than a handful of people. Your burden if you aren't involved in the process is to be protectors of those trails. Respect the people that fight for your right, man (and woman). Respect their sacrifices. Don't be that guy/gal.
This is where we, the Trail Spinners, have failed historically. We do not communicate this effectively. We just put out the fires, fix what needs fixing, and manage our relationships with land managers. We have kept the public insulated from these conflicts. I've only been doing this for a few years but I have been involved with a bunch of issues that could have impacted access. Specifically, mountain bike access. We fail at communicating effectively because, well, those fighting for us have their hands full doing the fighting. We are always short on volunteers to help with things such as communication. This very article is a weak attempt at communicating, and probably not very effectively, about what is going on behind the scenes. But I hope this gets through to some of you. We need help. I know that there are those in the community that do not become involved for ideological reasons. They object to building practices, trail design, etc. I get it. But I'm sorry, that's not enough of a reason to avoid involvement. It's not enough for you to complain about what you don't like. We need you to become an IMBA member and support our chapter. We NEED you to attend meetings and help us not only find solutions... we have tons of those... we need people to carry them out. Don't like the race? Want more races? The race director position is up for re-election this year! Don't want to be on the board but want to head an initiative? No problem. I'll advocate for you. I'll get you a budget. Ask Kurt Kuhn. He had a vision for what the education program should be and he made it happen. He's not a board member. I endorsed him and made sure he got the support he needed. I'll do the same for you. Want to be a trail boss? Need tools? Need materials? Just come up with a plan and help us be as awesome as you wish we were. But no mater what you want it's going to take at least that much, your personal involvement. Your time. Your sacrifice. I'm involved because I wanted to see change not because I thought everything is peachy. Join me. Join us. Get involved. Change things. It's a very slow process but it's possible. We cannot represent all of the community if only a very small section of the community is involved in making changes. Your "They should do this/that" attittude does nothing. Instead, come up with what YOU will do about the problem YOU have identified. Be the solution or you'll forever wish for things you may or may not ever see.
Ricardo aka "The Raging Toro"
P.S. I'm out on a limb here. I'm sure I've made Jim, Bob, and others uncomfortable with this post but some things must be said. Jim Ireland, Bob Gaston, Bill Shamrock, Bill Batchelor, Dusty Burchnall, Chris Jackson, Bill Bowen, Ken Robinson, and so many others put in so much time and effort into helping us keep access, gain access, and maintain trails... they need to be recognized. We need to respect their efforts even if we disagree with some of their decisions.
We need to relieve them of some of their burdens so they may focus on what's important.