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Trail Conditions and a Thought


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#1 Honch

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 07:36 PM

Went to GF today and rode a lap.  All of the trail is ridable and should be ridden to smooth out the damaged areas.  The new Beaulah trail is also in need of some tires.  There are a few off camber sections that may need work down the road but this is really some excellent new trail that needs some tires.  

 

I brought my leaf blower with me to the park today and blew the leaves off from the main lot to the bottom of Allenton Rd.  I came across 3 riders as I was blowing and 1 in the parking lot.  All of them were angry about the trail conditions from the end of the 6 Flags part to the beginning of Clementine which is very damaged from horse traffic right now.  Imagine taking your bike across a farm field...it's one level better than that.  

 

Let me say this...I'm not a trail nazi.  I think there are times when all of us can get a little too cautious about the trails and need a reality check on their status of "multi use."  And, these trails will heal like they always do.  Some sections are doing to require some work but it'll get there.  With that said, the feedback I got from being off the bike but in the park for a while was insightful.  One rider had hit a rut and gone OTB to the point he messed up his front wheel and hurt his back. Another was generally pissed at the horse damage and needed to vent and another made the statement "Why should we respect the horse people and get off our bike when they can't respect the work we put in to create the trails they ride?  I'm just going to start flying past horses is this is how they treat the trails."  I let him know that this is not how we further our cause but it got thinking on my ride home and I had a thought...

 

We often commiserate with each other on this board and talk about trail damage.  This is the proverbial "preaching to the choir"  We all agree that messed up trails are awful.  But let's not simply complain to each other about it.  I also think we have an opportunity to get the horse riders involved in this effort and not have an "us vs them" problem.  

 

The way to fix this is to have mutually agreed upon days that the trails are closed because they're not safe, being on the trail will greatly damage it and it's discounts the countless hours that are put into creating them.  Perhaps a joint effort from the bike and horse people, asking that the STL County parks allow for signs to be put up on those days where MAJOR damage will occur is a good middle ground that will benefit all of us.  This would have to be something we self govern and I doubt the county has the man power to enforce it thought tickets or policing.  However, if a simple ribbon or chain across the main trail entrances that states "Trail Closed Today" would minimize the damage, the trails could easily heal at this time of year from those people that disregard the singage while creating a better partnership toward good trail stewardship.

 

I have the opportunity to ride in CA quite a bit and they close the trails when they are wet.  Don't get me wrong, I do not want to replicate the CA template for trail use as they require multi-year environmental impact studies to create new trail and they have issues with people boobie trapping trails that have seen conflict.  But perhaps a simple, "Please don't use the trails" policy would discourse enough bad conditions use that the trails would not find themselves in this kind of disrepair and have people hurting themselves, their bikes and generally coming away from their ride angry.  MTB is a great sport and I think we, as bikers, need to understand we are not the only users of the trail out there. However, I bet there is a meeting in the middle, that all groups can agree on and we could jointly petition the park service for that might make days like today much less frequent.

 

I'd love to hear everyone's comments.  Thanks


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#2 oldiebutnewbie

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 08:02 PM

I think it's a great idea to close the trails on certain days. I know that the quad cities areas does this and I don't even think they have horses to contend with. Just the bozo bikers who ride when it's sloppy. They also post it on their website. Though I think as you said a chain with the word "closed" is the best solution. In addition, I think we need signage at each trail head (maybe we put it on the "closed" sign) that explains that riding on the trails when sloppy destroys the trail and requires dozens of volunteer hours to repair. Wouldn't work for everybody but I think there's quite a few people out there who simply don't think about the repercussions.



#3 B-unit

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 08:21 PM

Thanks for emphasizing diplomacy with the angry/disappointed rider. I can sympathize with the sentiment of his/her disappointment regarding trail vandalism but, as you astutely pointed out, overreacting in a negative fashion won't provide any benefit for anyone.

Regarding your thoughts about inclement weather trail closures, that model is currently in place with St.Charles County Parks. I'm sure it's not perfect but, in my opinion, it seems effective. I don't work for St. Charles County Parks so I can't speak to how time/resource consuming evaluating the trails for closures may be, nor can I speculate as to whether or not St. Louis County Parks has the resources available to implement a similar policy for their parks. But, as you have probably already surmised, the cost vs benefit analysis of creating a trail closure program may seem dramatically tilted in our favor to us but not as much to the land manager.

I appreciate the trail work you put in, and your discretion with the disappointed riders, and the time you took to post this message. I'm interested to see what dialogue develops here.

#4 Honch

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 08:34 PM

Perhaps if STL County feels like they don't have resources to close the trails like SCC does, we could do it as part of our trail stewardship?  I certainly live close enough to put a sign up and I know of several other people that would as well.  In reality, there are not that many days each year where it would need to be up.  I think it's something we could get GORC members to take part in.

 

Just throwing ideas out there...



#5 B-unit

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 08:48 PM

What you're saying makes sense but the land managers are best suited to setting policy and implementing enforcement of those policies. I agree that we could conceivably provide the expertise and manpower to allow for an inclement weather closure procedure but that's not likely a role we, as a volunteer club, could adopt without facing the unintended consequence of being viewed as the "Trail Police" instead of simply being in the enviable position of being the people that brought you this new/improved trail.
Again, I agree that when properly administered an inclement weather trail closure policy would most likely benefit everyone, but potentially saddling GORC with being viewed as the "bad guy" may not benefit us as all much as having said program administered by the land manager.

I'm not trying to throw cold water on this, I'm just trying add usable information.

#6 Honch

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 08:51 PM

That's a good point.  Perhaps the open/closed decision lies with them but we offer to put the chain up if they are undermanned or can't get to it.



#7 supradude

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Posted 14 March 2014 - 09:09 PM

Perhaps putting up a simle sign at every trailhead with a simple, short, sweet and to the point message saying do not ride trails when wet or something to that effect?  Most likely won't stop many but "might" help add a guilty conscience factor to deter a few.

 

clarksSign.jpg


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#8 The Krackheads

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 07:41 AM

Matt great productive comments, Honch thanks for the trail work and starting this discussion.  Without too much emotion I will say that the Declue downhill-creek crossing-monkey heads-loop road parallel are destroyed and not just damaged.  Go try to ride you bike and report back your experience, If you are a trail runner you better wear your Alpine Stars MX boots, You are gonna need the support because the post holes are 10" deep and the singletrack is now 4' wide.

 

I am all for trail closure, We have park people in place at GF daily that with a little guidance and education could simply change or sign or 2 indicating whether the trail is "open or closed"  I ride in 6 states annually and see the positive impact this has on trails especially during inclement weather conditions.  How to implement with St Louis County is another matter.  Personally I think if Tom Ott and John Stanger saw the damage first hand they would get a better understanding of our efforts.  The maintenance shed on Hencken Rd has a phone so making a trail hotline available should be somewhat simple.  I would welcome comments from Muddragon or Craig on how the St Charles Parks system is received with trail users.

 

Until sometype of closure system is implemented we can expect certain users groups to continue their disregard of the great trails that have been built in the park. 

 

I'm here to help push this along.


Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart. ~Elizabeth Andrew

 

 

Bluffview/Rock Hollow Co-Trail Steward

 

 


#9 Honch

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 08:59 AM

What kind of relationships do we have the the equestrians that frequent GF?  Perhaps they have a version of a trail steward?  If we went to them with, what I think they would feel is a reasonable request, and got them on board, we could jointly approach STL County and say we BOTH want to do this.  I'd think we have a better chance of success if we go to the horse people first and get them on board.  It's makes the STL County decision that much easier as well.  Great comments so far.  Let's keep the momentum



#10 sasmith

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 10:55 AM

Boy I really like that sign. Big, bold and simple. You ride by that onto a muddy trail you just don't care. But then define "muddy", right?

A study was done to figure out how to increase cooperation in situations just like this. Results showed that a sign like that was a good start. But better compliance was gained when it was more personal. Something like "We don't ride wet trails. Do You?" with the user group logo, or better yet a photo at the bottom.

I'll bet we could find equestrians that would join in.
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#11 oldiebutnewbie

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 02:32 PM

I believe strongly if you are making a sign other than one that says "TRAIL CLOSED" you should take the opportunity to educate people. Something like "Hours of hard volunteer work go into fixing every one of these" and you show a picture of a tire rut in the mud. You have to remember that A LOT of people have ZERO idea about the work that goes into these kinds of thing. Trust me, speaking as a new rider, I had zero idea myself until a few months back when I started reading this website. I think education is the key. That, plus a deterrent like a chain across the trail along with a sign stating the trail is closed. The signs don't have to cost a fortune. Laminated, coroplast would do the trick. 



#12 Honch

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 03:49 PM

Kracko - Do you know if there is the equivalent of a trail steward at the stables at GF?  I'd be happy to talk to them to see how they felt about it.  In a very down to earth, non-threatening way



#13 johnamus

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 04:50 PM

Declue's northeast side is a moonscape right now, a hardtail makes for a punishing seat-slapping ride on the downhills.

 

I've had good experiences when meeting equestrians on the trail and one way to help this effort is to continue to show courtesy and right-of-way to the horse passengers. Comment on the good weather and tell them their horse is beautiful.  When equestrians identify cyclists as trail-using peers they'll be more likely to forego a trail ride if they ever encounter a 'Trail closed' sign in the future.  Otherwise I can imagine that after loading up the horse trailer and driving out to Greensfelder, a 'trail closed' chain would be likely circumvented, especially if the rider is accustomed to riding on sloppy days in the past. With that said it may be a good idea for signage to recommend alternative rain-routes for equestrians.

 

As mentioned above, bike tires eventually smooth out the non-destroyed trail portions to a certain extent. Walmart sells a Fat bike for $199, Amazon sells an electric conversion kit for under $300, I have a few 45 lb weights in my basement.  Let's make a trail-leveler to accelerate this process ;)



#14 DRILLINDK

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 08:31 PM

Rather disappointing to say the least.  I don't believe a sign goes far enough.  I think signage with a chain across the trail is best.



#15 sasmith

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Posted 15 March 2014 - 09:35 PM

Education is key, that's the idea behind the user group signs. It's a positive message from your peers, not just another "official" sign to ignore. Although any signage that is seen is helpful, if not this time then, you hope, when the next trip is in the planning stage. Plant that seed of guilt!

 

I like the idea of suggesting a wet weather route.  I know, we don't want anyone there at all but I'm thinking of the crushed gravel path that was put in for the equestrians. That would limit the damage and give the folks that have hitched the trailer, loaded the horses, drug up all their gear and "I'll be dam if I'm not gonna ride now that I'm here" something. They'd use the Eagle Valley(?) singletrack but that's all I think.

 

Unfortunately I think trail closing is something the County just doesn't have the horsepower (sorry) to implement.


Steve

#16 The Krackheads

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Posted 16 March 2014 - 06:42 AM

CH- I do have some contacts at the stables and can get you the information.  I like the wet weather route,  The Mustang Trail while rideable is a trail most cyclist don't venture out to, You add some gravel and part of the Eagle Valley (older trail North of Loop Road) and that should satisfy those who have to ride.


Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart. ~Elizabeth Andrew

 

 

Bluffview/Rock Hollow Co-Trail Steward

 

 


#17 Craig

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Posted 16 March 2014 - 02:08 PM

Matt great productive comments, Honch thanks for the trail work and starting this discussion.  Without too much emotion I will say that the Declue downhill-creek crossing-monkey heads-loop road parallel are destroyed and not just damaged.  Go try to ride you bike and report back your experience, If you are a trail runner you better wear your Alpine Stars MX boots, You are gonna need the support because the post holes are 10" deep and the singletrack is now 4' wide.

 

I am all for trail closure, We have park people in place at GF daily that with a little guidance and education could simply change or sign or 2 indicating whether the trail is "open or closed"  I ride in 6 states annually and see the positive impact this has on trails especially during inclement weather conditions.  How to implement with St Louis County is another matter.  Personally I think if Tom Ott and John Stanger saw the damage first hand they would get a better understanding of our efforts.  The maintenance shed on Hencken Rd has a phone so making a trail hotline available should be somewhat simple.  I would welcome comments from Muddragon or Craig on how the St Charles Parks system is received with trail users.

 

Until sometype of closure system is implemented we can expect certain users groups to continue their disregard of the great trails that have been built in the park. 

 

I'm here to help push this along.

 

It has been several months since I've looked at the data from the Parks Department surveys [http://http://parks....ask=view&id=281].  That survey is anonymous, has room for you to add your gripes or compliments, and is only one page long.  Please go fill one out now.  Thanks! 

 

(Back to the OT ...) In the past, there's usually a slightly larger amount of people who thank the Parks Department for closing the trails than users who complain about them being closed too often.  I'll guess that only 25% of the respondents even mention the trails in the section where you can write your own thoughts.  Comments received while working on the trail are usually positive, but sometimes that is only after we have explained why the trails are closed (preserving the resources for all users).

 

Among the negatives of a trail closure policy ...

  • There WILL be humans involved in the decision, so mistakes will be made.  People are making a judgement call that you may not agree with, will forget to update the conditions signage/hotline/notification system, and the trails will be open when they shouldn't be/closed when they COULD be open.
  • The time factor - Parks Department employees can't drop what they're doing to see if the trails are rideable at noon/whatever time you pick.  They usually make an educated guess based on conditions expected throughout the day.  Will the ground thaw later that day? Trails Closed.  80% chance of rain, starting at 6:00 a.m.? Trails Closed.  There are rare occasions when they're opened partway thru the day, but those are the exception.  
  • Enforcement.  The prime objective of most Parks Departments is to get the public to come out and enjoy their facilities, NOT penalize them for doing so.    
  • Humans again ... some users will have traveled "all that way" without checking to see if the trails are open, and decide to use them even when they're closed.

 

That should cover the basics.  Please post any specific thoughts or concerns that I have missed, and I'll get to them if possible.


Craig Seibert, GORC Board Member

GORC/St. Charles County Parks Liaison


#18 The Krackheads

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Posted 18 March 2014 - 05:21 PM

Honch, Based on the few replies this generated I would file this under N O G A S,


Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart. ~Elizabeth Andrew

 

 

Bluffview/Rock Hollow Co-Trail Steward

 

 


#19 tothemaxx

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Posted 23 March 2014 - 11:35 PM

 Can someone fill us in on why we have to share these trails with equestrians to begin with?

 

I always make a point to be courteous to the horse-folk and it can only be a minority of horse owners who would ride in muddy conditions (mindful horse owners wouldn't ride horses in mud given the risks of broken legs and losing horse shoes) but it seems unfair for all of us to clean up their mess all the time. But we're all tired of having to deal with this BS after EVERY thaw and after EVERY rainy period. What gives them the right to ruin these trails? 

 

How feasible is it to close certain sections of trail to horse traffic (and certain sections to MTB traffic) thus segregating users and allowing respective parties to maintain respective trail systems. Obviously this would take a lot of work but seeing as the MTB community has maintained the existing network why can't the horse folk throw down to create their own within the park?

 

More in line with the rest of this thread, trail closure would definitely a good move particularly during the spring thaw and particularly after saturating rain. Enforcing is another problem particularly when all it takes is 1 or 2 horses to make a mess of things.

 

Tired of all this horse-sh*t.



#20 seamonkey

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Posted 24 March 2014 - 06:44 AM

Why? Because STL co has designated it as a multi-use park. When the land was donated many many many years ago it was built out for equestrians. Then mtb happened in the 80's and eventually sometime in the 90's(?) only Dogwood and Declue were the only trails permitted for mtb use.

 

After many years of working with the county and proving that GORC can build great sustainable trails, bikes were allowed access to the entire park. This happened in 2007-8ish (fuzzy memory).

 

Two separate trail networks would be a joke. Who would enforce it? People used to complain when mtbers rode trails other than Dogwood or Declue. I've seen dirt bike / atv tracks at the back of the park, too. There's no enforcement available and GORC is not a trail enforcement agency. We are geared to build multi-use trail - we don't discriminate from any user group. Each land agency has the final say on whether a park/trail is limited to certain user groups.

 

I don't prefer separate trail networks or one-way trails for that matter because they are too hard to enforce (inside the same park boundaries) and I'd prefer to not reduce my available acreage to ride a bike. Greensfelder is 1500+ acres. If people really wanted separate trail networks then we'd be finished designing and building trail at the park right now. We could have another 4 miles there easily and that's just in an area of the park.

 

Every year we all go through this from some bad apple riding wet trails. Every year. Why is it horrific this year? It's been a bad winter with multiple freeze thaws and several snowy events. As soon as we start asking user groups to get off the trails (as opposed to reaching out for trail help, educating against destructive riding practices, etc) we as mtbers are backing ourselves into an confrontational corner I'd prefer to stay away from.


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Matt Hayes
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