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Discussion Starter #1
....land managers to collaborate with local IMBA chapters?

Hypothetical:

-Local land managers stall, obfuscate, and are less than honest/forthcoming about their agenda when dealing with local IMBA chapter.
-Local IMBA chapter does not have much of a history of success in terms of generating/leveraging political clout to deliver results.
-Local Trails are rapidly being closed.
-There's no progress.
-Local land managers are understaffed and lack resources. IE It's pretty easy to build rogue trail and not get caught.

Option 1. We(potential rogue trail builders) sit still and passively watch our trails disappear.
Option 2. We(active rogue trail builders) get out there and build new trail.

Bottom line is: We get new trail that local land managers can't easily police. But, it's illegal.


Local IMBA chapter is presented with an opportunity(if they seize it) to be the "good guys" and build new, legal trail.


Too simplistic?
 

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Dirt Monkey
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Option 3: Lobby harder for new trails.

This isn't a two, or even three, choice issue. Work within the system to create change or you risk being totally excluded from participating. If you exhaust all options when dealing with the LM go above their heads.
 

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WillWorkForTrail
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Option 3: Lobby harder for new trails.

This isn't a two, or even three, choice issue. Work within the system to create change or you risk being totally excluded from participating. If you exhaust all options when dealing with the LM go above their heads.
If you don't work within the system, the system will chew you up and spit you out. You may be able to build the trails without getting caught, but eventually they will find the trails, and the outrage will be significantly more than you suspect. The local IMBA chapter will take the heat, lose and favor and credibility they ever had, and someone will camp out in a likely place to catch people slipping into the trail and write tickets/citations. It's a lose/lose situation unless you pick option three.
 

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I don't think it's so black and white. Virtually all legal trail in Vt, at least until 4-5 years ago, was built illegally. I understand that times have changed a bit, but that approach can still work to a degree.

When I moved to the town I live in from Stowe Vt, a scene that had been "legitimized", I knew I didn't really want IMBA standards, or the crowds and convoluted negotiation process you describe in routing and clearing trails. I went to the town office and looked at the tax map and found large parcels. One is a small University that owns an abandon ski area over 600 acres. The adjacent land owner also has a huge parcel. I contacted them both directly. One never responded, the other was amiable towards local, unadvertised recreation on his land. Given existing uses on the school land, in the form of Jeeps, 4 wheelers, DH bikes, and dirt bikes, with no sign of conflict, I just started building. The school staff eventually bumped into me and I explained what I was up to, that I had contacted them many times, and felt like I was the least of their worries from any angle regarding liability, impact, ect. They agreed, then decided I had a good Idea and built out a 15 Km outdoor center with a 900 vert flow trail and several more intermediate/beginner trails. While working on that project as a paid builder, I also cleared some single track on parts of their land not being developed. When the official project was completed after 3 years, I had added about 5 miles of additional primitive trail and as far as the school is concerned, is now part of the Shaw Outdoor Center.

This summer I am hiking and clearing more trail on adjacent private land.

"Rogue" trail, built on private land that has been researched can, and historically has led to legal trail networks. It can only work before there is a club presence. Once your town riding is clubbed, everything becomes more difficult, personal agendas and every other user group begin to claim your trails and momentum is lost through the political processes involved....additionally, many features advanced MTBers enjoy will not be welcome and liability-ruled local officials who are not riders will suddenly have input on the direction of development.

Find some private land on your town Tax Map. Start contacting the owners yourself. One nod or handshake from a large land owner can give you years of land to work with as you see fit. Public lands for all users....leave that to the clubs.
$.02
 

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I advocate going about things legally. But to your question, there is no doubt whatsoever that because of "rogue" trail-building, there is more legal trail now than there would have been without it...so yes to your initial question.
 

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It's about showing up.
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I advocate going about things legally. But to your question, there is no doubt whatsoever that because of "rogue" trail-building, there is more legal trail now than there would have been without it...so yes to your initial question.
How can you say that? No, really; I am interested.

In a broad brushstroke manner I might say that there might be a correlation between rogue trail building and available legal trails. At the same time there be might be a correlation with the number of mountain bikes increasing, too.

Causation is another thing altogether.
 

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I think it falls into a that was then..... this is now.....

Rogue trail building had it's day and impact on trail development, I certainly agree with the statement many of the trails that were created rogue (without a LM consent) have been adopted and granted "legal status".. but in my neck of the woods, that was years or decades ago...

however, at least in my view. moving forward from today, rogue trail building would likely hurt the sport. I've enjoyed a wonderful relationship with the land manager of the property that I focus on. If someone was to illegally (without volunteer agreement, stewardship agreement, what have you) start building trails and features on the property as well. I can see struggle in my future...
 

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Tre1nt
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From my desk at IMBA ... it would be demonstrably wrong to say that rogue trail building never has a positive outcome for local trail access. In some places, at certain times, it has clearly worked. But it is equally true to say that rogue building has resulted in major losses for MTBers, and that's increasingly the case when illegal builders blow it for everyone else.

In general, the time/place where the effect has been positive are sparsely populated, loosely managed areas where nobody pays much mind to the building. In some cases land managers have even tacitly encouraged builders to keep developing trails without gaining official permission.

Fruita, for example, has several early success stories to offer along these lines, although the time where that would fly has now passed.

But in places where the land management is more closely monitored, as is the case with almost all public lands near population centers, the result of rogue building is consistently negative. Sure, a few trails might get adopted into the official system at some point, but if the mountain bike community puts their eggs in the unapproved trail building basket they seldom gain the trust and support they need to create really good, robust trail systems with lots of potential for future development.
 

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saddlemeat
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It all depends on the situation, in certain situations and personalities, it was/is effective, but like DaveVT said, once things get organized it all changes. If you are alone and far from population centers the lines are very gray, legal building may be between you and an FS Recreation Facilitator or property owner. Many trails started as social trails because that was the way trails started back then. My local ranger district has been described as the most backwards district in the FS, when I started building trail I would meet with the rec officer at the site and we would work out the route. I and others would then build the trail and the rec officer would walk it when it was done and approve it. No paperwork was exchanged, no maps were required, everything was simple and straight forward. We knew it wouldn't last forever and determined to do as much as possible while we could. We got over a hundred miles of trail on the ground this way, and then we got a new district ranger and it all ended. We are in the final days of the process of creating that much trail in the current FS environment and it has been four years of meetings and paperwork and studies, as well as endless making of maps and gps files. The cost is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars before any trail has been built.

So my advice is that if you are in a situation where you can streamline the process I would advise you to do it. Your work can be worth millions of dollars at a later point if you do it right. My first fifteen years of effort made it possible to get a cool million dollars of rtp funding over just four years.
 

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It's never a good idea to create trail illegally on public land. It's even a worse idea to create illegal trail in and around an existing trail network. As Mark pointed out, this only works with very low users numbers on land with a very low trail density.
Also, making contact with the land owners is important.....at a minimum, know who the land owner is and gain a sense of their disposition before hand, and know you might lose some trail.
Also, consult someone with experience. If you go rogue, and make a piece of poo for trail, no one will be stoked.
 

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-Local land managers stall, obfuscate, and are less than honest/forthcoming about their agenda when dealing with local IMBA chapter.

-Local land managers are understaffed and lack resources.
One of the two points above is driving this. Either the land managers are against bikes, or lack the resources to keep the trails open within the guidelines they must follow. If you build rogue trails, you'll either be:
- Giving them propaganda against those savage cyclists
- Creating more environmental issues that they're responsible for fixing.

Either way, not a net positive result. Ask them why they're closing trails. They'll say it's because of a lack of resources to correct erosion/environmental issues. Tell them you'll provide the labor and IMBA will provide certified instruction. See where it goes.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Agree.

And, this is far from a clear or black/white situation.

EastElliotTrails.jpg






It all depends on the situation, in certain situations and personalities, it was/is effective, but like DaveVT said, once things get organized it all changes. If you are alone and far from population centers the lines are very gray, legal building may be between you and an FS Recreation Facilitator or property owner. Many trails started as social trails because that was the way trails started back then. My local ranger district has been described as the most backwards district in the FS, when I started building trail I would meet with the rec officer at the site and we would work out the route. I and others would then build the trail and the rec officer would walk it when it was done and approve it. No paperwork was exchanged, no maps were required, everything was simple and straight forward. We knew it wouldn't last forever and determined to do as much as possible while we could. We got over a hundred miles of trail on the ground this way, and then we got a new district ranger and it all ended. We are in the final days of the process of creating that much trail in the current FS environment and it has been four years of meetings and paperwork and studies, as well as endless making of maps and gps files. The cost is in the hundreds of thousands of dollars before any trail has been built.

So my advice is that if you are in a situation where you can streamline the process I would advise you to do it. Your work can be worth millions of dollars at a later point if you do it right. My first fifteen years of effort made it possible to get a cool million dollars of rtp funding over just four years.
 

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I supposed we have one area where rogue building has effectively created pressure on the land manager to work with the IMBA chapter. It's a park that for decades has never had funding or a plan and was always self-managed well by bikers and dog walkers. A new mid-level manager in the parks system broke the balance or peace and diggers never interested in club or IMBA joined.

This stuff is no fun for some but a new parks superintendent above the troublesome manager likes the riding, likes the sport, and has reached out to the IMBA chapter and IMBA staff to make the sport legitimate.

Some diggers always hate the organization but the reality is in our area it saves or preserves the riding place and doesn't eliminate opportunities to dig, design, be creative and love the sport. Adding diversity in trail types and diggers has been extra beauty for me as a club/chapter leader.

When a group has been or is considered rogue I've always tried to welcome and empower them in the long-running and responsible organization that became our IMBA chapter. That hasn't helped me win popularity contests but looking at the numbers lets me rest my case. We're survivors and largest of MTB posses in our area.
 

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Not quite the same thing here.

In developing access to a land fill area on the Bay the powers that be had to deal with a pretty substantial homeless problem. One of the artifacts of their presence was a fairly well-established system of trails/pathways created by routine use of the area.

The curiosity was that the feral character of the network did express a certain practicality. Natural usage took advantage of extant physical features to connect places of interest, residence, and access to the outside world. While they weren't straight point-A to point-B these beaten paths were amiable and directly efficient.

Subsequent development of the area as a park is making use of many of these informal routes just as we have done with aboriginal footpaths and animal trails.
 

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BM and PQ Trail Rep
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Agree.

And, this is far from a clear or black/white situation.

View attachment 999412
In an urban area, it is the thought of illegal access and subsequent "fragile environment destruction" that drives the need for trails. We have many island of open space surrounded on all sides by an ever growing population. More and more users are heading into the open spaces looking for their piece of the pie. Most are not malicious by nature but uneducated and wind up harming the very nature they want to see and experience

Spring and Oak Canyons (East Elliot) and all the trails in there are a complete cluster f*ck due to the standard issue of multiple land owners and regulating agencies along with lack of forward thinking or controls of the area. In the void of enforcement a very robust set of rogue trails were built. Most recently, grassy knoll and deer dancer. Deer dancer was visible from the highway and drew an immediate response from the park rangers. A large portion of the trails (nearly all of Oak Canyon) lie within MCAS Miramar and the marines have made it VERY clear there is to be no incursion. The rest of the trails are not authorized by the city and their stance has been for the last 8+ years "if we didn't authorize it, it is not a trail". The only reason these trails exist is due to the vacuum of any governing authority to date. That is unfortunately changing and much of it is in the process of being shut down.

The bright spot is the city, a planning agency, and local bikers are working on a trails plan (years away for parts) that will incorporate much of the topography. The original plan only used the crazy steep fire roads because those were "good enough". The thought process has been changed so there will be new ST added but like any agreement, it will be steeped in compromises. We will not get everything we ask for and the city will allow access where they do not want it. It is never a win/win in San Diego. It is securing access on a permanent and accepted basis.
 

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Option 1. We(potential rogue trail builders) sit still and passively watch our trails disappear.
Option 2. We(active rogue trail builders) get out there and build new trail.

Bottom line is: We get new trail that local land managers can't easily police. But, it's illegal.

Too simplistic?
Not too simplistic. Realistic. Let me share some thoughts. You want results. You are willing to take risks for the reward of new trails. You balance the risks knowing the local Forest Service LEO's are busy with more important issues.

First, if you ask the question on this forum, you need to know the majority will respond with something like this...

It's never a good idea to create trail illegally on public land. It's even a worse idea to create illegal trail in and around an existing trail network. As Mark pointed out, this only works with very low users numbers on land with a very low trail density.
People who think like you do not spend a lot of time on internet forums asking for advice. They tend to just go out and do what needs to be done. The people who post on this forum tend to be people who play by the rules and are convinced it is the best and only option. I will tell you that they need to be ignored for the most part. For instance, the above quote uses the word never to describe building a wildcat trail on public land. Really. Never? Then that person has never ridden some of the countries best trails in Sedona, Arizona. These are not trails built 20 years ago in an era where you could get away with it. They are world class trails built in the last few years. All on public land without permission. The results speak for themselves. Between 50 and 100 new trails built by a small handful of gifted riders and trail builders. These people were often harshly criticized by fellow riders who were certain the entire mountain biking community would suffer as a result of their misguided work. And this work was not done miles and miles out of town. It was in the middle of Sedona, in plain view.

Well, what was the result. Many of those trails are featured in popular mountain biking magazines. Most of those trails are what attracts out of state visitors, who want to ride the finest trails in the most beautiful setting. The Mountain biking community has not had serious blow back. More than 90% of the trails will remain intact and be adopted by the Forest Service. Let me put that into terms you might better understand. If you could visit Las Vegas and gamble with a 90% chance of winning, you'd be a fool not to gamble. So the trails continue to be adopted. The Forest Service is in the business of rewarding rogue trail builders, because they have few options to do anything else. Oddly, some of the better wildcat trail builders in Sedona are current and former Forest Service employees. Even the trails that have yet to be adopted are being ridden daily by large numbers of riders, with no worries. Generally, it is illegal to get caught building new trails, but it is not illegal to ride an illegally built trail, unless it is signed as closed. You can guess how long such signs last, making it impossible to enforce such a closure.

When you begin option 2, be sure not to discuss it here. Tell everyone here you went with option 1. Realize that some hikers and riders will stop and ask questions. Some will have a phone and a camera. Never give out your name. Hide your tools well. Keep both ends of the new trail unfinished until the rest of the trail is complete. When it is finished, spread the word and get as many people riding it as possible. Have them call the Forest Service and thank them for the great new trail. The FS will go out and view the trail and will probably cover up 50 feet at each end. You want to remove those branches and rocks immediately and keep riding the trail. 90% of the time, the FS will give up and leave the trail alone. First and foremost, they are government workers and could generally care less and don't want to increase their work load. Lazy government workers are your best friends. Worst case scenario is you build ten new trails and one of them is permanently closed down. The better quality trail you build, the more likely it will be adopted.
 
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Not too simplistic. Realistic. Let me share some thoughts. You want results. You are willing to take risks for the reward of new trails. You balance the risks knowing the local Forest Service LEO's are busy with more important issues.

First, if you ask the question on this forum, you need to know the majority will respond with something like this...



People who think like you do not spend a lot of time on internet forums asking for advice. They tend to just go out and do what needs to be done. The people who post on this forum tend to be people who play by the rules and are convinced it is the best and only option. I will tell you that they need to be ignored for the most part. For instance, the above quote uses the word never to describe building a wildcat trail on public land. Really. Never? Then that person has never ridden some of the countries best trails in Sedona, Arizona. These are not trails built 20 years ago in an era where you could get away with it. They are world class trails built in the last few years. All on public land without permission. The results speak for themselves. Between 50 and 100 new trails built by a small handful of gifted riders and trail builders. These people were often harshly criticized by fellow riders who were certain the entire mountain biking community would suffer as a result of their misguided work. And this work was not done miles and miles out of town. It was in the middle of Sedona, in plain view.

Well, what was the result. Many of those trails are featured in popular mountain biking magazines. Most of those trails are what attracts out of state visitors, who want to ride the finest trails in the most beautiful setting. The Mountain biking community has not had serious blow back. More than 90% of the trails will remain intact and be adopted by the Forest Service. Let me put that into terms you might better understand. If you could visit Las Vegas and gamble with a 90% chance of winning, you'd be a fool not to gamble. So the trails continue to be adopted. The Forest Service is in the business of rewarding rogue trail builders, because they have few options to do anything else. Oddly, some of the better wildcat trail builders in Sedona are current and former Forest Service employees. Even the trails that have yet to be adopted are being ridden daily by large numbers of riders, with no worries. Generally, it is illegal to get caught building new trails, but it is not illegal to ride an illegally built trail, unless it is signed as closed. You can guess how long such signs last, making it impossible to enforce such a closure.

When you begin option 2, be sure not to discuss it here. Tell everyone here you went with option 1. Realize that some hikers and riders will stop and ask questions. Some will have a phone and a camera. Never give out your name. Hide your tools well. Keep both ends of the new trail unfinished until the rest of the trail is complete. When it is finished, spread the word and get as many people riding it as possible. Have them call the Forest Service and thank them for the great new trail. The FS will go out and view the trail and will probably cover up 50 feet at each end. You want to remove those branches and rocks immediately and keep riding the trail. 90% of the time, the FS will give up and leave the trail alone. First and foremost, they are government workers and could generally care less and don't want to increase their work load. Lazy government workers are your best friends. Worst case scenario is you build ten new trails and one of them is permanently closed down. The better quality trail you build, the more likely it will be adopted.
That was my quote. My only experience is in Vermont, and it sounds like a different scenario out here then in Sedona. Not sure how much public space there is around Sedona but Vermont has very little public land that would support primitive trail building. There is no town here with a some what developed riding scene that would support 50-100 new trails going in in the next few years. Waterbury has like 6 trails total. Stowe has maybe 20. 50-100 trails would be a trail network as big as any currently existing in Vt and it's not realistic to think the state workers or any private land owners would be OK with that scale of illegal development in this day and age.

So my revised advice is it's better to develop your illegal trails of the beaten path here in NE. In other areas, know your surroundings and culture. Be low-key, expect to lose some trail.

I Agree about quality. If you new trail suddenly pops up, is found, and is a quality effort, it stands a better chance of being adopted.
 

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beer thief
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Boris, maybe that route works in Sedona but I don't think it is sound advice. In many areas of the country, doing what you advocate will give the mountain community a black eye and ruin legitimate opportunities. I fully understand the frustration of working with the Forest Service, been doing it for a long time.
 

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Boris, maybe that route works in Sedona but I don't think it is sound advice. In many areas of the country, doing what you advocate will give the mountain community a black eye and ruin legitimate opportunities. I fully understand the frustration of working with the Forest Service, been doing it for a long time.
Sedona is far from alone in that approach being successful long term. The proof is in the pudding. You can point to system after system after system across the country that has been built and eventually legitimized "Sedona style"....but how many places has the approach caused a long term "black eye"? I think the Sedona example is the more common outcome, as distasteful as it is to many builders and advocates.
 
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