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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi,

I'm a member of a SORBA/IMBA club way down south. South of Atlanta, Macon.

We have a handful of 5-7 mile loops sprinkled around our town which see a lot of use. Well, one suburban trail sees the bulk of it. Our club manages all of the trails, but we are only a fraction of the riders that are in the area. We are far outnumbered by the folks who pop in for a ride on the weekends and never say a word to anyone.

Well, we are about to get cracking on a new trail system which will total 7-10 miles for us, which is quite a distance considering the amount of land realistically available for us in the area. In the club we are excited about the new SK650 we are buying with grant money and on which half a dozen of us are going to trained. We are hopeful that an RTP grant is in the offing, too.

Still, we're only really talking about 20 people at most in the core group. There are enough riders in the area to support two fully featured bike shops, so again we are really outnumbered by those who only ride. I have to imagine some number of them would get at least a little excited about our new trail and would want to work. The question is how do you get people clued in and involved?

Thanks,
Grant B.
 

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My $0.02:

Going specifically for trail workers is a dead end. Work on building the bike club first. I mean, especially if you are in it to build trails, put time into socializing. Bend over backward to support group rides, races, road trips, picnics, club meetings, table at charity events, etc.

Trail work days should include time for socializing. Drinking beer is popular around here. Consider buying a case and cooking up some brats to end the work day. Sure it costs something, but if you are anything like me, you are already several hundred bucks into personal trail work gear. Every parent knows that bribery works (at least for a while).

When the club is big enough you will get your workers.

Walt
 

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Terrain Sculptor
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Free stuff!

A core group of 20 riders who are excited about trail building is fantastic.

Organized trail days sponsored by the local bike shops and other businesses works well in other areas. The North Shore of Vancouver can get up to 100 people to show up for some of their trail days IF the weather is good and IF the free stuff is enticing enough and IF there isn't anything better going on. That's in a city with 2 million people with thousands of mountain bikers.

I'm from a much smaller area still with a high proportion of riders. The typical mountain biker here is a 40-60 year old professional with no children and lots of disposable income. They are usually recently relocated from a city and just expect services like trail building and maintenance to be provided for them. I've tried everything to get riders to come out and build trails. I've had the best luck with young riders and people from other user groups, hikers, equestrians, etc.

I don't have any great solutions to get people to come out and work on the trails but I know a few things that DON'T work. Shame, guilt, threats, and begging.

One thing that did work was when I built a really nice section of flowy downhill trail in the middle of nowhere. No entrance and no exit, about a mile from the trail system. I left it for a year after telling one person about it. When I came back, a group of what I call freeloaders had gone out and built 2 miles of trail so they didn't have to carry their bikes in.
 

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I agree - Free Stuff (food and beer) works better than anything! Most riders are casual enthusiasts/weekend warriors and often travel to ride. Create a social event to lure those riders that want to participate more. Also advertise or make your plans/needs clear to the average rider. Email blasts, Facebook groups, banners and signs let people know that your trails are volunteer built and maintained - many uneducated riders think trails are a product of state programs. Communicating with Joe Public is often more work than carving trails! Some trail days will be well attended other days you find yourself out there alone.
 

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Terrain Sculptor
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I have found on the one or two "trail days" we have had locally that very little work gets done compared to a few dedicated people going out to build trails.

What does get accomplished is that awareness is increased, people tend to have a lot of fun, and you may find a couple of new recruits who get bitten by the trail building bug. One trail building fanatic is worth a hundred average people who are coming out either for the free swag, to socialize or because they feel guilty. The "trail day" is where these people find out they are fanatics.

One of the coveted prizes here is a T-shirt that says "I built **** Trail"
 

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Builder of Trails
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To add to the discussion:

If the trail will be open to foot traffic, recruit those users, too. Don't just focus on the mountain bike community.

Also, you'll find that (if you already haven't) 10% or fewer club members will regularly do trail work. No amount of schwag will change this. A lot of people value their riding time and will not sacrifice it...even for more trail....that they'll get anyway if they wait long enough. Sad but true.

Focus on making sure the work that IS done is performed properly on trail that has been laid out correctly, and reward those who ARE coming out by allowing them to name pieces of trail, build features, and get schwag.

D
 

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the t-shirt thing is great! another project....

we have a pretty active local forum and i take photos throughout the work day. people like to see themselves working hard. we always provide food/beer/schwag after. we always ride what we built (if it can be). photos are huge.

i do notice that 4 "regulars" can do as much as 20 untrained/skilled volunteers, so i try to organize days where i need low-skill, heavy man/woman power and leave the "heavy lifting" to a select few. volunteers need to feel a sense of accomplishment. i'd agree that building your core group is vital. we average 20-25 per workday, and i'd say we have 12-15 that make every single one. spread the word and then make sure people enjoy their time working and after. not rocket science....just rocks.
 

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We have a club around here that have a "mandatory" half-day trail workshop at the beginning of the season. That way, all club members are aware of their impact on the trails and we are usually able to get a few new diggers each time around to renew the crew.

Also, the provincial trail advocacy organisation in partnership with the race federation just launched a new program: a provincial trail day. Organizers can't organize races that day. It will be our first year with that program and we'll see if it helps.

Finally, we are VERY active giving trail workshop all over the season, all over the province. We sometime have 10-12 peoples show up, sometime over 70. We bring the tools, lunch and expertise. Half-day classroom, half-day trail work, than ride and party. We are usually able to get 1-2 new trail leader at each venue that will then recruit his own team and take care of a trail.
 

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Just roll it......
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Some astute answers here. I've found that a sincere "thanks", beer and food usually work on big days. We have most of our big build days sponsored by local shops and we're lucky that we have two manufacturers in town (Kona and Transition) that really support the trails. Realistically, our town of 85,000 people shouldn't support 5 high end shops, but they stay in business because of the amount of riders. They are smart enough to see the correlation, so you may just need to be not-so-subtle in your discussions with them about the benefit of more trails to the two shops.

If you have a handful of experienced people, make sure to team up the newbs with them so they get good tips and advice.

Trail Ninja said:
I have found on the one or two "trail days" we have had locally that very little work gets done compared to a few dedicated people going out to build trails.
While I do agree that a handful of knowledgable and motivated folks can get a LOT of work done, I think "how productive" big build days are is directly proportional to how prepared you are. This is something we've really stepped it up on lately. For instance, by the time we have a bunch of volunteers on a trail, we've already done all (or most) of the prep work and planning. There are no questions about routing or where features will go, the tools are moved to the workspot, etc. If features are going to be built, then cedar is already cut for stringers and/or rungs split.

We just had a huge trailday on Sunday which had 60+ people come out and almost got an entire trail put in. With that said, I had 15+ afternoons of work to clear the corridor, get routing dialed, etc. By the time the volunteers showed up, it was all about clearing organic and moving dirt and we got the trail 3/4 buffed and the last 1/4 roughed. Granted, it's only 375 feet of vert, but it's a fairly long trail (total distance unknown yet) You can read more about that here.

Cheers,
EB
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
You guys make me feel far better about what we have going than I did when I wrote this morning.

We have engaged the local running club to work on our new trail. They have given enough cash for a good sized bridge, helped in our grant effort that got us our trail building machine and have promised labor when the day comes.

Our plan with the SK650 is to get a few of the hardcore trained up so that we can do the serious earth moving. The plan for the next blanket work day would be to get the unskilled, tenuosly (sp?) engaged volunteers into the easier finishing work. One would think that would go further to encourage a sense of ownership than flogging away at 10 yards of bench cut for an entire Saturday.

We used to do the Pay Dirt thing in our state race series and it worked really well. I don't know why we couldn't reinstitute that.
 

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saddlemeat
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Ya Know...

You might be realistically better off with your core group of 20. I takes a lot of energy to utilize a large group of people. That kind of energy will build a lot of trail, and with a lot less stress. Six good people can accomplish a lot of work, it's "the ones who can't not build trail" you want.

Just an alt viewpoint from an tired old mule. ;)
 

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Having a Ditch Witch SK650 was a big thing to leave out of the original post. We have had great luck with hybrid construction. We went a different path and hired a professional trail builder with equipment, but as long as you end up with someone driving who knows how to build trails and run equipment, you should be good. When we had a big work day planned we would have the pros rough cut 1/2 mile or more of trail. Then on the big work days we have the hard core volunteers do rock projects and the newbies do finish work on the machine built stuff. Since the machine built the tread, we aren't counting on more casual volunteers to determine the trail location. And they and quickly finish a long section of trail. We had weekends were volunteers would have 1/2 mile more trail to ride at the end of the weekend. That got them excited and ready to come back again.

Other random thoughts

1) While only a certain percentage will volunteer, we still the non volunteering riders to be on our side. You never know when one of those too busy to help riders is a friend, relative, or neighbor of a park official or politician you need on your side

2) Not all those willing to help will be hard core trail workers. Having trail work coordinators, work session cooks, kid clinic organizers, people to go to meetings, etc... are all important. Also, there may be folks willing to write big check that may not have time to volunteer (and you will need $$$ to keep the SK650 running).

3) There are lots of ways people can volunteer and other worthy causes out there. Some one may put in a lot volunteer time with some other worthy cause and then hit the trails. Don't assume that some one you see riding but not trail building isn't giving back to the community is some way. There are other 501 (c) (3) organizations out there that can help you, so don't burn any bridges.
 

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bsieb said:
You might be realistically better off with your core group of 20. I takes a lot of energy to utilize a large group of people. That kind of energy will build a lot of trail, and with a lot less stress. Six good people can accomplish a lot of work, it's "the ones who can't not build trail" you want.

Just an alt viewpoint from an tired old mule. ;)
Can't dispute your viewpoint on this really.

I'm coming from a point where we were lucky to have more than 3 people show up on an average work day. I could get miles of trail built with 20 workers.

We're lucky to have had good turnout on Trails Day for about 3 years running. I can get a lot done with 30-50 people. But it takes some experienced workers to help supervise, and having all the layout work done ahead, plus cutting logs ahead.

I focus on clearing brush out of the trail corridor. Break the workers into teams, each with an experienced person. It works best with groups of 5 or fewer, more than that and there will be people watching others work. March everyone down the trail, and drop a group every 50-100 yards. Make sure the leader understands which side of the flags to cut on, and that he is to move his team 50-100 yards from the end of the line whenever his team gets to the place the next team started.

At the start when you are instructing every one how to use the tools, take an extra moment and state that saws are for cutting branches, saplings on the tread get uprooted with the long tools. Otherwise you end up with a bunch of tire-piercing stubs in your trail.

It's hard to get a larger group to cut bench properly. It's hard work and the tendency is to make it too narrow, or improperly sloped because it's easier to do. It takes a critical eye to see immediately that benching is done wrong.

Rock work, for some reason, always seems to find a willing soul. There's something about moving big rocks that excites people. Maybe we're all Druids? I'm certainly not immune to it.

Walt
 

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this is kind of turning into "how to manage the labor you DO get," so i'll add that having everyone walk the ENTIRE section they'll be working on, prior to starting, will give them a clear goal and a sense of pace. i made the mistake of skipping this step once and went to check on a group an hour into the work and they had done some beautiful grooming, but hadn't covered 1/10th of the ground i thought they should have. now, i show them an example piece, finished to the desired degree, and then show them their section. lesson learned.:madman:
 

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Food: Drinks (non alc), Chockies, Fruit and Pizza supply for working bee attendees.

Schwag: Door prizes. All attendees get a number and that working bees stash of schwag donated by local bike shops (tyres, pumps, multi tools, lube etc) get raffled off in the afternoon.

Big lead time for the working bee:
Try for at the very minimum a month in advance, 6 weeks is better. Email out to every club member at least twice, spaced a fortnight apart. If you have an email list from big race events you run where more than just the club guys show up, use that list as well. If people enjoy riding your trails, they may be willing to help out even if they aren't club locals.

As far as management goes, don't try and run everyone in one group, split into groups of 4 to 6 folks, each with one team leader from your trails team. Have a clear written plan, (even better with pics) about what the problem is, how you intend to address it. Each time might have 5 different work sheets. Doesn't matter if they only get through 3 of the 5 on the day, 2 or 3 properly completed pieces of trail repair beats 5 half baked ones any day.

A trunout of 20 on a trail day is pretty good as far as our club is concerned and we're the largest club in Australia.
 

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A couple more suggestions

Find some natural leaders in the mountain bike community, it helps if they are young, popular and attractive, and get them to personally recruit other mountain bikers. It helps if these leaders are also trail ride organizers. Then going on a trail project is just one more fun event for mountain bikers. It also helps if these leaders are the ones posting these events on the local forums.

The most valuable asset is a trail volunteer because of their rareness in the general outdoor recreation population. If they show up for an event they have already pre-qualified themselves as a trail volunteer. Make sure these first timers have a great first experience. We lose a lot of volunteers due to their first impressions. Think of it as a first date, if they get a back impression, there won't be a second chance.

Have a highly organized event. Feeling like your precious Saturday was wasted time is a sure enthusiasm killer.

Identify new volunteers, enthusiastically welcome them and get them paired up with someone experienced. The hardest worker is often not the best mentor. They new volunteer needs someone who will both educate and lead them. They are already feeling a bit lost and overwhelmed. Rotate tasks with them so they can try different things and don't get overly sore.

Include the new volunteers in the social activites. Invite them to sit with the group at lunch. Get them a beer and make them feel included. Drinking a beer by yourself while everyone else to catching up with their friends isn't the kind of fun that gets someone to come back.

We priorizie the volunteer experience over everything else but safety. This means all of the attention focused on the new volunteers may result in getting a bit less trail built during that one event but the recruiting of new volunteers will get more trail built over the long run.
 

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Another idea to add to the great ones already posted.

Use forums (like MTBR or other local forums) to continually publicize your trail project. I post up projects to build awareness and excitement. During work parties, I take lot's of photos and post them up - shows progress, gives volunteers recognition, and builds excitement. People love to see themselves in photos doing trailwork!

I've had many people show up for work parties saying "I saw the thread and photos on MTBR and wanted to come check it out for myself". Here is a recent example thread in the Washington forum:

http://forums.mtbr.com/showthread.php?t=578618
 

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20 committed core members!!!

We use a excavator (due to steep terrain) and a Ditchwitch bladed walkbehind and two of us can Brush, rough cut, grade and rake 500-1500ft per day. A small core group that is part of a cool team, with their own gear and look can attract other fanatics.

For us, development of a core group has been way more effective than all the work that goes into vollunteer days where you spend a lot of energy for a few hours of unfocused work that has to be fixed sometimes.

The benifit of the latter is that it is outreach.

Good luck,

z

 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
This has all been good feedback. It looks like we are moving along in the same vein as much of the rest of you. Wish us luck on getting trained in the SK650!
 
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