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Fun in the Front Country

We traded our cholla combs for Technu this week as we traveled to the Central California coast. Working with the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers, we focused on the heavily used front-country trail system.

During our last few visits, the intricacies of the urban/wildland interface have been at the forefront. If you’re not familiar with the term, we’re simply talking about the dynamics between a large population and its proximity to back-country quality open spaces. Easy access to nature means a lot people, all using different recreation modes, are out using trails. At the 30,000 foot view, it’s a great scenario. As you dive in deeper, you start to see how the pressure might take a toll.

One of our greatest assets as a Trail Care Crew is our ability to work with all groups. Although we do represent a mountain bike organization, we’re proud of the fact that we have interacted with a wide range of different trail users over the years. This weekend was no different; we had the pleasure of working with hikers and equestrians in addition to mountain bikers. It was a great opportunity to get away from the ‘us vs. them’ debate and get down to the subject that really matters: trails.

In addition to water, wind, and gravity, all users have impact on trails. Knowing this, we concentrate on best practices for understanding the landscape, knowing the users in the system, and designing/building trails with the smallest amount of impact. We always remind our participants to focus on three concepts when it comes to sustainability; minimal impact to the environment, minimal user conflict, and minimal maintenance. The more we pay attention to 1 and 2 the better number 3 gets.

This weekend we couldn’t have asked for a better scenario to illustrate these ideas. SBMTV was recently asked by the Montecito Trails Foundation to lead trail improvements on the McMenemy Trail. Our Saturday field session was the beginning of a long-term project and would serve as a guide for future maintenance. With an ambitious group we were able to build several knicks and rolling grade dips. Perhaps the biggest accomplishment was the construction of a rolling crown switchback. It’s not 100% complete, but we think everyone could agree, it is way more than half done. All of the hard work will go a long way to lessen the impact of water and improve the user experience.

The results of Saturday’s work should prove to be impactful. In addition to reducing erosion, a broader range of equestrians will be able to enjoy the trail. Finally, all users will have less conflict, and we hope, more fun. And fun is the real the reason why we all started using trails in the first place.

BIG THANKS to Chris Orr for organizing the visit and his dedication to advocacy. Thanks to the Hall family for our lodging – what a view! Thanks to the Santa Barbara Mountain Bike Trail Volunteers for their tireless efforts. Thanks to USFS - Los Padres Nat'l Forest, Santa Barbara County, City of Santa Barbara and other agencies who attended the land manager workshop. Thanks to John and Bike Moves for a sweet Thursday night, bicycle-friendly event that showcased the new SBMTV tools. And finally, thanks to all of the volunteers who busted their tails on Saturday. What a great (new) beginning on McMenemy!

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