If I had a piece of tofu and tried to make chicken parmesan, I’d have a disappointed dinner party.
If I had sandy soils in relatively flat terrain and I tried to build steep trails, I’d end up with erosion gullies, sand pits, and maybe a few hospital bills.
Without implements or soil additions (turf stones, armoring rocks, flagstones, coquina rock, etc.), it’s difficult to build steep trail in flat sandy soils like the ones we witnessed in Albany, GA this weekend.
We’ve worked in a couple places with similar soils where people tried to push the boundaries of trailbuilding without proper planning. Unfortunately, their trails were too steep to accommodate the loose soils, and all of the sand on the steeper pitches was being displaced to low spots and at the bottom of grade reversals.
However, the local mountain bikers at Chehaw Park in Albany took advantage of what they have (sand, flat terrain) to build trails that are realistic, long-term sustainable options in light of what might have been perceived as limitations. They have a 7.2 mile singletrack loop in the park that might look flat, but it fast and flowy, and fun for all skills levels. That’s the best part: since Chehaw is only a short drive from Albany, it’s not only appealing for advanced riders who can fly through the trail, but also welcoming to those just learning to ride, with multiple spots to loop back to the trailhead.
So if you think you’re incredibly limited by your terrain and soils, you might be. But first, wholeheartedly assess what the land offers. After taking stock of your opportunities and limitations, work to highlight and take maximum advantage of those opportunities. The trails at Chehaw don’t try to be something their not. They’re a fun ride, and in these conditions, there’s a lot of space to add technical challenge through wooden-built technical trail features (for another example of flat sandy soils with added technical challenge through built features, check out the Spillway trails in Norco, LA). You can turn a little into a lot by being creative and working with the sustainability guidelines.
Thank you to our hosts, the Pecan City Pedalers, as well as Chehaw Park Authority and the South Georgia Biking Association. Hats off to you all for the trails at Chehaw.