We just finished a Trail Care Crew visit at the Cherry Point Marine Corps Air Station, in Havelock, NC. Working on a military base was a first for us. We helped a few of the trail volunteers think through some of the challenges that they are having on their six-mile loop trail, called the Piranha Pit, located on the Marine Station. If you’re a local on the North Carolina coast, you might have ridden this trail before as part of the Carolina Coastal Off-Road Race series. If you know the trail intimately, I’m sure there are some “home-field” advantage sections that give you an edge over the out-of-towners – sharp turns, roots, steep climbs, sand pits. If you’re one of those out-of-towners, I’m sure you’re still reeling about home-field advantages that cost you precious seconds! Well, the good news is that we’ve taken care of the problem for both groups.
For the locals, many of whom are the volunteers who maintain the Piranha Pit and who put on the race, we’ve rerouted one of the sections of fall-line rooty trail and replaced it with an equally-as-fun section that should remind you of a roller coaster as you careen down the slope with epic views of the lakefront. It will not longer be a cause for continual maintenance. The new contour line section that’s full of grade reversals (perfect for shedding water off of the incredibly sandy trail) is a permanent fix for the erosion problem that was caused by the too-step trail. And for the out-of-towners, we might have helped your time a bit!
That section of trail where we conducted our trailbuilding class, although its percentage grade might have been mellow enough on soils with average clay content, was becoming a rooty rut of a trail, that dumped loads of sand down the hill and was contributing to siltation of the nearby lake. We designed a reroute that honored the technical challenge and enjoyment of the old section, but made sure that that section would no longer be a maintenance chore. It’s the classic case of solving a perpetually-maintainable trail with a permanent fix. The key to building trails in these kinds of sandy soils is incorporating frequent grade reversals, and ensuring that your maximum grade is no more than 10%, even 5-7%. In designing trails in sandy soils, be sure to create the illusion of challenge and speed, without pushing the sustainability limits for sandy soils.
These trails are a recreation staple for many active and retired Marines. Providing the opportunity for them to relax and unwind on the trails is the main appeal and we want to make sure that the trails are not only fun, but sustainable. What we’ve done is opened the door for more sustainable reroutes of the trail, with an option for even more trails in the area. We’re excited to have worked at the Marine Station so that we could learn about the particular opportunities and limitations to increasing mountain bike facilities on these military properties, and not to mention, hone our ability to work in sandy soils!
Thanks to our host, Tom Simmons, for his work to host us at the Station, and to the Marine Corps Air Station at Cherry Point for allowing us to help out with their trails and expand their recreation opportunities.
Check out some awesome before and after pics here.