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Trail Building School in the Netherlands

The penultimate TBS in Europe for 2013 was held in Landgraaf, Netherlands, Trail Solutions Project Manager Shane Wilson and Trail Specialist Mark McClure worked with 25 volunteers who had travelled from across the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany to take part in the two-day school.

Yakima and the NTFU funded the event, which was held at Sport and Leisure Park, Landgraaf. Hosting the school were Discovery Mountain Bike Club, one of Europe's oldest IMBA affiliated clubs. Many members fondly recalled a trail building schools that IMBA held with the group in the late 1990's.

The Sport and Leisure Park is situated on a former coal-mining site, which has since been re-landscaped. This provided great terrain with a surprising amount of elevation in a country that is normally considered 'flat'. Volunteers would learn that steep side slopes and giant mountains were not needed for good trails, a fun, fast flowing trail can be built on a low elevation and a moderate grade.

The school started on Saturday morning with a presentation outlining the theories of sustainable trail building, participants were shown a number of techniques for building trails in low lying and wet areas alongside the main principals of sustainable trail planning and design.

After a short lunch break the group focused its efforts outdoors. Shane and Mark demonstrated safe tool handling techniques before walking the group through the worksite for the day. The area the group were to work was part of the existing trail system, there were a number of design errors on the old trail that had lead to increased erosion and unsafe trails. The group were tasked with identifying the problems with the highlighted sections of trail and then to come up with solutions of how these would be solved.

After thinning some small trees to increase the line of sight the group decided that a new berm must be built to guide riders to the next section of trail, following this a steep fall line climb would be broken up with grade reversals and finally a rock 'raised tread' section would be constructed, crossing a low wet area. Working in small teams the volunteers acted on the advice of the instructors, working hard to complete the three tasks that afternoon.

Day two of the school dawned blustery and wet, despite the inclement weather conditions the group were in high spirits, today they would start to create a new section of bench cut trail in a small woodland close to one of the soccer pitches at the Sport and Leisure Park. The day began with a demonstration , Each step of the process was explained to the attendees of the Trail Building School as Mark and Shane constructed a small section of bench cut trail using hand tools.

The group spread out along the flag line and started to work, after several hours of digging a new trail began to take shape. During the building small break out groups joined Shane to learn about the use of an inclinometer while planning trails, taking the opportunity to mark out new routes with the pin flags which had been donated to the TBS by Track and Trails, a Dutch Trail Building company.

After several hours of working the group had constructed approximately 80m of new flowing single track trail that traversed the wooded slope surrounding the sport and leisure park, the new section links into the existing trails and will form the basis of a new trail that will circumnavigate the soccer field sand BMX track.

The skills learned by the participants will influence the next generation of trails in the Netherlands and prove it is possible to fun and sustainable trails in any type of terrain, its safe to say a  Gouda time was had by all!!

To book a trail building school in your area contact shane [dot] wilson [at] imba [dot] com

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