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Trail Building School: Oslo, Norway

IMBA Trail Solutions staff Shane Wilson and Mark McClure travelled to the city of Oslo, Norway to deliver a trail building school to members of NOTS (Norsk Organisajon for TerrengSykilng).

Oslo is bordered by the sea to the South and dense forests to the North, East and West. The forests stretch for hundreds of kilometers away from the city limits and are inhabited by elk, deer and even wolves. The mixed forests surround huge granite rock formations which were smoothed by the movement of glaciers across the land over 10 million of years ago. Autumn colors of red, yellow and orange, made for a beautiful place to learn about sustainable trail construction and maintenance.

Outdoor pursuits are a very popular activity amongst Oslo's 1 million or so inhabitants, with public lands protected not only for nature but as a resource for recreation. The forests are a focal point for a variety of activities, including walking, trail running and of course mountain biking. The popularity of the outdoor spaces close to the city combined with the wet climate puts a tremendous strain on the resource, many of the existing trails suffer from drainage problems and high usage which when combined with unsustainable designs and construction leads to muddy, rocky and root filled holes which look more like a river than a trail. Conflict between the user groups is also an issue that NOTS is working hard to correct.

The school was held in the Østmarka (East Forest), an area a short distance from the suburbs of Oslo's eastern fringes. The IMBA Trail Building School educated 25 NOTS members about sustainable trail design, construction and maintenance. The participants had travelled from a number of locations across Norway to take part in the 2-day school, which began with a classroom session early on Saturday morning.

Having spent several hours indoors learning the theory of designing and constructing sustainable trails the group ventured out into the forest.  Assessing several trails the problems caused by water and users were discussed. The decision was made to construct a new section of trail that would bypass a heavily impacted area of an existing route. When  designing the new section of trail the group considered how this would be used by hikers and trail runners as well as mountain bikers, they also thought about how the effects of rainfall and groundwater would influence the features they would build. Saturday was rounded out by a demonstration of bench cut trail building by the IMBA Trail Solutions team.

On Sunday the volunteers were able to put in to practice the techniques that they had learned on the first day of training. It quickly became apparent that the ground here was filled with rock, making digging hard going but allowing participants to practice trail armoring techniques, such as stone pitching. Using stone in this wet environment is a sustainable solution which will help to reduce maintenance and erosion, even with the high volumes of people using the trail. Working in small teams the crew were able to construct 100m of trail which was unlike anything else they had seen before.

The hard work of the group and the new trail they had produced was complimented by passing walkers and mountain bicyclist alike, proof that sustainable trails can allow recreation for a wide range of user groups and create positive opinions from varying communities. Many of the participants of the trail building school agreed to meet again in the near future to improve further sections of trail in the area, to get involved go to www.nots.no for more information.

Do you want to learn how to build sustainable trails in your area?  IMBA Trail Solutions works with everyone, from national organizations through to businesses, local groups and interested individuals. To find out more information about organizing a trail building school in your area please contact shane [dot] wilson [at] imba [dot] com

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