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Stacking Trail Labs: Southern California Case Study

Stacking Trail Labs: Southern California Case Study

Connecting Land Managers and Stewards to Sustainable Trail Resources

Posted: March 28, 2023
A team of volunteers gathers before a Trail Care School in Laguna Hills, CA.
Photo courtesy of: Liz Chrisman

In December of 2022, Chris Orr, IMBA Community Engagement Specialist, traveled to Laguna Beach, California to teach two back-to-back IMBA Trail Labs: a Trail Management School and a Trail Care School. Though a gem of a place, world famous for mountain biking, it needed a true trail care program that both trail users and land managers could be on the same page about.

Boasting aggressive terrain dotted with legacy trails and being home to many cycling-centric companies, Laguna Beach was running into significant issues with trail sustainability and developing robust communication amongst the IMBA Local Chapter OCMTBA, land managers and trail stewards. Laguna Canyon Foundation (LCF), a non-profit dedicated to the 22,000 South Coast Wilderness system of parks and preserves, maintains 70 miles of trail (26 of which is singletrack) with their trail stewardship team. This system provided an ideal backdrop for the four days of training.

Having had great success with this type of education stacking in the past, Chris found this as another great opportunity to do it again.

"Providing a Trail Management Workshop and Trail Care School at the same location with land managers and stewards participating together provided an ideal learning and collaborative environment for finding solutions to trail system challenges," said Chris.

The Trail Management School formed the first two days of Chris’ trip to this unique area of Southern California. Land management representation included Orange County (OC) Parks rangers, the district archeologist, an environmental scientist, managers of the Irvine Ranch Conservancy and others – all with unique vested interests in the trails and lands within Orange County.

"This course is building on a toolkit to help us figure out what our options are and how to manage these trails. Can we close them? Can we open new ones?,” said Joe Fayer, California State Parks Associate State Archaeologist, “We have a very big mountain bike community that has a lot of ownership here in these trails, as well as hikers and trail runners and even a few equestrian riders.” Having this set of diverse professionals together in one space for two days was beneficial in cross-agency information sharing/networking, providing best management practices to many different agency representatives simultaneously, and helped shape Chris’ presentation to the participants in the Trail Care School the following days. 

Shimano was a key partner in forming this encompassing education program, working with the Laguna Canyon Foundation to get the events up and running. Shimano has a robust volunteer incentive program, but many employees have felt discouraged from participating because of a lack of trail care best practices.

“Shimano, as manufacturers and builders of recreation equipment, feels the responsibility to give back to the areas affected by those activities,” noted Steve Blick, who works in mountain bike sports marketing at Shimano, “By learning how to be good stewards of this area in our own backyard, we’re building a culture of giving back and leaving the trails better than we found them.”

Along with Laguna Canyon Foundation employees and stewards from IMBA Local Partner Orange County Mountain Bike Association (OCMTBA), Shimano employees from all different areas of the company were instructed by Chris during a Trail Care School. "I hope that we can find a way for the riders and the local parks organizations to come together and understand each other's needs and wants out of the trails so that we can work together to create a more sustainable trail network that caters to everybody," said Collin Berry, OEM Sales Manager for Shimano North America.

Chris was impressed with the overall outcome. "They built up an understanding of how to look at and assess a trail for erosion mitigation and apply new techniques and tool use while working through the solution collaboratively with the land management staff present - you can't get much better than that," Chris added.

//Tommy Lisbin, Shimano

By having a Trail Management School and Trail Care School back to back, both land managers and participants received custom instruction to assist them in their trail management challenges. Chris was able to pick up on the challenges and opportunities that Orange County faced from both sides of the trail.

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About the author
Liz Chrisman portrait

Liz (she/her) grew up pedaling a garage sale 10-speed on the dirt roads of the Arkansas River Valley and on tarmac throughout college. While finishing her master's program, a coworker handed her a rigid Gary Fisher, drove into the Ouachitas and they conquered mileage on the IMBA EPIC Womble…

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