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King Range, California

In Northern California, the North Coast Wilderness bill closed several miles of trails to cyclists. So the BLM and IMBA led the charge to create a new mountain bike trail system in the adjacent King Range National Conservation Area. The quality of new trail system would be vastly superior to the trails lost through the Wilderness bill, and given the NCA status of the King Range Area, this was an opportunity to show how conservation and mountain biking go hand in hand.

The land designated to hold the new trail system sits between King's Peak and Paradise Ridge, crossing Bear Creek Valley. While the ridges offered outstanding views of the Pacific Ocean, the valley was fraught with habitat disruptions from expansive logging that had taken place decades earlier. "It was basically a disaster," said Joey Klein, a Trail Specialist with IMBA's Trail Solutions. Klein says, "The creeks were blocked by the logging debris and eventually ran dry, destroying the salmon habitat. We wanted to leave this area better than we found it."

The BLM brought in large machinery to undo the damage done years before. Workers re-graded parts of the hillsides, decommissioned all the skid lines and logging roads, and cleared the debris from the creek beds so that they once again ran. The new trail layout took advantage of the decommissioned logging roads and used the already impacted treeless corridor to create downhill specific lines featuring table-top jumps, bermed turns, and narrow exposed sections.

Before trail construction could begin, the layout was evaluated for impacts to the Spotted Owl habitat. IMBA Trail Specialists, BLM workers, and wildlife biologists repeatedly walked the entire flag line, noting possible nesting locations, making the spotted owl call and listening for return calls.

The same care was taken to ensure the new trail would not impact the burgeoning salmon population of the valley creeks. Due to the severe discrepancies in water flow between winter and summer, bridges could not be built over the stream crossings. To ensure that tires would not drag soil into the creek beds, boulders were manipulated in such a way that they would make the crossing un-rideable during low flow and act as steppingstones when the water ran high. Signs were placed at the creek crossings describing the delicate nature of the salmon habitat and importance of walking bikes through the creek beds.

Once the trail design had been evaluated and approved by the wildlife biologists, BLM, and IMBA, construction could begin. In forest not already heavily impacted by humans, the trail was painstakingly hand cut into the hillsides and spoils were bucketed to keep them from ending up in the waterways. "These tight sections slow users down and give them an opportunity to look around and appreciate all the natural surrounding beauty," said Klein. Since water running down the ridges would flow into the valley below, every single gully crossing that the trail traversed was armored, even if it normally ran dry, in one place even building a seven-foot high wall out of rock.

It took three years to finish the trail project, partially because of the amount of work needed, but also because construction was stopped during times when the Spotted Owls might be nesting, or when the salmon were running. The patience paid off: the trails have been a huge success, both in the mountain bike community and for the BLM.

"Joey Klein and our new bible, 'Trail Solutions: IMBA's Guide to Building Sweet Singletrack' changed the way we think about trails," Gary Peterson of the BLM announced during the trail's dedication ceremony.

Today, there are plans to add additional trails, including a family friendly mini-gravity park that will make mountain biking even more accessible to the community. "This was an idea that once only existed on paper. It was the dream of a handful of people," said Klein of the project, "More and more people joined in that dream and together we turned it into a reality - a reality that everyone can enjoy for years to come."

This report was made possible by a grant from Shimano.