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  1. #1
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    I Went to MY First Sedona Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) Meeting

    So tonight I went to my first RTCA meeting which is being held to help the Red Rock Ranger District formulate a new trail plan for their overall Coconino National Forest Master Plan. Jennifer said the last time the plan was updated was in 1998 and it was time to formulate a new plan

    The more than 100 attendees were divided into nine groups to discuss different subjects brought up at the previous meeting.

    My group was told to discuss "why trail maintenance was important?" My group was formed out of about ten people. I appointed myself as the spokesman for our group and when I asked the question who in group was familiar with the Sedona trail system one person said he knew the system backwards and forwards. He was a geologist and a member of the Friends of the Forest.
    .
    When I asked him what trails he was most concerned about maintenance on the group went ballistic. They thought I was way off subject and they wanted to discuss why trail maintenance was important. So we got the basics out of the way and came up with safety, sustainability, keeping the character of the trail as it was initially intended and providing for a good user experience.

    One person in our group brought up brushing of the trail because he was an equestrian and was concerned about overhead branches. Justin was overseeing our group and mentioned that certain trails have different categories and that overhead brushing was not required for certain categories so equestrians would just have to live with low branches even though they provided a poor user experience for the rider.

    When I brought up the fact that the FS had formed an Adopt-a-Trail program to address maintenance issues on each trail the group went ballistic again. They wanted to discuss why volunteers were an important part of the maintenance process and we needed to address volunteers. When I brought up volunteers were part of the Adopt-a-Trail process the group decided to list an Adopt-a-Trail program along with volunteers was important.

    The total meeting was two hours long. It took one hour to introduce all 100 attendees. It seemed like the mountain bike community was well represented, but I would say hikers were the predominate group with mountain bikers second, equestrians third and ADA last.

    Before the nine groups got into their various discussions Jennifer Burns got up and explained to the group as to how the new trail and adoption process has moved forward to this point in time, over the last three years. She indicated that there are two basic processes: one fast and one slow. The fast process takes place when there aren't a lot of obstacles and the other takes longer due to many problems such as sustainability and archeology issues.

    She also said in small print on the right hand side of the white board. "There is no vote." Basically I think she was saying no matter what comes up at the one year's worth of meetings the FS was going to have total control of the outcome.

    Since others who were at meeting my have a different take on that part, please chime in.

    The person running the meeting said she would post all the information obtained from the meeting and I look forward to her post. I will provide the link when I get it.

    At the end of the meeting the group decided the introductions were a low priority and it was decided to not to do introductions in the future, so we could spend more time on discussing the important issues that need to be addressed.

    The one question I would have liked to have asked, but was too chicken to do so was how much new mileage of new trails is the FS going to allow to be brought into a system status over next fifteen or twenty years. In Moab they are putting in 150 miles of new trails. We already have seventy miles of user built trails, but obviously not all those trails are suitable for adoption. Some are just wash rides that 99% of the people at the meeting would be unable to ride, but may want to hike.

    In Sedona we have NO CLUE as to what future mileage the FS has planned to bring into the system. We do know from the meeting that the FS is going to be re naturalizing the trails in the Damifino area due to there being a special designation in that area for special studies.

    I personally think this could be a great opportunity for those people who attended the meeting to see that trails get shutdown to get out and volunteer to be part of the crew to complete the re naturalization process. There is some pretty cool terrain out there and it would be a great experience for those individuals who don't want trails to be part of the actual process to bring that area back to its natural state.

    No one discussed whether those of us who hike out there,will be able to continue our hiking adventures in that area. It will be interesting how the thick manzanita areas will be naturaized. Replanting would be nice but usually alot of what is replanted dies due to poor planting practices, not enough of good root stock on the piece of vegetation to be replanted and lack of moisture to reestablish the plant. Hopefully we can get that question answered at the next meeting. If someone knows the answer please chime in.

    Due to the late ending of the meeting a new agenda for the next meeting on Dec 20th. wasn't discussed and hopefully the administrator will post those agenda items in the near future so we can discuss them on MTBR before the next meeting.

    One last item, I asked LEO Ranger O'Neal is he could do a ride with me on 12/5/12 in the Secret Trails area at 8:05 AM. He said Celebratory Ride eh? Hopefully he will find the time to ride with me. Mike was at the meeting and I think he was a little frustrated with the format of tonight's meeting, I know I felt like that for the subject matter we discussed in my group.

    I have done so much trail maintenance in my life it seemed like it was common sense to everyone why maintenance is necessary, but apparently a lot was learned from what our group shared with the other 90 attendees

    One guy in the group asked if much of the information for the nine different groups may have been discussed in other similar meetings at other locations to kind of speed up the process. I don't remember the answer, but it was something like you need to do the brain storming yourself for the group to benefit from the answers.

    It seems to me like the other ninety people in the room listened to what we as a group had to say about why maintenance was necessary since it is pretty much the same where ever you have trails used by the public, it seems like the process could have been speeded up if the normal answers of why could have been provided to us by the facilitator and maybe our group could of been asked to come up with additional reasons for why maintenance is required.

    After the meeting when I Googled "why trail maintenance is required" there was a wealth of information provided by Google such as the following:

    Sustainable trails: more than maintenance

    By Karen Unphress, American Trails Board of Directors

    If you ask Tom Crimmins what makes a trail sustainable, he will first tell you that the trail provides for protection for natural resources. He will then tell you that it means much more, such as the trail being operated cost effectively, that it is maintained efficiently, and that it will continue to enhance the recreation experience over time. Tom should know, having worked for the U.S. Forest Service for over 30 year. He has specialized in recreation, particularly off-highway vehicle recreation, but his principles can be applied to all types of recreation situations.

    photo of hiker, biker rider, and horse

    Involving all trail users in planning and managing
    trails is one important aspect of sustainability

    catch phrase. Everyone uses the term, but without a clear understanding of the whole concept.

    So what makes a trail wholly sustainable? According to Tom Crimmins there are four keys aspects:
    • Resource Sustainability
    • Economic Sustainability,
    • Experience Sustainability, and
    • Political Sustainability.

    Resource sustainability is understood by most people as trails are not harmful to our environment and which protect our natural resources. However, it is important to remember that all trails, even the most sustainable, require some degree of maintenance yearly; even if it is just a quick inspection to make sure everything is still working well.

    What makes a trail economically sustainable? Besides low maintenance costs, an economically sustainable trail is one that over time will give you a return on the investment in construction and maintenance of the trail. This trail will not be the cheapest to create. But the up-front costs that are put into the trail will pay for themselves several times over with the decreased costs in both time and money than a less well engineered trail. And when you are paying a lot for the maintenance of existing trails, you are not spending the money creating new trails.

    Political sustainability is how happy the community will be to have this trail. The way that Tom describes this form of sustainability is NIMBYISM— Or the Not In My Back Yard— Syndrome. Lots of people like to use trails, but as soon as you talk about putting one in near existing homes, NIMBYISM pops up. People will tell you that their property values will go down, that trespass issues will go up, that trail users will use the trail to be able to plunder homes along the trail route.

    For instance, I was talking to a gentleman from the next town where a rail trail is being considered. He is very much against the trail. He is unhappy that the trail will be running past his property. A rail line was fine, he said. “The trains went by at high speeds and didn’t stop to wander around our property. But with a trail there, people will now have access to our property where we won’t be able to see them. They will have the ability to trespass on our property easier. We won’t know what they are doing back there.”

    In another case, people were very upset about an OHV park going in near their town. During all of the city and county discussions they testified that their property values would decrease, their town would see higher crime rates, and their children would no longer be safe. They also wrote about their fears in forums and in letters to the editor.

    In both cases, the fears did not come to pass. The trails were created, trespassing did not go up, crime did not go up, and the children stayed safe. However, there can still be a perceived vulnerability felt by those who have trails going by their property. There is a balance of people for and against each trail that will need to be weighed.

    Politically sustainable trails are the ones where more people accept the access and understand that most people don’t trespass because of the trail. If this type of understanding is not there for most of the people, then trail re-location should be a serious consideration. As Tom says, “They have moved airports because enough people complained.”

    Experience sustainability begins when planning the trail for level of difficulty and for a specific purpose. An easiest trail where people can go slow and enjoy the countryside will need to be designed and maintained completely differently that a tough single-track trail designed to challenge a horseback rider, mountain biker, or dirt bike rider. The line of sight will be longer or shorter. Obstacles may be left in the trail for more difficult trails. Tread paths may need to be widened or narrowed. And each time the recreationist uses the trail, they will continue to experience the same pleasure as the first time they used the trail.

    And in the end, what we need is for all of the people who recreate in our outdoors have as many and more quality opportunities, for their type of recreation, than they have now. This is true Trail Sustainability.
    Last edited by traildoc; 11-30-2012 at 05:24 AM.

  2. #2
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    Nice meeting synopsis doc

    The cynic in me thinks that maybe after meeting #4 or 5 is when the real work/collaboration will get accomplished. It really is a pity that the Casner area is getting naturalized. The trails are more than 50% on slickrock and those that are not are quite possibly more in manzanita growth than cypress. It doensn't appear that one is on the table.

    edit to add: I'm not surprised a geologist hiker type might not be clued into trail sustainabiltiy when "those" types tend to think in terms of millions of years and of erosion as an inevitable process. In general, I think hikers don't notice trail issues as much or may not see what a big deal an eroding fall line trail is. It's much easier for a hiker to get from A to B. They might have to pick up their feet more but really why would they care? In some ways, the trails that get built w/ sustainability in mind are far longer and circuitous. The section of AZ trail down to FS418 north of Snowbowl is a perfect example. If I was a hiker I would be strongly inclined to hike straight down the hill instead of having to hike an extra couple of miles.

    The challenge I see for the FS and the ongoing process wrt to hikers is keeping singletrack single and narrow. This is a generalization but folks out for a sunday walk don't want to walk single file. They like to converse and talk and not have to do it over their shoulder. They like to hike side by side leading to trail widening. With the new TH on Chuckwagon nearly finished just wait, CW is going to become a highway. Much like Templeton and Little Horse. Glass half empty I suppose but just trying to add some context to your comments regarding the meeting attendants not getting the sustainability concept.
    Last edited by rockman; 11-30-2012 at 08:24 AM.

  3. #3
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    So after the meeting last night I was racking my pea brain about this whole initial process that we are going through and what Jennifer's small written comment about this process is not up to a vote.

    So what I was curious about is what other National Forests had done recently to develop a new trail plan for their National Forest. I wanted to get an idea what a more modern plan looks like based on going through a somewhat similar process that is going on in Sedona.

    Using Google and typing in "formulating a trail plan for the national forest" and I came up with a plan in the Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest (http://www.sorba.org/sites/default/f...ement-Plan.pdf). In reviewing the plan document it seems like there is a lot of the same boiler plate language that will be incorporated into the new Coconimo National Forest Trails Plan regarding recreation and trails.

    In the above plan it discussed how the two main users (equestrians and mountain bikers) had spent a lot of previous volunteer time working on trails in that area.

    In Sedona the other main user is the hiking group who has also done a lot of volunteer work through Friends of the Forest.

    In the pdf document it alludes to the fact that there were trails due to user built activities. I have no clue how active the user builders were since the total trail mileage was 36 miles. In Sedona we have over 70 miles of just mountain biking trails that are user built and need to be evaluated as to whether they can be incorporated into a system status.

    It will be interesting at what point in the meeting process those 70 miles of existing trails and routes will be addressed. It seems like when we get done with all the initial discussions we will get to those trails and the possibility of new trails to accommodate the most dominant user group left in the meeting process.

    Certainly hikers and mountain bikers will be represented and to a certain degree equestrians. When it comes to the equestrian group it didn't seem there were a lot of young people represented in that group, so I am not sure how large a volunteer group they really have to go out and construct the type of trails they would like to have added to the system.

    Equestrians have had a lot of power and influence because of their past but their numbers are diminishing, due to the cost to own a horse and the cost to transport it to a fun riding destination. At some point they will loose the influence they once had due to their diminishing numbers and how they destroy the trails they enjoy riding. There are few trails in Sedona that can hold up to their constant use and therefore they have been selectively eliminated by keeping brush narrow and branches lower to deter them from using the future trail system.

    It will be interesting how equestrians will get new trails like they like to ride incorporated into the new plan document. At this point some of the non-adopted user built trails built by mountain bikers are used by equestrians and it will be interesting how the adoption of those trails is influenced by equestrians.

    There is a bunch of equestrian trails over in the Color Cove area that aren't used by the mountain bike community and I have never mapped those trails since the mountain biking community doesn't ride them. That being said there are two trails I have in the 70 miles that are used by equestrians, mountain bikers and I assume hikers. One important trail is called called Plumber's Crack. I know the FS doesn't want to touch that trail with a ten foot pole, but it is enjoyed by the Color Cove equestrian community, so it certainly will need to be addressed.

    What makes Plumber's Crack a potential system trail is that there is another well constructed trail called Easy Rider that can be used to make the Plumber's Crack trail a fun hiking loop with a staging area from the southern Girdner trailhead. In fact the loop I am proposing uses Girdner as part of the loop.

    There is also another trail called Color Cove which has been used for years by both equestrians and mountain bikers. Its popularity for the mountain biking community has diminished due to many additional user built trails in that area being added to better accommodate hiker and mountain biker needs.

    That being said maybe the FS will designate that trail as equestrian only, so that the equestrian community can feel that are not left out of the process.

    Out in the Western Civilization area there are tons of equestrian user built trails. Many of those trails stemmed from the Old Homestead (archeological site?) location and it seems like the equestrians would love to have those trails adopted. I wonder if they have a secret mapping program of those trails and whether they will asked for them to be incorporated into a system status or whether they will just continue to use them and not bring them up for discussion due to the secretive nature not wanting other equestrians to know about them, Kinda like what Woahey has advocated for the mountain bike community to do.
    Last edited by traildoc; 11-30-2012 at 01:32 PM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockman View Post
    The challenge I see for the FS and the ongoing process wrt to hikers is keeping singletrack single and narrow. This is a generalization but folks out for a sunday walk don't want to walk single file. They like to converse and talk and not have to do it over their shoulder. They like to hike side by side leading to trail widening.
    It's really all user groups. Hikers would rather hike side by side than single file. Equestrians do too and feel that they have to go 14' off of a trail when encountered by a hiker or biker. What really gets me peeved is when I see a trail made wider by bikes because people are trying to avoid a 4" tall rock and go around it rather than over it, taking out bushes and branches in the process.
    The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is you’ll crash.
    - Julie Furtado

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    young people represented in that group, so I am not sure how large a volunteer group they really have to go out and construct the type of trails they would like to have added to the system.
    I think that is has been well proven in Sedona that a volunteer of any age can do trailwork. We have active volunteers in their 80s doing trail work right now.

    The final alternative selected is based upon a legal framework that goes beyond who shows up for a meeting, but the alternatives will be developed upon the work of this group. Last night was an attempt to clear up what we are actually trying to solve and although we covered some of the same topics, it was a good amount of education for many of the involved members and some of the topics were much more defined than they were last month. Basically, it takes time to figure out all the problems and we cannot start crafting solutions until we figure it out. Our individual solutions are not going to be comprehensive enough.

    I think the notes from last night will have several new themes and ideas besides just more trails that are 'sustainable'. Here are some points that seemed to have been a bit stronger this meeting than last...

    - trail class, difficulty, user specific trails, variety...
    - funding sources, maintenance/construction needs
    - loops, access points, etc
    - signs

    overall i think it was difficult given how many people showed up for the room. we had a good number more than the first meeting which wasn't necessarily expected.

    edit to add: in terms of your group discussion on maintenance, I think it didn't get far beyond the vague terms of safety, sustainability etc. there is a lot more to the who what why and how of maintenance that could have been covered. for example the first bullet point for that discussion was a topic raised at the first meeting, realignments of existing trails. why is that important? what should we do to make this process happen? how do we identify when and where to do this? your group could have shared 'create a framework for rerouting existing trails' with the larger group. it is not time to get bogged down with specific trails, but it is an opportunity to build a strategy and process to create solutions for all of our trails.
    Last edited by justinwp; 11-30-2012 at 11:47 AM.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by justinwp View Post
    I think that is has been well proven in Sedona that a volunteer of any age can do trailwork. We have active volunteers in their 80s doing trail work right now.

    The final alternative selected is based upon a legal framework that goes beyond who shows up for a meeting, but the alternatives will be developed upon the work of this group. Last night was an attempt to clear up what we are actually trying to solve and although we covered some of the same topics, it was a good amount of education for many of the involved members and some of the topics were much more defined than they were last month. Basically, it takes time to figure out all the problems and we cannot start crafting solutions until we figure it out. Our individual solutions are not going to be comprehensive enough.

    I think the notes from last night will have several new themes and ideas besides just more trails that are 'sustainable'. Here are some points that seemed to have been a bit stronger this meeting than last...

    - trail class, difficulty, user specific trails, variety...
    - funding sources, maintenance/construction needs
    - loops, access points, etc
    - signs

    overall i think it was difficult given how many people showed up for the room. we had a good number more than the first meeting which wasn't necessarily expected.

    edit to add: in terms of your group discussion on maintenance, I think it didn't get far beyond the vague terms of safety, sustainability etc. there is a lot more to the who what why and how of maintenance that could have been covered. for example the first bullet point for that discussion was a topic raised at the first meeting, realignments of existing trails. why is that important? what should we do to make this process happen? how do we identify when and where to do this? your group could have shared 'create a framework for rerouting existing trails' with the larger group. it is not time to get bogged down with specific trails, but it is an opportunity to build a strategy and process to create solutions for all of our trails.
    justin:

    I am so happy you chimed in. Since you are so familiar with the subject matter of our group I don't understand why you didn't offer your insights directly to the group. You basically sat back and saw us struggle with the topic we were given.

    I for one understand the whole trail process as well as anyone in our group. You and I have worked on trail re-routes together and have come up with equitable solutions to previously poorly routed trails.

    I have ridden trails all over the country and I believe I understand what makes for a sustainable mountain biking and hiking trail. I am an advanced skilled rider so I understand what an advanced or lesser skilled rider is looking for in their riding experience.

    I have designed and built mountain biking trails that over the last fifteen years have proven to be sustainable and have stood up over the test of time.

    You understand what the FS was looking for in my discussion group, but rather than offering your knowledge about the subject you sat back as a referee. You input was minimal and the result for the remaining other attendees could have been much better had you shared your insights that you have expressed above.

    I don't know what is gained by someone with your experience being silent while we struggled through the process.

    I asked the group what there experience level was with the Sedona trail system and only few of us were experienced. I also asked how much trail building experience the group had and people said they had experience that I doubt could accomplish any of the trail routes that you helped with on the Munds Wagon project.

    Without that practical experience I don't understand how our group was going to provide the answer to the question being asked of us. I was unable to articulate the answer you were looking for but if you were to send someone out to due a trail re-route how many people in our group last night could have accomplished those four re-routes we did on Munds Wagon on their own or could have been the trail boss on such a project using a bunch of green horn trail builders in their work party.

    On the Munds project where we worked together I decided to take the lead in a section that was difficult to re-route. You were not happy where the re-route was placed due to it being slightly out of the approved area of construction. I don't believe you were unhappy with the ultimate new alignment and if so where would you have actually routed it.

    Do you think your new re-route would have improved the riding experience in that spot or did it meet your construction criteria for a sustainable section of trail in character with the rest of the trail?

    I guess my point is that you have the academic side of the RTCA process and you have the practical side of the process of identifying problematic sections and putting in the physical effort to correct those problematic sections at some cost, either by an experienced volunteer crew for the cost of sandwiches and soft drinks or a greater cost by a professional crew such as you work on. There is no way that I can see a bunch of academics getting the work done by talking about it in the class room.

    You have mentioned the RTCA will teach the academics in our group to go out and obtain taxpayer or public funds to help pay for all the costs to hire professional crews to do the needed work. It seems like that will be an important part of the process and rather than wait for a year to get to that part why not get the academics in the group working on the process now rather than latter?
    Last edited by traildoc; 11-30-2012 at 01:54 PM.

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