Jim Donnelly enters rehab...
...this thread is where you need to spew your concerns about the recent changes brought to manner in which the Jim Donnelly Trail (JDT) will be constructed.
Sorcerer and I joined with a couple of other Coe volunteers on a hike up the JDT with the DPR's Monterey District Trails Supervisor to learn about the offending "structures" and also to get correct info about trail work to be done on the upcoming VOCal event. It was a very cold, wet and windy hike up the JDT; we stopped frequently to discuss the issues that brought about the "stop work order".
It was too wet for me to take many photos, Sorcerer had a waterproof camera so hopefully he'll be able to post more. This one is from when we were nearly to the top and the rain was letting up:
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The poppies were furled-up trying to stay dry!
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Dmitry, Philip, Paul and John (DPR guy) break at the top for a snack. Not a very happy-looking lot but it was mostly that we were cold and wet!
We were very relieved to hear John say that he saw no "structures" on the JDT; but that there were some "features" that would have to be changed. He very thoroughly explained the whys and wherefores of the policies that the JDT has to be built to. John's a former DH'er who's raced at the collegiate level so he does have sympathies towards MTBing.
That being said; the manner in which the paperwork was filed for the JDT creates a rather strict set of guidelines to which the trail must be built. It seems that the size of Coe creates a circumstance to where the policies are defined unlike what we may see at another Park or in another District. Bottom line; no RGDs, no banked turns, no berms---48" wide full bench everywhere except at a few "choke points"
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As silly as it may seem; this drain has a built-up portion so it must be removed. Drains dug down (called nicks or lenses) are OK. Anything built up like a RGD not. We'll be talking about the prejudice which lies herein later; but hikers complain about this "feature" and describe it as a "bike jump". I was happy that most of the "grade reversals" that we had put in passed muster.
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Another goddamed "structure"!
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This turn was unfinished but would have had a berm; it will be rehabbed to a plain out-sloped corner. I personally built 3 other corners on the JDT with some "banking"; they'll have to be changed also. The project's PEF only shows switchback turns; so that's only what can be built. Had something else been offered 5 years ago when the paperwork was started, we might have been able to build something else. We could try and force a new PEF but that could easily take another 5 years before we could continue the work.
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Because the Sorcerer has taken the official DPR trail-building classes it's been said that he should have "known better"; hence he was required to wear a dunce cap at the end of the day.
Now it's his turn...
The funny thing is that built-up drains are often a bit too steep to carry high speeds through them, so the changes will allow higher speed for bikes...
Bureaucratic red tape on display...
Amazing. This mindset is why our state park system is failing. It scares away any potential employees with a creative thought in their head.
If I have diagrams, straight from the State Parks construction techniques handbook, of drain dips and switchbacks with 10% inslope, will that matter / help?
Canaries in a Coe Mine
Paul, Phillip, and the Monterey District Trails Supervisor cross the Hunting Hollow Rubicon.
The Trails Supervisor praised our work and industry. The objections that the DPR has with the work performed are mostly related to the incomplete state of the construction. However, there are serious concerns which represent a large amount of work to satisfy. Most of that work is something we were anticipating anyway.
Tales of our adventures, struggles, successes, and tribulations with the JDT build-out, have apparently attracted the attention of the DPR to our humble efforts. The volunteers work in the open. We always obtain permission, keep staff informed of activities and invite staff to participate and evaluate our work. To my knowledge, up until a couple of weeks age (when the trails supervisor hiked it in preparation for the VOCal event, and not responding to an alleged complaint), staff has let the project go on without scrutiny.
We have enjoyed the experience. Our little comments clip-board up at the picnic table has given us positive feedback. The reprimand we received from the Supervising Ranger did not express any warmth or appreciation for our sincere hard work. His remarks speak to the quality his character. The Supervising Ranger accidentally used the word "structures", when he meant "features". This caused a little confusion and had me wondering whether in the two weeks since I had been up there some interesting things to ride might have sprung up.
From day 1, it was understood that the trail is to be a full 48" wide bench, with rare exceptions allowed for resource concerns,choke points and features. Presently we have few areas with a full bench yet. Over-all this requirement is the biggest piece of work to do. The equestrians really do need this width (and occasionally wider areas for turning around and dismounting). This requirement is inflexible and non-negotiable.
John critiques this armored drainage lens near the bottom of the trail. He says the rock is too small.
Dmitry wearing a lime green waterproof rip-stop nylon Campmor poncho follows the lads.
So how do we
So how do we go about lodging an official complaint? I would really like to know the answer to this question.
Thanks and Kind Regards.
Ooh, what a hypotwit.
Aw! The poor putty tats! They faw down and go boom!
Close to the parking area Pliebenberg and I built a banked turn (more properly termed a cambered turn I've been informed) on the Jim Donnelly. This type of construction was covered in DPR trail school in a supplement. This was chosen for it's beautiful fit into the landscape. Yes, this was a test case (canary in a Coe mine) for eventual evaluation by the DPR. It has stood for over a year until this contest. Our time of reckoning has arrived.
The political and practical aspects of the CA DPR interpretation of trail standards are now being rendered by the District Trails Supervisor. As far as cambered turns go, this is pee-wee. I've ridden this at least a hundred times up and down, and it is small and slow fun. It doesn't matter that it works. As it appears in the mission statement of California State Parks, recreation comes last, and fun isn't mentioned anywhere.
Last I checked, reasons to smile are the most precious resources in the physical realm of the universe.
Fun to build. Fun to ride. Sustainable. Is this like a fart in church?
"Okay, this is a structure!"
Very sad to see this, but somewhat understandable given the mechanics of a horse walking on the thing.
I'm very interested to see how this all shapes up and if future efforts of coe trail work will end up being more supervised or if a more cohesive plan with use and guidance requirements that are more clearly defined and accessible will be made available to workers/volunteers for future trail building efforts out in the park.
...assuming you're referring to the "Canary in a Coe Mine" corner; these photos don't show it but inboard there is a 2' wide path with little pitch and then a 2' wide camber for a total of that illusive 4' bench. The 2' wide inside is for horses and hikers to walk, the camber for bikes to roll. We were very careful to follow spec as close as we could when building this; we also asked the equestrian portion of Coe's volunteers for their appraisal---they gave us the thumbs up.
Originally Posted by rho
Again, the paperwork says it's supposed to be a switchback; the technicality on which a climbing turn is disallowed is that the local slope of the hillside is a couple of percent too steep. But mostly it looks like something a biker might have fun on; this got us busted.
We'll definitely be a lot more supervised in the near future. All parties understand that there was a massive failure to communicate coming from the DPR side of things; both internally and with the volunteers. We asked staff to come out and inspect our work many times; only the maintenance staff came out a couple of times---the rangers never..
Originally Posted by rho
I was finally offered access to the Trails Handbook today; this is a step in the right direction.
"Thufferin' Thuccotash! " ... "I tawt I taw a Tweety Bird!" ... "I tawt I taw a Pweeben Bird!"
The DPR exists in greatest part to conserve natural resources. Resource intensive alternatives for trail construction are not favorable.
Here John explained to us how this sort of construction is not approved. He said something about how the turn needs to be flattened out and out-sloped, how there needs to be an in-sloped drain at the top, how much more excavation needs to be done to achieve this, and how we might import some redwood to shore up the inside of the turn to defend it.
[Edit: There's a lot more to John's comments everywhere in this thread, and in no way can Paul or I accurately represent what he said or means. That said, (if you can follow us here) the construction of an in-sloped drain on the upper leg of a switch-back or climbing turn requires extensive excavation and regular maintenance to continually function as intended. The burden of maintenance is a take on the resource of volunteer labor. An in-sloped drain on an outside upper leg of a turn is by situation cut right into side slopes in excess of 40%. In order to reach the desired 1:1 back-slope enormous excavation is required, and is typically rarely obtained, because the volume of excavation spoils are something like excavation of a swimming pool, and would create an offensive, possibly unstable, scar upon the hillside above, not to mention the damages to established vegetation and habitat. Hence, in order to make the insloped drain "sustainable" (in quotes because even if the follow steps are taken the drain will still clog anyway) a retaining structure could be implemented in a futile attempt to hold the hillside back from collapsing into the drain and sloughing material onto the trail bench. Well, that is a dumb thing to do if you ask me my opinion. You create a situation where you have to dig more to dig more and dig regularly and also introduce man-made and finished materials and hardware that are costly to purchase and transport and assemble/install on a site into what is ultimately an unsustainable position for a critical drainage. It will certainly fail over time anyway. The result of an unmaintained drain on this type of DPR turn is a deeply guttered corner with rubble all over the place. ]
We have had many equestrians use this turn without complaint. It was explicitly made to accommodate hikers and equestrians. We have discussed this with our local horse riders.
These woodlands are beautiful.
The tread here is still not wide enough. However there will be some sections where a 36" bench will be allowed to reduce impact upon the trees. John suggested that signs could be placed to advise trail users of narrow areas. The addition of advisory signs to a trail, beyond necessary sign posts are usually not welcome. Why do we need signs to explain what is obvious? Are we concerned that someone will complain? I don't like the idea, and here in this part of Coe I'd expect such offensive signs to be ripped out.
"Up here is a good place for a choke point."
A lot of us think that the Jim Donnelly Trail, no matter how wide we make the bench, will develop an 18" wide line in the grass that trail users will favor over time. I'll admit that I've said to myself and other people who don't always see the point of making a 4' bench, that the single-track we like will manifest in a couple of years after completion. Doesn't that sound strange to you too? It remains to be seen. The JDT will be a signature trail that will bear a lot of traffic. It very well might be scuffed enough to stay wide.
The DPR says that the trails should rely on out-slope to shed water. I agree, but it needs to be augmented frequently and often with every technique possible. A wide bench will become cupped. Dips are essential. John acknowledged this, and did not criticize our drain dips.
A gust catches Dmitry's wearble tent as he takes notes on his clip-board.
Thanks for braving the elements today!
Curious if any new actions/decisions came from the meeting today?
What in particular attracted the attention of DPR's?
What is the date of the Trails Handbook?
You guy's have the patience of saints. I feel for all of you fine folks who have put their blood, sweat & tears into that beautiful trail.
It's been said time and time again, but needs to be said more. The DPR is out of touch.
I would suggest/urge you guy's to corner the IMBA Rep's at Sea Otter and ask for their help/advice with this issue.
Losing my head out on a limb
As we hiked higher the rain and wind intensified.
"What is a pile of small rocks doing here?"
We had conversation at one point, early in the hike, about the occasional piles of stones placed above the trail-way on the up-slope. This is a common practice. In places where turns are stacked, resulting in trail below construction areas, as on the JDT. Rocks are potentially dangerous missiles, and are not appreciated randomly laying on the trail tread. When you excavate a trail, you excavate many stones of all sizes. Larger ones I encouraged everyone to collect out of the spoil, so that they can be used as construction materials later.
Stone has many uses in armor, retaining walls, and fill. John explained that these needed to be dispersed. I told him that these rocks are being saved for purposes that will reveal themselves in the future, and most likely to armor the bottoms of drain dips.
We did not warm up on this hike with many stops to discuss trail features.
After a while I put my camera away and put on my gloves to try to keep my hands warm.
We view the two right hand switchbacks in the woods on the bottom half of the JDT as unfinished. We view the current state of the trail as a work in progress.
Ichabod's oak, an area of controversy, is a place where we stopped for a long look at the options for the future. It also offers a good shelter from a storm or the hot sun. We appreciated that the trail was routed here, without realizing that benefit consciously. I did not take photos at the time. I'm sure this will be a place where people will pause on this trail.
To accommodate equestrians the overhead clearance limit specification is 10'. As you can see from this photo, if we dug the trail bed down more we could easily get 7'. But the extra 3', is going to be hard to find.
Perhaps I made a mistake in this area, going back a long time ago, when the alignment was chosen to go under this beautiful tree. I recognized the low clearance obviously. But when it came time to cut the limb, I think we were seized with the realization, at least I was, that the limb was too big to cut without a chainsaw and some study.
The option of digging the trail grade down for clearance was an uncertain prospect, potential roots (but not so likely as the trail is above the tree), and represented a significant amount of work I did not want to commit to right away. A swale below the tree offered a natural bypass which we recognized as the instinctive choice for equestrians. As the trail-way is open during construction, we decided to offer a temporary bi-furcation of the trail here. We became attached to this solution.
I knew at the time that this was going to be some trouble for us when the trail would be reviewed (as would canary corner). I viewed this as a temporary situation. But I can see that there is a valid point to doing things once the best way. Thing is, here we needed a chainsaw, and volunteers are not allowed to run one in this park (I know it happens in others). Getting staff to come out here and do it has not really been an option until now.
It appears that "sustainable" means "supportable via continued volunteer maintenance".
Almost the entire pilot bench, which was cut prior to this group's involvement, was arrow straight for long sections, with no change in grade. At that point, you are faced with two practical options that will last, if you want to control water; you can re-route the trail away from the pilot bench, in order to introduce some long grade reversals, or you can add some rolling grade dips. Either is a considerable amount of work, with re-routing being frowned upon for leaving the original alignment. Outslope by itself is a fail. It WILL cup and trench over time, requiring constant maintenance. You can see this all over the Santa Clara county parks, with their ~5 year old Sweco built trails, before they started introducing more significant grade reversals. Drains by themselves are a fail. They silt up, trench, and lose their function, requiring constant maintenance. Outside drains at switchbacks? Coe fail. Even when properly constructed they rarely last more than a season before silting up and requiring re-excavation. All of these things sound great in the manual, and they look wonderful to desk jockeys reviewing Powerpoint presentations at their annual trail conferences.
BUT, who is responsible for narrow trail upkeep and maintenance, once a trail is constructed at Coe? The volunteers (trail users). The state does no narrow trail maintenance other than some minor chainsaw support at the behest of the volunteer trail crew (playing around with the Sweco here and there does not count).
One of the guiding principles of the JDT work has been to minimize the need for constant future tune-ups, assuming that these methods are consistent with those used in the CA state parks system, while creating a safe and sustainable multi-use trail.
I for one have spend hundreds of hours at Coe "maintaining" poorly constructed trails that did not have proper hydraulic control built in at the outset, and it gets old visiting the same trails, with the same problems, year after year. The thought that there is a workable system in place, that is loved by 99.9% of the user base (there's one in every crowd), and that it might be on the brink of being undone, so that an "i" can be dotted on the future backs of the volunteers, is insane.
Drew hit it on the head. There's a reason that the parks are failing: myopia+dogma.
Having said that, it is pretty interesting how quickly the blinders open up when there's a $3M carrot dangling in front of your nose.
Pweeben Bird's horses
This video show my wife and daughter riding the corner in question; my comment "it's flat on the inside" was answering their query something like "gorgeous corner but how does it work for horses":
Originally Posted by Sorcerer
<iframe width="640" height="360" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/g8b07HPZPhY?rel=0" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
What Diesel says...^^^!
Originally Posted by Diesel~
(Insert cartoon of a bear here)
To elaborate on what's driving the direction of DPR decision making in regards to maintainable trails; the staff is on salary (or hourly) and volunteers are free.
I cant believe our tax dollars go to workers like this...It is a trail on a hill side.
Yes but no...
So far this thread has been straight up in spite of today being April 1st. I don't agree with where the State is coming from but I sort of understand why.
Originally Posted by Axe
Sorcerer and I have talked about writing a book because that's how long it would take to explain how (in our opinions) the situation got to where it is today.
That antiquated clinging to the 50 year old idea that outslope is all you need, is NOT a State mandate. Everyone here in the Coastal Sector knows that it is proven to not work, unless your trails are in very rocky terrain, and get almost no use (like the High Sierra).
Grade reversals are the best design, rolling drain / grade dips are bandaids to fix poor design. Slight camber or inslope, properly applied with drainage features before and after, designed properly, are proven methods to increase sustainability.
The current trail we are working on (the first to undergo a successful change of use with the new PEIR policy) is designed to need NO, zero, nada, zilch, hand or machine maintenance for at least five years.
You just have someone who thinks that Karl Knapp's theory from 50 years ago still holds, and volunteers do not know enough (sic) for him to consider other techniques.
That looks like a switchback to me!
Originally Posted by pliebenberg
Glad you got access to the trails handbook at last...
The situation that I've seen from my outside perspective, is that you guys were set up to fail.
You requested rangers to give a "sanity check" on your work.
They never showed up.
You requested access to their trails hand book and you never got it until now.
The state is making the final call on your work on the trail regarding the standards and practices that are laid out in their documentation and you never got access to it while the areas in question were under construction.
In my mind, you guys were setup to fail based upon miscommunication from the state and a lack of leadership from the state regarding how the trail was supposed to be laid out and without having documents in the hands of the volunteers who were doing the actual work that laid out the practices and standards that work being preformed was held to.
This rework that will have to be done per the state sucks. :madman:
I feel I should state my lack of experience in design of sustainable multiuse trails and in the work required to construct them, but I can cite my years of experience in building multibillion dollar spacecraft to silly specifications and how to find any little bit of wiggle room in the guiding documentation.
Paul, Paul and others, you are saints, being able to patiently deal with such noxious concoction of burocracy, myopia and dogma, without losing it all.
Originally Posted by Diesel~
As Diesel points out, on the other hand it looks like it didn't take 5-year plans and lots of i's to be dotted for State Parks to accept the donations by CPPF and people like us... maybe we should try to make these conditional on the application of rationality and common sense next time.
Originally Posted by slocaus
But the "someone" needs to be plural; there seems to be a whole office somewhere full of people with said beliefs.
The more trail work I do the more I realize how good the IMBA approach to sustainable single track is and how poor the State standards are. The main DPR Planning Dept website even has a link to the IMBA but internally they seem to be intransigently opposed to the IMBA multi-use philosophy.
We need to start another thread to discuss what happened to the IMBA/Sierra Club "Park City Agreement" of 1994; that's where it all started to go bad for MTBing IMHO.
(The Sierra Club appears have agreed to principles they never intended to honor; kind of like when the U.S Calvary was signing treaties with the Native Americans)
The DPR seems to be heavily aligned with the Sierra Club; resource conservation takes all precedence over recreation. The irony is that the DPR approach will create 4 times the environmental upset than would the IMBA methodology. (by volume of earth disturbed; good fodder for yet another thread)
The DPR Trails Handbook is in my possession
The Trails Handbook is copyrighted 1991.
Originally Posted by rho
I'm a student in the Group 8 DPR Basic Trails Program. As far as I know, I'm the first volunteer to undergo this training (some of it is indoctrination). Typically DPR maintenance workers and skilled laborers and personnel from many agencies in the USA take this multi-week and multi-year course. My classmates are from State Parks, US Army Corp of Engineers, CCC, trail building groups, National Park Service, various county and city parks, and from other land management agencies like open space districts and water manageent agencies. Some Santa Clara County and Mid-peninsula Regional Open Space employees have attended this program.
My training so far consists of two full weeks of curriculum. One week was spent in Big Sur last June, and the other in Pt Lobos last October.
The point of this training is specifically to benefit the trails of Henry W Coe SP. I have actually made a detailed guide for the leading volunteers like Diesel and Paul with what I think are useful excerpts from this guidebook.
A new handbook is forthcoming, and we may see it this year. The current handbook is a three ring loose-leaf binder with so many additional supplements, that they won't fit inside. There is some dated information and techniques inside. For example, inside are detailed descriptions of water bars (9.2.4). Water bars are not being installed anymore.
There's a lot more I would like to say at some point.
When I see the level of nonsense in the park system, I almost wish they would close. Unfortunately, even if they close, the clowns that run the show won't lose their jobs. So, only the users will get screwed. Anyway, good luck to those who put up with that nonsense. If there is a list of e-mails where the user base can make their thoughts known, that'd be great.