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Thread: Closed Trails

  1. #1
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    Closed Trails

    Hey, so I've got a semi rant here, hope you don't mind.

    First of all, this is coming from a guy who has spent ZERO time on trail maintenance, if there were any trails near me, I surely would, and I truly appreciate everything that MORC has done for MN as far as trails go, but I just want to say a couple things.

    This year has been very wet, lots of rain, lots of closed trails. I talked to a buddy of mine out east, and was telling him how both Memorial Day weekend, and Fathers Day weekend, I wasn't able to ride at all because of closed trails, due to rain... he paused, and laughed, as if I were joking. I said it was true! He had never heard of such a thing.

    So, it got me thinking... is this commonplace accross the country? Are trails in WA closed all the time (I'm using the stereotype of it raining constantly there). In MA, and ME, they get plenty of rain, yet their trails stay open, and my buddy says they are killer!

    I guess my point is... I'm about ready to get a road bike at this point. We barely have 3-4 months of good riding time, and it seems like the majority of the time, you can't ride because trails are shut down. Again, I appreciate the work, and maintenance that goes into this, but does it get to a point where having these great maintained trails really doesn't matter, because they can barely be ridden? What's the point if you can't actually ride your bike on them?

    I should clarify futher. I don't have the luxury of living close to any really good trials. I'm in Stillwater, which I'd think would be perfect for a trail system, but there is nothing (and, I'd be happy to help if ever there was a trail system there!!!), so I can't just hop on after work, or when I have a couple hours. It takes me about 45 minutes at least to get to Lebanon, Theodore Wirth... an hour or so to get to anything else. Carver is closest, and it's 4 miles at best, and pretty mild... I can only do so many loops on that, even though it's getting much better, and it's pretty flowy, and fun.

    Anyway, so, I live at least an hour from getting on any trail, I can only go on weekends usually, and many weekends it's closed. It's mountainbiking... seems like we're treating it with kid gloves a little.

    Sorry, don't mean to offend anyone that spends a lot of time working on the trails, I more than likely need to be educated on WHY they are constantly closed, and closed for 24-48 hours after every time it rains... I understand the ruts we cause, but again.. it's mountainbiking...

    I guess I just want to ride, and am getting frustrated. Seriously thinking about getting the road bike, so then after an hour of rain, I can at least ride something, instead of waiting 2 days.

    Anyway, please understand I'm trying to be respectful, but I just want to ride, and I'm sure others are in the same place. How can we come to a common ground?

    Or, maybe educate me further on the differences between areas I'm speaking about, or their trail systems. Or maybe why the trails are closed regularly.

    Rant over...

  2. #2
    bhc
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    Having moved back to MN after living in Arizona the past 8 years, I understand your frustration. In Arizona the trails were almost never closed. About 15 minutes after it rained hard you could be out on the trails and no damage would take place. But just to the west of in southern CA, a good rain could close the trails for days. It all depends on the soil. Those ruts just get bigger and bigger, and in time the trail isn't what it used to be.

    I ride on the roads also, if you are out in the Stillwater area, there is some good road riding, and even some hills to enjoy. Its all good on two wheels.

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    I do a lot of gravel riding when the trails are wet.

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    Removing MN of places to visit with my MTB.

    Seriously, 2 days after a rain and it is still closed. Sounds fishy to me.
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    As someone who does do trailwork, I will take a stab at it.

    It is soil content mixed with depth. Most of the soil in the Metro area has a decent clay content. It takes longer to dry than other areas of the country, and is more affected by riding than others. Once it dries it is like concrete. Some of the trails in town need freshly sharpened tools to dent the soil once it is dry and packed. However, when wet it works like play dough. if it is ridden, and a rut sets in, if it dries, that rut is mostly permanent, save for a worker with the tools to scrape off enough trail to flatten it back out. Those ruts lead to trails washing out on subsequent rains.
    Coupled with this is the relatively flat area that we live in. Drainage is a huge issue, and we have had a really wet May/June. Much of the soil has saturated, so while the topsoil is dry, a few inches down is still prone to move with pressure. This isn't true on all parts of a trail, but given most of the trail offerings we have are purpose built, and directional, a single "trouble spot" can close a trail. This is getting better as armoring and re-routes are being developed to open trails sooner after a rain.

    All that said, it is pretty rare that a trail is closed 48 hours after rain. It usually takes a pretty massive storm that dumps multiple inches to achieve that. However, with the measurable rain every 2 days that we have seen the last month, it has made for some frustrated riders. I choose to take that frustration out on the trail with a hoe and mcleod, bettering the trail for the next time.

    I'd encourage the frustrated to attend a trailwork session. Most of the MN trails have regular weekly sessions, and usually you can just show up to lend a hand. Locally the MORC forum is a better source for that.

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    Maybe you should get yourself involved with trail building and maintaining... Then after spending 100's of hours fixing eroded trails you understand why they get closed. Not to mention Mountain Bikers are getting trails perminately closed around the world for many reasons - riding when in the rain or wet doesn't help the case. Envro-Nazi's would like nothing more than to ban all trail use - ALL TRAIL USE - to be "Preserved" for 1000's of years - Mountain Bikers do not mix well in that equation. Just because other parts of the world ride and wreck trails when itís wet doesnít make it right.

    The bottom line is that typically 1000's of volunteer hours were most likely needed to build and maintain whatever trail(s) it is you speak of and to completely disrespect the people who gave their time and hard work for the betterment of the mountain biking community is completely disrespectful...

    There are plenty of areas in the upper midwest where it has not rained a drop in weeks and the trails are dryer than the Sahara Desert - go ride there (I know Iíve put in a couple hundred miles of single track riding and cleaned nothing but massive amounts of dust from my bike). Or buy a road bike and get some better fitness.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blum585 View Post
    Maybe you should get yourself involved with trail building and maintaining... Then after spending 100's of hours fixing eroded trails you understand why they get closed. Not to mention Mountain Bikers are getting trails perminately closed around the world for many reasons - riding when in the rain or wet doesn't help the case. Envro-Nazi's would like nothing more than to ban all trail use - ALL TRAIL USE - to be "Preserved" for 1000's of years - Mountain Bikers do not mix well in that equation. Just because other parts of the world ride and wreck trails when itís wet doesnít make it right.

    The bottom line is that typically 1000's of volunteer hours were most likely needed to build and maintain whatever trail(s) it is you speak of and to completely disrespect the people who gave their time and hard work for the betterment of the mountain biking community is completely disrespectful...

    There are plenty of areas in the upper midwest where it has not rained a drop in weeks and the trails are dryer than the Sahara Desert - go ride there (I know Iíve put in a couple hundred miles of single track riding and cleaned nothing but massive amounts of dust from my bike). Or buy a road bike and get some better fitness.
    Where was I disrespectful? I knew I'd get someone like you to reply.

    Please read again, I didn't take anything away from what anyone does, fully admitted that I haven't been involved, and was asking to be educated.

    I guess you're just way better than me, and you want to make a point to put me down for simply wondering if the extra caution is worth it, if we can't all ride. It's not a disrespectful question, or opinion. I didn't use any angry tone, or emoticons.

    I would love to help out, I would love a trail system near me... but I don't.

    It's obvious that Zombinate read my message, and replied by educating me/us on why it takes the time it does. Which is appreciated.

    But thank you... I'll just book my flights to Africa.

    Carry on.

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    I really think it has to do with the soil content. Some trails dry out a lot faster than others. I live in between two different trail systems and one will dry out in a few hours and the other takes at least a day. The difference is the amount of clay in the soil. At least that what i think. i really dont know much about dirt and im just speaking from experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by five5 View Post
    Where was I disrespectful? I knew I'd get someone like you to reply.

    Please read again, I didn't take anything away from what anyone does, fully admitted that I haven't been involved, and was asking to be educated.

    I guess you're just way better than me, and you want to make a point to put me down for simply wondering if the extra caution is worth it, if we can't all ride. It's not a disrespectful question, or opinion. I didn't use any angry tone, or emoticons.

    I would love to help out, I would love a trail system near me... but I don't.

    It's obvious that Zombinate read my message, and replied by educating me/us on why it takes the time it does. Which is appreciated.

    But thank you... I'll just book my flights to Africa.

    Carry on.
    Book a flight to Southern WI or better yet Brown Co Indiana - like I said it's drier than the Sahara Desert. I'm sure the farmers would like some of the rain that MN is recieving.

    The disrespect is towards anyone who has ever spent their free time volunteering for trail work. Trails are not built nor maintained without the hard work of many people - and like I pointed out there are always groups chomping at the bit to get these trails closed - Cause Mountain Bikes are Evil...

    P.S. if your are in Stillwater get over to River Falls the Trails there are just getting better and better by the week - 21 miles south of Stillwater - You could even do trail work there. I can get you in touch with their main trail builder.
    Last edited by blum585; 06-20-2012 at 11:07 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BigE610 View Post
    I really think it has to do with the soil content. Some trails dry out a lot faster than others. I live in between two different trail systems and one will dry out in a few hours and the other takes at least a day. The difference is the amount of clay in the soil. At least that what i think. i really dont know much about dirt and im just speaking from experience.
    The design of the trail also has a lot to do with it. I've seen properly built trail recieve inches of rain and be perfectly rideable the next day due to the fact that water was sheeting across the trail VS running down the trail. Soil content / how well it can definately does help though!

    In regards to the riding in the SW (AZ, NM, CA) the trails are best just after the rain cause they pack in hard and the moisture keeps the dust down. It's crazy to see people flock to the desert after a good downpour.

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    Quote Originally Posted by irishpitbull View Post
    Removing MN of places to visit with my MTB.

    Seriously, 2 days after a rain and it is still closed. Sounds fishy to me.
    As a Dirt Boss at Cuyuna, please allow me to jump in here with some facts.

    First, most, if not all the trails in MN are volunteer maintained trails. That means we don't have legions workers that can immediatly go out and tend to the trails. Sometimes the delay between rain stopping and trails opening is soil conditions, some time its getting workers to a site for a fix that holds back the re-opening.

    Second, the amount of damage that can be done to some soils when they are wet by riders is mind-blowing. Here at Cuyuna we have soil that when dry-to-slightly damp is like concrete and even with a "normal" rain is ridable within a few hours. However, that same soil will turn to several inches of Crisco with heavy or substained rain events. The amount of damage that any single rider can cause in this soil, in those conditions, is scary. It often takes many workers hours to fix ruts put in by one person in seconds.

    Third, taking care of things is how you continue to have them. Yes, I know its frustrating to not be able to ride when you would like to. But please have some patience and common courtesy about the trails. One of the (false) accusations about mountain biking and mountain bikers is that they cause tons of damage to the soil and promote erosion. By not riding the trails when they are closed and/or being a trail worker volunteer, you prove that the above statement is false and make shorten the time the trails are closed (because the trail workers don't have to fix ruts from those that rode them wet). In some parts of the country mountain biking trails are under attack because of the rut damage caused by users that ride wet trails. We don't want to this to happen in MN.

    Fourth, trail workers are always appreciated. If you find yourself feeling blue about trails being closed after a rain, volunteer to help maintain the trails. It will help open them up faster and it will help you to understand why the trails would remain closed after a rain event.

    When things dry out, we hope to see everyone out at Cuyuna!

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    Quote Originally Posted by blum585 View Post
    Book a flight to Southern WI or better yet Brown Co Indiana - like I said it's drier than the Sahara Desert. I'm sure the farmers would like some of the rain that MN is recieving.

    The disrespect is towards anyone who has ever spent their free time volunteering for trail work. Trails are not built nor maintained without the hard work of many people - and like I pointed out there are always groups chomping at the bit to get these trails closed - Cause Mountain Bikes are Evil...

    P.S. if your are in Stillwater get over to River Falls the Trails there are just getting better and better by the week - 21 miles south of Stillwater - You could even do trail work there. I can get you in touch with their main trail builder.
    I will check them out! Thanks!

    Again, if you read my post, I mentioned how much I appreciated the trail builders, and nothing I said was pointing a finger at anyone who volunteers time.

    My only question was, and I also asked to be further educated as someone who has never spent time on trails, was this... does over grooming, kid gloves, over cautiousness take away from why they are actually there.... to ride?

    I didn't know there are groups out there trying to close them down because of MTB damaging land, or whatever. So I now see the value in maintaining them.

    I also am now educated on some of the topography/soil content issues.

    I do understand that they are all volunteer, and can't always get to them in a perfect world timely fashion.

    I didn't say they are closed because of them, the lack of work, or laziness...

    I just didn't know why they continue to be closed so much after it rained when I have friends around the country who never have "rain delay" trails. Now I'm more educated.

    But I'll disagree that I was being disrespectful in any way. As a matter of fact, every time I see someone on the trail working on it, I thank them, and sometimes chat about what is coming.

    River Falls is a quick trip, and I've been there before. Great trail for sure, and I forget about it... probably closer than most to me.

    So, if there is any confusion, nothing was directed at anyone, just like I said, please educate me on why.... which has happened. I didn't have any particular opinion, or assumption on why, or what was going on... just simply asking for info, and ranting a little.

    I'm dying to get up to Cayuna... Hopefully this year!

    Still, the road bike makes sense this year it seems... I'm not trying to slam MTB, or start a East Coast/West Coast bicycle war.... haha! Just sayin' I just want to ride a bike, I don't really care what form it comes in... I just prefer MTB.

    Peace!

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    Quote Originally Posted by irishpitbull View Post
    Removing MN of places to visit with my MTB.

    Seriously, 2 days after a rain and it is still closed. Sounds fishy to me.
    It isn't fishy. We've had a ton of rain this Spring. Same thing last year. If the ground wasn't so saturated, the trails would open up after one day. We are in an incredible cycle right now. Some of our trail is under water this Spring and last Spring also. The areas that are underwater are historically dry all the time. MN has been either underwater or in a drought the past couple of years. Really odd. We went from record rain and flooding last year to complete drought in July that lasted 7-8 months. Really crazy stuff.

    One more thing to note. The land managers are closing most metro trails, not the MORC volunteers. The land managers want to protect their resource and MORC supports that, but park staff makes the call and opens and closes the gates.

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    Quote Originally Posted by blum585 View Post
    The design of the trail also has a lot to do with it. I've seen properly built trail recieve inches of rain and be perfectly rideable the next day due to the fact that water was sheeting across the trail VS running down the trail. Soil content / how well it can definately does help though!

    In regards to the riding in the SW (AZ, NM, CA) the trails are best just after the rain cause they pack in hard and the moisture keeps the dust down. It's crazy to see people flock to the desert after a good downpour.
    All the trails the OP is talking about are designed correctly per IMBA standards and shed well for the most part, but all the trails are in a metro area and get a ton of use so wear and tear do affect the trail tread. Our trails receive as many laps in one nice weekend as some trails receive in a full season. Also throw in the challenging weather (rain, snow, freeze-thaw, odd temps) and the soil type and it makes for this sort of thing.

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    The original poster had a great question though. I'll post up more when I have more time. One thing I will mention is that MORC does not handle the opening and closings of most of the trails they maintain. The land manager makes the decision of opening and closing the trails and they take care of the opening and closing of the trail gates and parking lots. They are trying to protect their facilities and MORC supports this.

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    If there are no trails but riders where you live _and_ you care about the sport get busy.

    You'll understand closed and closing trails after you've spent hundreds of hours making it happen.

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    Wink

    I don't live in area in question, but I do maintain a trail system, so as to why trails can stay closed more than you think they should:

    It depends.

    Trails get built in places that don't always have good drainage. If we had actual mountains in the Midwest, that wouldn't happen as often. The Pacific Northwest has more of them.

    Soil types vary a lot, sometimes within a few yards. I work on a trail system that has flat areas which have collected leaf debris for a long time and as a result has pockets of black, silty soil that turns to mush when wet. These deposits can be several feet deep. Then, a few feet later, the trail crosses into hard clay matrix containing rocks. Kind of like concrete. I try to avoid the silt when laying out trail, but it's not always possible, and we have 7 miles of legacy trail that was built with no thought this might be a problem. This can all be fixed, and we're working on it, but few riders care enough to join our work days.

    Soil saturation varies from year to year depending on rainfall. Others have commented on your local conditions. No doubt the trail builders in the Pac NW deal with this better than we do, but I'm not convinced it's feasible or desirable to build trails based on, say, the worst weather conditions which have occurred in a decade. I suspect that a number of trails we have would never have been built by someone operating in a high-rainfall area.

    One thing I have learned to do is to go out in early spring to look at how the spring runoff is progressing. I look for water channeling, and pooling. I can say without fear of contradiction that no one has ever volunteered to help me with this, but it does more to get to the goal of weather proofing the trails than any other thing I do. I have a goal of opening our trails earlier in the spring, but it's going to take years of effort to get there.

    I'm sorry that the trail closures in your area were an inconvenience to you this spring. My advice is to do what I do. I own a road bike and ride it when the trails are wet, and I get my fix for being out in the woods by volunteering for trail work. BTW, the trails I work and ride on are 35 miles away and I've put 10,000s of miles on my car getting out and back. Wish we were closer.

    One other thing you may not be aware of: your trail fees generally do not get used for trail maintenance. Where I work, the money goes to the state parks, a worthy cause for sure, but the area clubs typically fund all trail work through sponsoring races or applying for grants run by outside organizations. If I sound a little testy about your questions, it's because not only do I get to spend time I'd rather be riding working trail maintenance, but I also help run races I don't care about (I don't race much) to earn the money to purchase supplies and equipment, and on top of that I get to run my car into the ground to make it all happen. Last year, I joined the Finance committee of my local club, so now I will also be helping to apply for grants. Add "Begging for Money" to my resume.

    I hope this answers your questions.

    Walt

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