As it goes with any group that takes great pride in its hard work (in this case, work done by JORBA volunteers), there are bright days of enthusiasm and excitement (a section of trail built with meticulous attention to detail that flows beautifully), and then there are the dark days (when someone that doesn't agree with the goal comes along and destroys that effort in an hour or two).
What has happened here has happened elsewhere but its never something we take any pleasure in announcing. The facts:
The Ringwood trail crew has re-routed a section of trail (Yellow) away from an old, eroded, bony section of unsustainable trail. The re-route was done using sweeping armored turns that will last for decades of normal use and endure nature's occasional deluge of rain. In a word, it's sustainable. The dozens of hours this took to build didn't fell like a lot of time investmented, especially once you laid eyes on the finished product and you carved through the turns with a big fat smile on your face. However, this perception changed once it was dismantled by the disgruntled: the dozens of hours spent on this project feels a lot less trivial than before, now that the armoring has been up-ended and the section of trail rendered un-ridable. Its a shame in every sense of the word.
We anticipated some blow-back on this: this older section was long established and to most folks its a test of metal to ride the bony section and to clean the climb. We *get* that we feel that way too: most of our volunteers enjoyed this same thrill at some point: the first time you clean that bony climb you think you're a certified, CAT1 bad-ass. However, the trail builder in you notices that the uphill line has been moving farther and farther right (good or bad, this happens when the left line erodes and becomes loose and bony, and users move right to avoid that line and widen the trail, thus exacerbating the problem). Your IMBA sustainable trails training is now telling you: we can't fix this, its now piece of junk and it needs a re-route. The park management agrees: it does not want sections of fall line trail that erodes over time and requires ongoing maintenance (they have hundreds of miles of fire-roads already, they don't want more). Also, JORBA prefers to spend its hard working volunteer time on building new trail or re-routing off of unsustainable sections of trail. In other words we feel our volunteer time is not best spent trying to maintain an unsustainable section of trail with fall line alignment (and this is a reason why JORBA will not typically maintain double track fire-roads).
On the other hand, the last thing we want to portray is that JORBA is some sort of "Trail Homogenization Police Force". Most of us enjoy riding the flow elsewhere in the state, and riding the tech in this area, equally. The Ringwood area is known for its technical rock features and we embrace that fully and love the terrain. Some of our trailbuilders are also some of the fastest and most skilled technical riders in the state. So when someone asks: "was this done to make the trail easier", the answer is no, none of the trailwork done is to "make it easier". I repeat: none. The intent is a balance between sustainability and flow. Sometimes that balancing act requires a compromise: we lose some fall line gnar but we always try and replace it with a better overall trail.
For the record: we love rock, we love riding on rock, we love building with rock. Its for that reason we really tried hard to get the point across to long time trail users in the area. Ellen White wrote about this here in her blog: Digging the Dirt specifically because she
anticipated some long time users might not understand why we were re-routing this section of trail. Some objections were made online and we tried our best to make people understand the process. Ellen, BiknBen, BonefishJake, Norm and others also did a fine job trying to address specific concerns here: TOS New Route - When does new trail building go overboard? - mtbNJ.com
Yet, the fact remains that some simply do not agree with this sentiment. We *get* that, we really do. As hard as we try, we know that we can't reach everyone. But, what we don't *get* is the *destruction* of volunteer efforts. Disagreeing is one thing, undoing the hard work of our volunteers is another. This is wrong, and shame on the people that were involved.
What to do? First, we would be remiss is we didn't remind everyone that the activity of JORBA and its volunteers is *sanctioned* by the state of NJ, Department of Environmental Protection, State Parks and Forests. We appreciate the light duty, ad-hoc trail maintenance that folk do while on trail. Trimming face slappers and removing deadfall by hand is not something we have particular issue with.... but the actions of trail users working on their own, either building or un-building, without permission is illegal and in this specific case just downright wrong on several levels.
If anyone out there sees a trail user undoing JORBA's park-sanctioned trail work in any park, we would ask that you note the location and description of the persons involved and report this to the park police immediately at:
877-WARN-DEP (NJDEP-State Park Police)
JORBA will move forward, as it always does, and we will rebuild the re-route at a future trail day. We would ask that those that are opposed to this re-route resist the urge to dismantle it a second time. In fact, we want to ask: why not come out and help build? You might actually have a better appreciation for what we're trying to achieve and what it takes to build a great section of trail. Once you become more involved and understand the mechanics of trailbuilding you can begin to influence design choices and line selection. One thing is for certain, you never forget the sections of trail you've worked on and you'll always smile as you ride on them.
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