Complain, if you want...
I hope that this thread can be used for some constructive thought on how to improve WNC's trail maintenance issues. I believe that this forum reaches the most eyeballs in the region, so might as well have it here.
So far, discussions of recent trail work have focused on people's dissatisfaction with the work contracted by the FS and provided by outside contractors. While this may reduce some of the frustration felt by the individual, I believe that it does not address the root of the problem.
Correct me if this is incorrect, but the FS opens a job for competitive bidding. They are required to take the low bid from qualified bidders. They can't just pick Woody or Todd because they know the work will be better. SO, it's a bit of a crap-shoot, eh? There's really nothing to complain about if a job is allowed to go out to bidding. And what does the FS get for finally spending some money on the trails? A load of complaints from users. They must feel like they can't win.
The solution to this is to prevent jobs from being bid. Take the money and use it for toilets and hiring more rangers, instead.
The only way this is going to happen is if NO funding is available or if locals step up and do the work before it needs to be given to a contractor. If you want something done right, you're going to have to do it yourselves. With some exceptions, we have failed our trails. We have to do a lot more.
In the 5 years I've been here, I've seen serious deterioration of the best trails in Pisgah. I avoid some trails that I used to enjoy. I've done some work, but not nearly enough. I'm not proud of what I've given back.
Thoughts? Ideas for what will make locals more likely to give back?
(Exposing my ignorance of the bidding process) Really, they're required to take the lowest bid, without any regard for the relative quality of the bids, statement of actual work to be completed, etc.? I assume the judgment of "qualified bid(der)" includes some consideration for the bidder's ability to complete the specified work. If that's true, then maybe it's a problem with the specs - perhaps they not...specific enough. Is there any way for the local community, advocacy groups (riders), to be involved in the spec process, to weigh in on the sufficiency of them?
Originally Posted by swoodbrn
Yes they are. They already know that it will be a clusterf#*%k and prepare for it. They know it is going to happen. Qualifications are not looked at if you are cheap. The only way to do the work is to cut corners every chance the cotractor can to no lose his ass. I got my t- shirt on this one when I had to hit the performance bond on Cooper Construction when working on the Bonsai Exhibit at the NC Arboretem and couldn't get paid by them (they eventually paid paid me after the realized I was serious and wasn't rolling over for them). This is devasating the construction industry right now.
If you work in the beauracracy of the FS then you might some influence but you can't step on anyones toes and keep a job. Incrementalism is not the best form of policy making but this is what they use. I believe they have a hiring freeze right now. Enjoy.
OK, well that certainly paints a gloomy picture of the entire contracting process. If it's the goat rodeo you describe, then, truly, the only way to safeguard the trails is, as DFL stated, to do the work before someone 'in the system' sees the need.
Originally Posted by 4000psi
Yes it does. Contracting is a wonderful way to make a living. DFL is on the right path if the world worked the way we think it should but this isn't the case. People around here will not step up and take the time, make the sacrifices to make it happen. This includes me. I have tried in the past but it is futile.
This is not to say that i won't do trailwork but i will be doing it in Dupont since that is where I ride the most and feel that we have any influence on what should/could/needs to happen. It gives me the most satisfaction to help this place and that how it is for me.We have Woody to thank for this. David the head ranger sees that we care and have shown our abilities and his now wants to harness it in the future. I don't think the FS cares one way or the other. We haven't done a very good job of showing them what we are willing to do for them. We need to work on this one.
This is a great post, Steve. Before I go any further, I want to be clear that the following words are my opinions/ perspective and do not represent Pisgah Area SORBA as a whole.
Carrots and sticks: I've been doing volunteer work of some kind or another since high school. I feel, strongly, that consistent volunteers do not give their time and energy either because of guilt or in order to get free socks. They come out because they "get it" and understand that being involved is the only way to make a difference. It does help if work is both fun and seems worthwhile, but unfortunately some of the work that needs doing most (i.e., deberming and cleaning drainages) isn't fun or visibly worthwhile. How to get people to shift into a more altruistic mindset is a question I do not know the answer to.
Specifics vaguely addressed:
In Pisgah district, there is, unfortunately in my opinion but also unavoidably, a bureaucratic process that must be followed for trail work to be "counted" towards goodwill and respect. When we follow this process, some respect and goodwill can come back- a great and most recent example is the commitment from the FS to minimize the use of machinery on Squirrel Gap. One of the reasons we were able to take such a strong stance on the work proposed for this particular trail was the investment of the hundreds of hours of trail work PAS had contributed to SG gave us a positon to advocate from.
The local FS wants to work with organized groups only. PAS is the current group representing mtb-ers; personally, I'd welcome another group getting going if people did not want to associate with PAS for some reason or another. It's probably going to be a lot easier, however, if people choose to get more involved through PAS as many people have put countless hours into establishing how trail work is going to happen in the district moving forward.
What is this process? Well, that's very complicated and, frankly, it's not my role to try and explain it here on the interwebz. Part of the problem is that there were some serious issues that started this past spring in regards to PAS and the mtb community doing trail work within Pisgah District. This recent letter from the PAS website gives the official word on where this process is at now.
The important part of this letter is we are moving forward and work days will be happening soon- but people participating in those work days will have to be 1) a PAS member and 2) an "approved" volunteer by the USFS. These rules have everything to do with liability and insurance coverage and, unfortunately, nothing to do with convenience.
Again, I'm not the person doing this liason work with the forest service- my role with PAS is as the Richmond Hill trails coordinator and to provide a knowledge base for some other board members; PAS as a group is only about 6 years old and I'm the only person who's leftover from the original board (and my role did used to be as the district contact). The people doing the liason work are not mtbr users.
Don't know if that helps or just adds to the confusion/ frustration, but it's what I got.
Thanks for the info. Rules like that definitely aren't going to help things. It's almost like the system is set up to discourage us from volunteering
Originally Posted by Mike Brown
However, I'm willing to join PAS for the privilege to volunteer on some trails. What does it take to get "approved" as a volunteer?
Regarding ways to get people to help out -- What if the FS could provide advance notice of trails on the hit list, and give the user groups a period of time to bring things up to code before they "fix" it for us?
I already have an advertising idea:
Do you want upper Black to look like this? [insert picture of little girl riding bike with training wheels down what used to be kitsuma] If not, come out and help us fix it before they do!
"Ride Lots" Eddy Merckx
The end of 'work days' as we know it.
Originally Posted by Mike Brown
#1 would easily be solved by allowing 'one day memberships' for a nominal fee, but #2 is the killer depending on how someone is approved by the USFS.
I can't imagine a true National Trails Day event ever happening as it stands.
"Sorry, we'd love to have you help...but we need you to join SORBA and go through the USFS approval process before you can move those rocks."
"Big Gulps huh?...Allllriggghhht....Welp, See ya later!"
I for one wish it could be worked out where a couple people could go out on random days during the week to do work also (even if mandated to have at least one approved team leader of sorts).
I have tried to make several of the Sat work days in Pisgah (Todd's work days) and in Dupont, and have yet to make the first day due to working occasional Saturdays and having weekend obligations with the family. I have a feeling I'm not the only one in this scenario also. Granted I do have to stay late at work and go back to work some nights, but there would be a better chance of me making smaller evening work dates.
I definitely agree though, we need to step up! However it seems the USFS isn't making it easy at all. Hopefully time will change this.
"I ride to clear my head, my head is clearer when I'm riding SS. Therefore, I choose to ride SS."~ Fullrange Drew
Originally Posted by kkjellquist
both were discussed at the recent PAS club meeting:
#1- from what I understand, it will be possible to have a planned workday with day of "walk ups" able to "join" and "be approved" at sign in
#2 National Trails Day was started by hikers for hikers, and now the hikers want it back. Sorba/IMBA is working on another project without using the hiker's moniker.
did I convey this correctly?
Originally Posted by sjanes
Yes- essentially, days like National Trails Day that were promoted to the community would have a process for same day sign-up.
One thing to make clear- these are the expectations for every volunteer group, be it hikers, Outward Bound, equestrians, or whoever.
I'd also like to make it clearer that the USFS is doing it's dang best to work with us and abide by their own p&p's. They're good folk doing the best they can with limited resources.
Official Cooler Inspector
My personal example from today:
There's a water company that has a monopoly in the Bent Creek neighborhood. We pay expensive rates (which they want to raise again) for our in & out services. Two weeks ago, a "contracted company" did work on my street, and to access a main opening, backed a trailer in to my yard with a heavy piece of equipment.
They left me with two fifteen foot long/8" deep tracks running through the front yard. After two calls to the out of state corporation, I finally got an inspection. It is very official - hand written on a door card. "The contractor will be here today, or at the very latest, tomorrow to repair your yard...".
Mummm... I wonder if they were "required to take the low bid from qualified bidders"?
Quality work by qualified trail builders (no just local) saves money! There always seems to be another equation involved when a final decision for the "qualified contractor" is made.
Hence, I now have a gray-powder and gravel fill shoveled in the yard tracks with some weird looking weedy cover thrown on it that's blowing around the yard.
Woody - come fix my lawn!!!!
Now you're cast of steel and cast aside. Broken dreams maybe, but you haven't died
I actually think having some approval of volunteers is a great idea. I've seen people do incredibly dangerous and idiotic stuff during open workdays on trails (California trails, mind you, not NC, I am sure there are no idiots around here). Also, I never saw a walk-up do very much hard work.
If SORBA takes ownership of workdays it could help strengthen volunteers' commitment. And if there are people who like doing trail work, why can't they just join? It's not like SORBA's the Freemasons or anything.
i think the main problem is people just dont like each other.
"i cant be around those people....theyre reefer addicts."
"they drink when they ride....eesh."
"what does he know about trails? hes a serc racer."
"hes just an *******"
i've heard it all. people are so clicky its not even funny. its depressing. people are clicky and they are egomaniacs. people cant do trail work because they are busy "training."
we've got this stupid ass initiative to open up the bracken mtn trail in brevard. i am all for new trails. but really...they are going to have to cut a new trail. a new trail. when the rest of the forest is going to ****. its true, upper black mtn is a disgrace.
13 bike shops and a few thousand mtn bikers can't get **** done because no one wants to do trail work with certain people. and their reasons are validated for sure. i mean what would people do if they couldnt talk **** behind peoples backs? or on the internet? why are people always looking for something wrong with others? is it there own insecurities?
would they just get along and ride bikes together? would people get together and do trail work?
does anyone else think the asheville area is just a playground for selfish adults? micah dust is really fairy dust i swear.
if you want it legit then you are going to have to get someone that everyone respects. and truthfully, i dont know anyone around that EVERYONE respects. save one...and he's moving.
"does anyone else think the asheville area is just a playground for selfish adults?"...........Poignant and possibly the truest statement I've read about what this place has become. You see it most in many of the children in local elementary schools.........reflected in attitude and ambition...........We have much bigger problems than the state of our MTB trails............but working together and setting good examples is the way to instil an attitude of community and repect for one another..........NOT "I got mine and you got yours".............Happy Friday, ya'll!
Last edited by Smokebikes; 10-15-2010 at 03:42 AM.
Originally Posted by park baker
I agree with most of what you said, except for the above quote. The Bracken Mtn trail is backed by Transylvania County and the City ( non mtn biking people) of Brevard. I see this trail project as a huge opportunity to show people groups, ie city, county, USFS what MTB'ers can do, and do well when we join together. Maybe, if they see us getting along and getting this trail done right it will create the opp for more trust between us and the USFS.
I would not want a roofing crew that bickers, points fingers, and in general does not get along, roofing my house......I can't say that I blame the USFS for cracking down ( on all user groups).
So, when/how do we start getting along, appreciating each other and all the aspects of our sport that make it great?
how 'bout now?
Thanks for opening up this discussion, Steve. Here are a few of my unpopular and contrarian thoughts:
First of all the recently contracted trail work is not about trail work at all. It is about spending money. The forest service was given money to spend and if they don't spend it they won't get more. Therefore, we aren't going to stop work like this from being done. If the trail is fine but there is money to spend the trail will be 'fixed' anyway. In the recent issue of Blue Ridge Outdoors Randy Burgess says the trails picked were due to their 'readiness' not their condition. As far as who gets the contract goes I'd like to see the money go to the local economy but that is not how competitive bidding works (I'm a contractor myself and will not participate in competitive bidding).
But that doesn't mean that the local mtb community doesn't need to step up and do more. We do. We are one of the largest and most visible user groups in the Pisgah District and do very little but have great impact on the tread itself. When was the last time PAS did anything outside of Bent Creek? Way before the whole unauthourized reroute debacle (um, really?). The heavy dead fall from the winter storms on Laurel and Squirrel, PAS trails, was cleared by random users, PAS didn't officially do anything that I know of. Clearing dead fall is pretty basic... We need people working in Pisgah.
Here is a question: Why do we need these big 'work days'? It seems to me like what we need more is a core group of people dedicated to doing maintenance work in the Pisgah District (Bent Creek could be its own separate world). I went to a National Trails Day. I stood around and chatted with friends. Everyone once and again I tried to move some dirt or something. There were way too many people, not nearly enough work, little planning and I felt like my time was wasted. I was just another person, another six hours of work they could claim, or something. I think as few as four dedicated people could get more work done in eight hours than twenty walk up volunteers could. But I'm assuming that the goal is production and not man hours.
Personally, I'd like to do a lot more than just carry my saw around. And I know there are others who feel the same way. I'd really wanted to attend the PAS meeting last Monday so I could hear first hand where PAS stands with the FS and so that I could volunteer to help get something going in Pisgah but unfortunately other responsibilities prevented me from doing so. I'll ask here: What can I do? I'm willing to put in hours on the ground and am also willing to help with the planning and logistics but I have no desire to 'lead' volunteer work days. If I'm leading something you probably don't want to be following me (just ask anyone who has been on one of my rides).
Ain't no time to hate. Seasonal trails just opened, I'd better go check the condition of Coontree
The answers to these questions (which are good ones and the discussion is great) are NOT going to come from mtbr. The people leading the efforts to resolve matters with the USFS are not mtbr users. Come to meetings and show a commitment for positive action over the course of time and you will be suprised by how much work happens that you are not even aware of.
One question I will answer- PAS had work days scheduled all summer on Laurel, Squirrel ,etc. The issues cited in the above referenced letter forced the suspension of said work. Laurel does need some work now and hopefully a work day will be happening much sooner than later- but I am not the coordinator of that. A work day on Squirrel-would be futile right now but I will, again, say that the mtb community should consider it a semi-victory that our letters influenced the public commitment to minimize the machine work on Squirrel- and they definitely did.
Last edited by Mike Brown; 10-18-2010 at 03:41 PM.
we would have stopped work like that from being done if our "representatives" were respected mountain bikers dedicated to improving conditions, not the conditions of their resumes. yeah i said it.
i'd like to see a fee imposed. an annual, or even a gate at the entrance for all users. if there were a gate charging every harley that comes through pisgah as little as a dollar then we could have a full time trail crew. as clay points out, as little as two people can get more done than 20 people who just show up and wait for instruction.
+1 Were you reading my mind, and then stating it better than I ever could have?
Originally Posted by driftwood
And now that you mention it...I helped clear Laurel this past winter, and it seems to have been a small core group of folks that did the majority of work. A couple of walk-ups cut one or two limbs and then left (it was more work than they expected). Maybe the small group idea is a really good one.
I wanted to make it to the last PAS meeting also (and the one before that), but couldn't...It would be nice if there was a way to express interest and find out what is happening without waiting for the next bi-monthly meeting that I may or may not be able to attend.
Originally Posted by FlavC
Sorry, new to the area, does PAS not provide meeting minutes to members after meetings? Not even a summary?
Originally Posted by driftwood
I didn't notice anyone really taking notes, now that I think about it. It certainly would be a good step towards increasing participation overal, since obviously interested folks can't always make it out.
Thanks everyone. I know that there are frustrations, but I hope that everybody can keep looking toward solutions.
I've posted this before but I'll do it again. My hope would be that a greater number of 'trail leaders' could receive some sort of approval or certification from the FS to lead more frequent, likely after-work trail sessions. Work would be limited to nicks and grade reversals only, and leaders would know everything there is to know about limiting that work to the existing trail corridor. Nothing fancy or clever or overly entertaining. Nothing to upset other user groups, and nothing to enhance the trail other than getting water off of it. Yes, we'd have to fill out all the appropriate paperwork documenting the work done. If this goes well, we can aspire to reestablish bench and cut roots.
I'd like for us to start with trail adjacent to 276 or any other open road. In the past, we have made trail work difficult by choosing trail that is difficult to reach and requires a full-day commitment from volunteers. (I don't know of a good solution to maintaining remote trail) I think we could build trust by improving the most-traveled trails and the trails that are most easily accessed by the rangers. Think North Slope or Bennet. Sycamore is done, but will definitely need maintenance.
I can't think of any sticks...well, I can think of many sticks, none of them legal... but what about carrots? If my gig ever turns a profit, I will offer up a frame for raffle, but what is in it for local businesses to contribute? Is there any amount of reward that will get people out? Will getting folks out show them that it's kinda rewarding? Will they come back after qualifying for some prize? Is it fair to keep asking businesses to entice people to do good things? Should we petition towns to allocate money for paid 'volunteer' work?
Part of me wants to use shame to motivate, but in Asheville, I fear people would embrace it I don't hear anybody talking about how proud they are of where they live or how much they revere the mountains. It's always the out-of-towners who are telling me how great we have it.
They're right, but a little less every day.
Ideally, you would report these work hours to PAS so that PAS could then report them to the USFS. Trail hours are the political currency of a volunteer group. If you don't like digging ditches consider joining the bike patrol and you could rack up some serious hours simply by riding.
Originally Posted by FlavC
I have already sent an email to the PAS board of directors to see if we can't find an easier method for communications. The PAS website will let you know what's happening but it would be great to have an open channel for ideas and comments outside of the meetings. IMHO the meetings aren't really well suited to back and forth discussions. If there are people who want to get involved and do something productive PAS should be doing everything possible to facilitate that process.
Lastly, lets not forget that we are all on the same side. We all want the same things. I could care less who you ride with, what god you pray to, who your voted for or what drugs your on. If you ride a bike in the woods then we are on the same team. It's just that simple.
Our current "representatives" are doing a fine job. It is our "want -to-be-representatives" that are fussy and truly weigh the process down. Blue Ridge Adventures has been leading work days in Pisgah with the FS years before SORBA came around and I can truly back up the statement that we live in an area of sayers not doers. Some of the folks on this forum...well, if you do not approve of the work the "representatives' perform you talk trash and vanish, go back to your quite home, get on MTBR and start thrashing.Action speaks louder than words! It is easy to come up with solutions, but can you execute them?
Bracken Mountain trail has nothing to do with SORBA or mountain bikers. This trail is on city land. In fact we have started a non profit-Friends of Bracken Mountain. We will welcome mountain bikers, SORBA, hikers, horsemen or who ever wants to help build the trail. The scope of the project has been decided already by "the representatives" so pointing fingers at what' s wrong is a lost cause. The Brevard planning dept. chose these representatives while looking at their community involvement. Guess what....There were lots of people with ideas, dreams, and pointing fingers. They choose people that have taken action and have passion for what they believe in.
If you know me I do not get on this forum often. This subject has circled many times and will continue to circle. I have a unique position dealing with the FS two fold-promoting events as well as being a professional trail builder. There are ideas discussed here that just will never happen as a complete understanding of the structure is not there. People question BRA's events all the time. Too much $, too many racers on the course, trash, 400people x $100 (ORAMM)and $100 x 150 people (SWANK) and 55 people x $650(Stage Race).....he's getting rich, lets get together and band the race until another race promoter puts the race on, etc,etc!!! The point is I have people tell me what I am doing wrong several times a year. It is easy to point fingers.They are the low fruit on the tree and remind me of a buzzing fly in my face. They do not understand my permit with the FS or my operation plan. I am happy and they folks I am working with are happy and satisfied. The bottom line is some people do not understand the system nor are they going to make any change. The races sell out and the wheel keeps turning! Patience, tolerance, and rules are to be expected. If it is too much to handle step away from idea.
Passion-you can not buy it!