Approaching county about new trails?
Has anyone every put together a group of volunteers and approached your county/state about building new trails here? Were you successful? What advice could you give someone looking to get into trail building in a relatively dead zone for trails?
Background: I live in a small coastal community along the Gulf Coast of Florida. We have a few trails that run through the State Forest here that hug the coastline. The problem is half of the trails are soft sand and no one maintains them. We do have thousands of square miles of Pine Forest in my and surrounding counties. Some are state forest others owned by the large paper companies.
What I want to do: I want to organize a group of volunteers that can a.) help build the trails and b.) maintain the trails, so that the county/state has no burden.
What Im looking to build: Fast flowy trails through the Pine Forests with some jumps, a pumptrack to help the kids and beginners learn how to handle the bikes, etc.
Why it would be a great fit: Our area thrives on tourism. During the Spring/Summer months, business makes enough money to get through the entire year. During the Fall/Winter, the area is dead. All of our visitors come here for the outdoors (hiking, road biking, kayaking, the beach, etc). This to me would be another selling point.
Can any of the trail pioneers offer up any advice or guidance for me in this venture?
Lots of the guys on this forum are tremendously experienced and likely have a ton of info for you. I can tell you my story though...
There's a state park in Ohio that I've been associated with as a whitewater streamkeeper for over ten years. They had some mtb trails, so when I started riding I headed down there to experience them. The trail network wasn't that big and not that well maintained, but looked like it had potential to be awesome.
I contacted the rangers and found that I could fill out a form to become a state park volunteer and then I could maintain the trails. I did so and started trying to find out if there were other riders who would be interested in helping me. I got a few names and emails and we did a bunch of trail work the first year, establishing ourselves as serious workers. BTW this area falls outside the reach of any of the regions established mtb clubs, so there wasn't a captive membership to approach.
Using aerial photos, topo maps, GPS tracks and AutoCAD, I made a presentation map showing where new trails could be located and sent it to the rangers. They were interested, but concerned that we weren't a real club, just a bunch of volunteers. So we continued on a second year of trail maintenance, reclaiming a nearly abandoned trail loop.
The third year I kept at them, continually asking what we could do to get this to happen. Turns out it took a new resource manager to come in, who saw what we'd done and what we wanted to do and granted permission to start a short new trail - the first new bike trail in over 20 years in the park.
Now there's been another development - the forming of a new local mtb club, the Rust Belt Riders. The Beaver Creek project wasn't really the seed of the new club, but our trail project fits in very well with the new clubs goals and they hope to adopt it as their trailwork showcase.
What I'd think you need then is patience, a good contact in the parks, a list of volunteers or a club to back you up, and a presentation type plan of what you want to do. That should at least get you started.
Good luck. It's people like you who make the trail situation better.
I know the area well and agree that the area needs more off road trails. Talk to the current property manager for the trails you have. Try proposing extensions to the current trail. Establish a volunteer group and start taking care of the existing trails. If the existing trail aren't being taken care of - take charge and show the manager you enthusiasm. It only takes one person with initiative to affect change.
I'd love to see a loop from West Bay to Point Washington that runs along the intracoastal - there are some hills out there where they dug the canal and would make a great ride. Too bad its all sand and pine straw.
Are there no MTB advocacy groups in FL to team up with?
Volunteer to do trail maintenance. This proves you are serious about doing the hard work and are solving rather than causing the Land Manager new problems. Get to know the Land Manager and establish a relationship with the Land Management Agency. As the Land Managers come and go, keep building relationships. Form a mountain bike club. Clubs have an existance that isn't dependent on one or two people who might move away. Learn about trail design and start looking for a short reroute, to fix a section of existing trail, or a short new connector trail. Learn what you need to do to design/create sustainable trail. Organize to build the short section of new trail and iron out the kinks in your trail construction process. Having proven you can build a short section, propose building longer stretches of new trail.
Awesome information! Thank you all. I will keep you posted on how things go!
^^^ Plan on going to a lot of meetings, make friends with everyone involved, always do what you say, when you say, be a joy to be around, etc. This is how you start to gain respect and credibility and get to know the "capable people" who can help you negotiate unknown waters. Find out who does the grant writing for the County and sus out RTP and other funding sources. Another thing that helps is to make friends with the County GIS people. When you make a proposal and have a funding flow to support it, you will get a lot of consideration. You could luck out and find the Chairman of the County Commission is an avid mountain biker. You can eventually run your own candidate for the Commission...
I ride with the best people...
Just wanted to post an update and thank everyone again who provided info and encouragement.
After meeting with the land manager, they were very excited to hear that a few volunteers were interested in maintaining the local trails. I have sense begun to rally the troops here locally and have a few solid leads on people who would be a great asset in helping me. Were currently looking to gather a few more volunteers before getting started, but things are looking great!
In case any of you are interested or want to be updated on our progress, you can visit us at Pine Trail Mountain Bikers
Just wanted to post this in case someone else uses it for reference in the future.
All it takes is one person to create the spark, follow-through and others will come!
After a couple months of working the single track in my area, I was able to muster up a local trail crew for once a month work days.
My advice: Do what you say you're going to do, stick to dates and times (even if you are the only person who shows up), stay in contact with the land manager and prove your interest through action. Dont get discouraged!
Great job getting at it! It's people like you that make me feel lazy
I'm glad to see it's turning out well. Would you mind elaborating? What kind of relationships have you developed with the Land Managers? How have they received your requests? Has anyone raised environmental concerns that you had to deal with? Have you involved any other user groups or just MTB'rs? What are your future plans for the area? How about other areas in the vicinity? How about those lazy bastards that just sit around asking you questions?
Originally Posted by car_nut
I've developed really good relationships with the land managers. The land the trails are on are Division of Forestry land. There was a process to become a supervisor volunteer. I had to fill out a bunch of paperwork and they did call my place of employment and all references. They also did a background check. Once the standard procedures were done, they basically told me if I needed anything to let them know and cut me loose.
I've requested numerous supplies, which they have provided within days of my request. We are currently only maintaining and improving the trails already in place (they haven't been maintained in some time). We do have plans for a few re-routes, the addition of some manmade features, etc. All of which we have preliminary approval for, I just have to draft the plans and submit them officially. The Rangers and DOF personnel are really excited to see a crew volunteering. We are pretty much doing a job that they arent able to do being so undermanned.
Because of the work we've already done and documented, the Florida State Parks Service actually reached out to me to be a member on the local area recreational board to be the voice of the local cyclist. All of our trails are multi-use trails, so it's important!
No one has yet raised any environmental concerns because we are working on land that already has existing trail systems. Everything we are doing has little impact in comparison to what's already been done in the area. I was actually surprised to learn that recently DOF said we could start using limestone in the pine forest to help with sandy areas and to firm up corners!
Because the trail is multi-use (hiking and biking), I have reached out to the community to get more involvement, but generally get the "you're doing a good job" rather than "great! how can we help." I think as people see the transformation of the trail system we have now and the impact of the improvements we are making, more people will get on-board. If it were only off-road cyclist though, it wouldn't bother me.
Future plans are to get more of the local community involved in both trail riding and trail maintenance. For as much acreage and mileage we have here, there is only a very small number of off-road riders. Possibly cutting new trails North of the existing trail systems too, but for now, we have nearly 30 miles of trail to work with.
Thanks for you interests!
Great job! Sounds like you've got an excellent start and have some interesting possibilities ahead of you.
Thanks to all trail builders everywhere.
Thanks for elaborating, and once again great work! While not the most skilled labor, our local groups have had good luck recruiting Boy Scouts. It would certainly be great for other user groups to help with labor but at least they're supportive of your efforts.
I'm glad to see that its all working out well. That area is beautiful and those trails have alot of potential. I look forward to seeing your hard work the next time I'm in the area.