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  1. #1
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    Current thinking on Leaf-Blowing?

    Is there any reason not to? I can't think of one. It's interesting to see just how fast decomposition starts as you lift the mats of leaves off the trail. We certain,y have some mixed views on the subject in my area, but it seems to me that the leaves are the organic material that we don't want on our trails. They hold water on the trail. Obscuring the trail makes for more braids when people can't tell where the trail goes. When I am blowing the trails, I am blowing the main line only which helps define it and makes alternate lines less eye-catching. I've heard people say that the leaves are good because they slow down water moving on the trail - if that's the case, isn't the trail the problem, and not the leaves?

  2. #2
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    We blow to help the trails stay dry in the fall, and to accelerate their drying in the early spring.

  3. #3
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    Here are some links to past threads on this topic...

    clearing trails of leave/ pine needles
    Leaves, moisture control & tread durability

  4. #4
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    Ha - I found the first thread, but not the second. Just for sake of argument, we have two loops that run parallel to each other through the same terrain. I blew one and left the other as a control just to see how different they are come spring (we may be ripping out/rebuilding the 2nd one next year anyway).

  5. #5
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    Interesting reading. After look at that, I'm no closer to deciding whether or not this should be done at all. The only good reason I came up with to start was so that users could see the roots and rocks in the trail. I think safety may trump any other reasons.

  6. #6
    The White Jeff W
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    Interesting reading. After look at that, I'm no closer to deciding whether or not this should be done at all. The only good reason I came up with to start was so that users could see the roots and rocks in the trail. I think safety may trump any other reasons.
    I love the fall weather but hate that trail obstacles are obscured by leaves. Also the wet leaves make for some treacherous cornering!

    Im thinking about attaching a leaf blower to the back of my bike. Might help me get up the hills!
    No moss...

  7. #7
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    seems a little overkill to me. i'm out in the woods mountain biking for a reason. leaf blowing sounds more like a bike path and less like a mountain bike trail.

    i guess leaf blowing may make the trail "safer", but you could argue that paving the trail would make it safer as well.

    the only reasoning that makes any sense to me would be erosion concerns.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by driverdave View Post
    seems a little overkill to me. i'm out in the woods mountain biking for a reason. leaf blowing sounds more like a bike path and less like a mountain bike trail.

    i guess leaf blowing may make the trail "safer", but you could argue that paving the trail would make it safer as well.

    the only reasoning that makes any sense to me would be erosion concerns.
    There are places where the trail "disappears" when it's covered with leaves. Clearing the tread keeps people on the trail and prevents braiding or tread widening.

    Current thinking on Leaf-Blowing?-image5.jpg
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  9. #9
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    My observations and thoughts on leaf removal regarding silt/clay loam soils, large leaf volumes (hardwood deciduous forest), freezing winters, wet summers, and trails built to sustainable standards.

    Pros (for removal)
    -Trail has potential to dry faster in Spring because leaves do not trap moisture in the soil and the tread is exposed to more sunlight & wind. This may reduce rutting from use when conditions are not optimal.
    - Increased user safety. Leaves are slippery both wet and dry and to both hikers and mtb users. They also hide roots, rocks, and other potential tripping hazards. Leaves are very slippery when on top of wooden bridges or features.
    - Better trail definition (prevents braiding and increases user confidence they are on the right path)
    - Improved drainage. Leaves can block drains and create berms on outer edge of trail which restrict sheet flow across the trail. May result in increased erosion if water flows along the length of the trail.
    - Decreased probability of users losing traction and unintentionally leaving the trail which can have negative effects in sensitive environments.

    Cons (against removal)
    - Increases freeze thaw cycling of top layer of soil due to greater sunlight exposure. May cause greasy conditions even during freezing air and soil temperatures. May result in rutting and increased drying times.
    - Potentially increased soil removal from trail surface (if done during very dry conditions using the blowing method)

    Neutral
    - Leaves are eventually moved off of the trail in most high traffic situations
    - Possible aesthetic concerns (some don't like the way it looks, some do)

    All in all, I think there are clear benefits for removing the leaves in this particular situation.

  10. #10
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    This fall we have decided NOT to remove leaves on our state park singletrack before winter, and in the spring they will get a thorough cleaning.
    This is sort of an experiment - we discussed whether leaving the leaves for the winter would protect the soils from the heavy fall/spring rains, and help with the freeze/thaw cycles a little bit. By end of November they will probably be covered with snow - in April we'll clear all of them and see how it goes. In past years we have cleared them in the fall and spring...

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by fishbum View Post
    This fall we have decided NOT to remove leaves on our state park singletrack before winter, and in the spring they will get a thorough cleaning.
    This is sort of an experiment - we discussed whether leaving the leaves for the winter would protect the soils from the heavy fall/spring rains, and help with the freeze/thaw cycles a little bit. By end of November they will probably be covered with snow - in April we'll clear all of them and see how it goes. In past years we have cleared them in the fall and spring...
    I would recommend blowing out your drains, though. I tried this same experiment 5 years ago at a trail I manage. Lot of work in the Spring cleaning out muddy, bermed up drains. :P

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trail Ninja View Post
    There are places where the trail "disappears" when it's covered with leaves. Clearing the tread keeps people on the trail and prevents braiding or tread widening.
    This time of year, a lot of our riding is at night. Covered with leaves, it's difficult to stay on the trail.

    The hikers and trail runners who share our trails are very happy when we clear leaves in the fall.

    Looking forward to low wind on Friday so I can get to it.

    Walt

  13. #13
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    I was just lurking on this, but want to say that I appreciate the points for/against that were brought up. Never been that big of an issue where I spend most of my time... But would be useful for if/when we get similar questions.

    Would love to see the results of the dual-loop test to see what difference (if any) there is.
    To learn more about Tread Lightly! and responsible use of public lands, or to become a member, visit www.treadlightly.org

  14. #14
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    Race course grooming

    There's an off-road duathlon in Des Moines this time of year -- after the oaks drop their leaves. Blowing the ~3-mile course is a safety/courtesy measure for racers; otherwise, the tread is buried/invisible. The rest of us just get to enjoy railing through all those buff, high-visibility corners until the snow files!

  15. #15
    Ride da mOOn Moderator
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    Easier riding at night unless you mark your trails ever 10 or so feet, and I hate a trail all marked up with ribbons, flags, signs, or paint. Our trails have a sign at the beginning and one at the other end, nothing but natural views in between!

    Yes, we just removed leaves from 30 miles of our trails, everyone got on board and bought leaf blowers. I heard stories of how much fun they had, "being out on the trails doing this". Many did notice stuff on the trails they had never seen while riding along, now seen by just walking along blowing leaves.

    May I add through experience removing leaves from the trails I have experienced the freeze/thaw cycle tends to lift and heave the ground with leaves on it whereas without the water an evaporate. Another, you can see the ice also without leaves hiding it!

  16. #16
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    We've been blowing the leaves off of our local trail for the past few years and it really seems to help keep the trail dry during the damp winter weather. Like also mentioned, lots of night riding happens in the winter and it can be extremely difficult to see the trail after lots of leaves fall.

    Our trails have been designed to IMBA standards with proper drainage and we have yet to see any "Cons" to our leaf blowing!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by epic View Post
    Just for sake of argument, we have two loops that run parallel to each other through the same terrain. I blew one and left the other as a control just to see how different they are come spring (we may be ripping out/rebuilding the 2nd one next year anyway).
    Definitely update the thread next spring. I thought about doing that to our trails but blew them off, anyway.

    D

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cotharyus View Post
    The only good reason I came up with to start was so that users could see the roots and rocks in the trail. I think safety may trump any other reasons.
    Safety is one of the main reasons I blow our trails off; not only can one better see roots, rocks, stumps, etc., dirt provides better traction than leaves, though neither leaves nor dirt when wet provide much traction at all.

    D

  19. #19
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    Get one of these!

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  20. #20
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    I'm all for blowing them off. I went out and rode a week ago Sunday morning and it was plain treacherous. I can see the arguments both ways, but I really don't think it's doing and harm or damage to the trails. I would just as soon get to use them till the snow flies. Besides, it stinks heading down a hill at a good clip and finding out too late there's a 5" diameter off camber root in the middle.
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  21. #21
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    Can someone direct to the bike trail leaf blowing job postings?

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by 18rabbit View Post
    Can someone direct to the bike trail leaf blowing job postings?
    Help Wanted Fall 2013 Blue Mound State Park, Blue Mounds, WI

    Job Description: Leaf removal from multi-use trail system. Applicant must be willing to show up on what may be the last nice period of the year, and spend it running a leaf blower instead of riding. Estimated amount of work, 15 hours.This is an LTE position. Applicant will show canny ability to predict where he will run out of fuel mix and stash containers near those points, or face several rather long 2-way hikes to refuel. These will count against your breaks.

    Pay: Negotiable. You can ask for *any* multiple of what we paid last year, and it will be granted.

    Other benefits: Some rider may interrupt his fun to thank you, but don't count on it.

    Walt

  23. #23
    I build my own.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Dizzy View Post
    Help Wanted Fall 2013 Blue Mound State Park, Blue Mounds, WI

    Job Description: Leaf removal from multi-use trail system. Applicant must be willing to show up on what may be the last nice period of the year, and spend it running a leaf blower instead of riding. Estimated amount of work, 15 hours.This is an LTE position. Applicant will show canny ability to predict where he will run out of fuel mix and stash containers near those points, or face several rather long 2-way hikes to refuel. These will count against your breaks.

    Pay: Negotiable. You can ask for *any* multiple of what we paid last year, and it will be granted.

    Other benefits: Some rider may interrupt his fun to thank you, but don't count on it.

    Walt
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  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by aero901 View Post
    My observations and thoughts on leaf removal regarding silt/clay loam soils, large leaf volumes (hardwood deciduous forest), freezing winters, wet summers, and trails built to sustainable standards....
    This post perfectly sums up my beliefs for the conditions stated.

    On our heavily used 25 mile + trail system built in a state park, most of the leaves get pushed aside by traffic and we unclog drains as required. A price is paid for continual freeze thaw cycles and the resulting "peanut butter" on the southern slopes throughout winter.

    At a nearby privately owned trail system where the traffic is low and the leaf cover stays all winter, the ground stays frozen and those in the know can ride more frequently without freeze/thaw problems.

    On my small personal trails, I intentionally re-cover any areas that lose their leaf cover and I rarely have a thaw unless it really warms up.

  25. #25
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    Certainly good to hear different options for different areas. In my neck of the woods, there is very little clay, or dirt for that matter. Yes, trails are tough to ride for a week or so when leaves are fluffy, but when they matt down, the trails regain the organic material needed to keep some dirt present. We have a few individuals that take it upon themselves to blow leaves off their favorite trails and those trails get super boney, cup out and puddle first. I am for leaving leaves and just dealing with it for a week or two.

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