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  1. #1
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    Guidelines on volunteer hours per foot?

    Are there any generally agreed upon guidelines for how many volunteer hours are needed to complete one foot (or mile, etc) of machine-built, hand-finished cross-country trail with minimal elevation change? Or what is an average number of feet that can be completed in one day? I realize there are probably many factors (terrain, layout, etc) that can dramatically increase/decrease the number, but I am just trying to get a rough "ballpark-estimate." Let's assume that the trail is cleared, flagged, ready for the machine, and easily-accessed. Any ideas?

  2. #2
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    Totally depends on conditions, operator skill, and how nice you want it. I'll give you what I have experienced (assuming machine leaves a pretty smooth trail and minimizes sidecast and doesn't make a big mess)

    flattish ground with soft dirt - cut <1', maybe 50-150' an hour for one volunteer who knows what they are doing.

    Rocky steep ground, cuts 2-3'+ 10-50' an hour per volunteer

    if you need to shape anything (berms, rollers, jumps etc.) that takes much more time.

  3. #3
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    Thanks

    Quote Originally Posted by drew p View Post
    Totally depends on conditions, operator skill, and how nice you want it. I'll give you what I have experienced (assuming machine leaves a pretty smooth trail and minimizes sidecast and doesn't make a big mess)

    flattish ground with soft dirt - cut <1', maybe 50-150' an hour for one volunteer who knows what they are doing.

    Rocky steep ground, cuts 2-3'+ 10-50' an hour per volunteer

    if you need to shape anything (berms, rollers, jumps etc.) that takes much more time.
    Thanks, drew p. That was exactly what I was looking for. Very much appreciated.

  4. #4
    Rider, Builder, Dreamer
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    I would put the numbers much lower than that if the people operating are newbies. That is, if the machine operator has not built singletrack by machine before and if the volunteers with hand tools are new to building trail. I've worked with some people who just "get it" and burn through ground and leave a great looking trail (think 20ft of trail in an hour, by hand) and others who end up hampering building efforts because they need constant babysitting.

    So if you're training new people in either hand tool or machine use, count on lower numbers than stated by Drew.

  5. #5
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    Yeah, in my experience working with volunteer groups those numbers are really optimistic. As said before, it can vary tremendously. When tallying up productivity you really have to take into account lots of variables, like:

    • Volunteer experience
    • Time it takes to get to work site
    • Safety talk
    • Demonstrating proper technique for the newbs
    • Redoing work that wasn't done right


    And then, of course, the trail requirements have a big impact. For example, going from 24" tread to a 36" tread on a 50% sideslope means that twice as much earth has to be moved. Going thru a stand of scrub oak will eat you up compared to going across a grassy meadow. Need to build a switchback or retaining wall? Well, you could eat up a whole crew for a weekend just doing one structure. You really have to understand the labor required for different building requirements to make any kind of reasonable estimate.

    For the projects I work, when I take into all the stuff listed above, and assume that we will be working on 30-70% sideslopes without too much corridor clearing, some small structures (short retaining walls, for example) and a 30" tread, I feel like I'm lucky if I get 20' of good quality finished trail per volunteer day. Yeah, that is depressingly low, but that seems to be how it works out.

  6. #6
    Unpredictable
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    I think it is too hard to give a broad estimate as well. This link is about a fairly straightforward bit of terrain - average trail grade 6% on a sideslope of 25% reducing to 15% through this short section. 12 metres in 12 experienced volunteer hours fits with what bonked predicts as average. Note that here there was no need for formalities before working, with an experienced pair working as a team and access time 15min. That means this was almost all digging time.

    We built 1m of trail per hour - MTB Trailcare
    (The pile of saved dirt has tripled in size now we have completed another 50m. It's at least 2.5-3 cubic metres. We will use some of it farther up the trail and the rest for trail maintenance in the future.)

    Lower down the hill is a part of this same trail that is already open and being enjoyed. It is holding up really well, despite being built much more simply and quickly. The same 2 volunteers completed close to 150 metres in the same amount of time from scratch down there.

    freekncreekn, I think it is dangerous to get tied into a schedule unless building professionally. Our biggest issue here is building too quickly, with too little thought and effort being put into sites that will clearly become a problem over time. There are people here who would average 100 metres for every 10 we generally produce. However the future of 15cm wide scratched out lines on 60-80% sideslope is never free of doubt.

    In addition, if an unrealistic concept of time to completion is communicated to the land manager, then there can be incredible pressure on volunteers to deliver and so corners are cut even further. Worse still, volunteers may walk away from the push and back to more relaxing alternate recreation activity.

    Slow and steady is the only estimate I can give unless I am talking to someone who actually gets their hands dirty all the time.

  7. #7
    featherweight clydesdale
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    This is all in the woods, not to many rocks:

    10 to 30 feet per hour per volunteer for up to 2 hours. People start to fade after that and its not fun anymore, so time to stop anyway if you want folks to come back.

    A single good switchback is 50 hours by hand. I measure all the linear feet I have drawn out on a map, give it 15 feet per hour. Then count the switchbacks, give those 50 hours each. Berm turn, 25 hours.

    An SK 650 is roughly equal to 30 tireless volunteers (10 your first time out) dancing at your finger tips. I just get to spend an extra hour on each end picking it up and taking it home.
    Charlottesville Area Mountain Bike Club
    www.cambc.org

  8. #8
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    Thanks - great responses

    Thanks to all for your responses. Each response has helped me understand the potential time requirements in a much better way. I am merely the grants writer (I ride, but no experiencing in building) on a small 3-4 mile urban mountain bike skills park on county-owned land. I was trying to get a better understanding of the potential time requirements for the purposes of writing funding proposals and creating the budget. When/if the necessary funding is secured, we plan on hiring an experienced trail designer/builder to do all of the machine work and to guide the volunteer efforts. The volunteers will be typical volunteers - some will have some experience in doing trail-work, others will be complete novices.

    But you guys gave me exactly what I needed in trying to provide some estimates in the proposal and budget for potential time/volunteer requirements. And for that I am extremely grateful. Thanks!

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