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  1. #1
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    How to begin building trails (permissions)

    So I'm considering doing some trail work at my local place of riding. It's a county park, but they don't have anyone who maintains the trails. The trails I would like to work on are already created. They receive a lot of foot traffic as well as bikers so they need to cater to both. So my question is what's the right way to start working on the trail. Should I just show up and go to work? Or should I contact the park office and try to get approval (not too eager to go this route)? Any advice is appreciated.
    Last edited by pa9k; 07-24-2013 at 11:31 AM.

  2. #2
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    +1 please!

  3. #3
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    I'm no pro trail builder, but I guarantee the veterans here will all advise you to GAIN PERMISSION first. If you build first and get into a conflict, they may shut down the trail, revoke access for bikers, and it will surely leave a sour taste in their mouths. Get some advice here, ask permission first, and be honest about what you plan to do.

  4. #4
    Don't worry, be happy!
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    Quote Originally Posted by deezler View Post
    I'm no pro trail builder, but I guarantee the veterans here will all advise you to GAIN PERMISSION first. If you build first and get into a conflict, they may shut down the trail, revoke access for bikers, and it will surely leave a sour taste in their mouths. Get some advice here, ask permission first, and be honest about what you plan to do.
    Yep - I was trying to think of a good search term to suggest to bring up the threads where this has been gone over extensively. Time for a sticky?

  5. #5
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    How to begin building trails (permissions)

    Deezler: I figured that's the road I would probably have to take. The problem is, I would have no idea who to go to, or what to pitch. I know they're gonna want more that get I wanna fix some trails and add a few enhancements and clear some downed trees. Although who knows. Maybe that's enough. I really have no idea I'm totally new to working with a park service and am just looking for some suggestions.
    Last edited by pa9k; 07-24-2013 at 11:32 AM.

  6. #6
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    How to begin building trails (permissions)

    Formica: I tried searching but couldn't find any key words to get me what I wanted. A sticky would be very helpful.

  7. #7
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    Google your county and 'PARKS'. They may have their own web site or they might be just a part of your county web site (sometimes under 'departments'). That will usually give you a contact - at least a name and phone number or email. Call this person and tell them what you want - volunteers are hard to find and sometimes just offering will be a keystone that can get things rolling.

    Sounds like you need to get the official status of this trail nailed down. Ask if the park will formally recognize it as a park facility, and support it by allowing you to do volunteer maintenance. They may jump at the offer - or they may shut you down, as well as the trail. But that's the way you have to start.

    Good luck. Congrats for pitching in.

    Steve Z
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  8. #8
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    How to begin building trails (permissions)

    Ill check the web, that's a great idea. Also this is already recognized as a park, and most of the trails are recognized by the park. So it's basically maintaining and enhancing trails. I'm concerned about how to pitch the "enhancing" part though. I don't want them to think I'm out there to build jump and "dangerous" stuff, stuff that not everyone can enjoy. I will explain to them I want to clear the trails better, help with water run off, fix eroding trails, basic maintenance. I think that will be enough to get the ball rolling. I'm assuming I should stick to stuff like that to build up the trust for lack of better words, then worry about burms, bridges, drops, and features like that.
    Last edited by pa9k; 07-24-2013 at 11:34 AM.

  9. #9
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    How to begin building trails (permissions)

    Sorry for the spelling errors. This phones keyboard sucks, and spellcheck is useless.

  10. #10
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    Is there a mountain biking or hiking organization in your area? If there is, they MAY be working with Parks already on that. We ran into a situation locally where trails in a park were maintained by a hiking group, except for a series of trails that were built by mountain bikers that had jumps and G-outs and stuff like that on them that hikers didn't like. We made contact with the county Parks office, and they said, roughly:

    We're happy to have you maintain the trails if you want to. We like them, but we didn't build them, and we don't maintain them, we don't even look at them, but they're on our map. If you want to work on the trails contact this hiking group, because they've been working on the trails as well.

    So we got in touch with the hiking group and found out they were getting to be a smaller group and short on man power, so as an MTB club, we took over the trails, but still get help on our workdays from hikers in this group. So yes, step one, get permission - always get permission first. Otherwise, as someone else pointed out, you could cause problems for you and everyone else - and it's a terrible thing to put all the work into a trail that it can take, and find out all you did was cause problems.

    Once you have permission, make sure you aren't stepping on anyone's toes. People and groups can get possessive of trails, and not just because they built them, but because they know they have permission to work on them, so officially what's done to the trails seems to have been done by that person or group. If someone stupid is done (a big ramp built using a shipping pallet, for instance) it may reflect badly on the group or person, even though they didn't do it. Plus, if you have a group doing work already, they may be willing to pitch in and help you, especially if you pitch in and help them.

  11. #11
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    [QUOTE=pa9k;10539175]So I'm considering doing some trail work at my local place of riding. It's a county park, but they don't have anyone who maintains the trails. The trail I would like to rework is already created, but doesn't appear on any maps of the park. I do know that they don't mind people using this trail, and it receives light bike and foot traffic. So my question is what's the right way to start working on the trail. Should I just show up and go to work? Or should I contact the park office and try to

    get approval (not too eager to go this route)? Any advice is appreciated.[/QUOT

    Best if you approach Parks and open a dialog with them,going on your own and assuming it is ok could possible damage yours and Mtn biking's image/reputation if they get a bug up there ass.maybe on the down low now but never know how the next director will look at park usage and or more oversight.most Parks will welcome free help and developing a trusting relationship with them will open doors for you.

  12. #12
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    Also, if you are a beginning trail builder see if you can find some training or maybe some other group to work with that can help you develop your skills. Performing shoddy work is a quick way to get your efforts shut down so make sure you can deliver if you promise to make the trails "better".

  13. #13
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    How to begin building trails (permissions)

    Quote Originally Posted by BonkedAgain View Post
    Also, if you are a beginning trail builder see if you can find some training or maybe some other group to work with that can help you develop your skills. Performing shoddy work is a quick way to get your efforts shut down so make sure you can deliver if you promise to make the trails "better".
    I've been building trails for a while, but more dh fr kinda stuff. I'm planning on attending some local build days to learn skills related to the more casual types of trails I will be working on as well as meeting people and hopefully gaining support for this project. I certainly don't want to be doing all the work myself.

  14. #14
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    A lot of municipal and county Parks and Rec agencies have "Adapt-a trail" programs where individuals and groups can sign up to take care of specific trails. Most agencies have a very limited trails maintenance budget. At least around here, the local agencies have a hard time recruiting trail volunteers and welcome the help. Warning: there will be paperwork involved, though. Many agencies will cover you under workman's comp if you get injured while doing sanctioned trail maintenance activities and will likely require that you get a permit or authorization and an approval of the scope of work proposed. Building jumps and skinnies and calling it "drainage improvements" probably won't fly so be upfront about what you'd like to accomplish. Many agency employees are also mountain bikers in their spare time so they may not be as negative as you might imagine. Good luck.

  15. #15
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    I was in this same position about a year ago. I went and talked to the park ranger as well as another land manager (Water Dept. guy). It went surprisingly well. They were glad to have help and told me I could prune and rake all I wanted. At first they didn't want us using chainsaws and power tools, but once he knew we were affiliated with NEMBA he loosened up. Now its officially "don't ask don't tell" as far as chainsaws are concerned.

    I haven't built any trail in this "park", but I'm establishing a good relationship and to be honest the trails are in really tough shape so we're still rehabbing old trails. Hopefully it will keep going from there.

    I would clear stuff and do minor maintenance. Get to know the land manager and feel them out. You may be surprised how happy they will be to have volunteer help.

  16. #16
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    How to begin building trails (permissions)

    Thanks for the replies guys, that's really encouraging. For some reason I thought they would be against the idea of some "random person" maintaining the trails.

    And maybe I worded it slightly wrong, but mostly I'm looking to rehabilitate the trails. There's alot of trails that are getting wider and sliding down hill, alot of washouts and spots that have really bad water issues. Not to mention the vegetation. Some of the trails are down right dangerous, not challenging, but dangerous. I really like this place and its sad to see the trails in this shape. Maybe there's a place or two it'd be ideal to add a slight berm or two, but that's not my main goal. Getting these trails safer and more enjoyable is. And I understand now that the park should feel the same way, and probably does.

    I've been doing alot of research on IMBA and some local clubs around me and how they've gone about doing their projects. I think the first step is to get out and know some more people with the same passions as me. I plan on joining my local chapter of IMBA and hopefully getting their support on this project.

    The only thing that still concerns me is all the details. Paperwork, liability, paperwork, bureaucracy, paperwork, and all the other "pointless" things. But I've learned alot from you guys and the research I've done in the past couple weeks and I feel alot more confident know. I'm going to do the things I listed above, and begin creating a plan for the trails themselves so I have a good idea exactly what I want to do when I pitch it to the people in charge.

    Thanks so much for the guidance and advice. If nothing else you guys have encouraged me more to go for this.
    Last edited by pa9k; 07-24-2013 at 11:36 AM.

  17. #17
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    That's the way I got started, just doing trail work as a volunteer. After a while, if the agencies like the work you do, you'll build up a certain amount of trust and reputation and will have a lot easier time having your proposals approved. After five or six years doing volunteer work, I found that I really like trail work. For me, that led to a trail crew job, then a stint as a trail crew leader, then as an agency trails coordinator which gave me a lot of say in which projects get funded and built and fostered a great dynamic with the local volunteer groups. Now I'm retiring soon and plan to start trails contracting using the skills I learned over the years. So you never know where this might take you. Hang in there and know that your efforts will be appreciated by the trail users and by the land managers.

  18. #18
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    Yep, what Wildfire says is true. After I had established a reputation in my area, a local municipality's parks department actually hired (as a city employee, not a contractor) to build a new trail system and organize volunteer efforts for them - most of which I was doing with my roll in the club anyhow. Now I just get paid for it.

  19. #19
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    Do an internet search of your park and you might find a webpage where you can find out who manages it. Then contact them for permission. Tell them what you want to do and the types of tools you'll be using. Often if you're only clearing existing trails and not using any power tools they'll just tell you to go ahead and do it. This is a good way to build a rapport with them. Later on you can ask to do more involved stuff like trail improvements, reroutes, benching, etc. Also contact any local MTB clubs in the area. Also make sure you know what you're doing. Go to a trail school or read the IMBA Trail Solutions book.
    I am not repeating myself I am not repeating myself!

  20. #20
    Ride da mOOn Moderator
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    I have requested a "Sticky" very good thread so far!

  21. #21
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    How to begin building trails (permissions)

    Quote Originally Posted by NEPMTBA View Post
    I have requested a "Sticky" very good thread so far!
    +1 please

  22. #22
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    Investing time, money, or support in the parks department/system -- even if it has nothing to do with mountain biking -- can pay dividends in the long-run. Three years into a six-year effort to gain access in a county park system my club spent some money to purchase a table at a parks' foundation dinner. That evening allowed us to show some "big hitters" in the community that mountain bikers were genuinely interested in the park system, and that we were committed to improving the parks for everyone. We now have singletrack in our county parks. Similarly, our club recently committed to fund non-mtb improvements in a city park, shortly thereafter we (with the help of an IMBA Flow Trail School) built the the first gravity assisted trail on public property in our area.
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  23. #23
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    Cool-blue Rhythm

    Ok guys gregg was nice enough to stick it, but here's what he asked of pa9k

    Hey, Lee...I've stuck it, but it could use some work. From the top down, it reads kinda messy. If the OP could state clearly the main purpose better, that would help.

    -g
    So lets see if we can keep it simple and directive as to help all of learn from it

    Thanks
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    Lee

  24. #24
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    How to begin building trails (permissions)

    Cleaned up!
    Last edited by pa9k; 07-24-2013 at 11:36 AM.

  25. #25
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    Cannot echo the "gain permission" and "build relationships with local land managers" suggestions loudly enough. Our group has been doing this for the past few years now and it has opened countless doors and opportunities for us!

    That, and it feels great to be building legit' trails -- especially the part where you never have to worry / wonder about "the wrong person" catching you in the act of trail-building!

    Lovin' diggin' the earth!!

    Andrew
    Sweet Singletrack - South Okanagan Hiking, Biking, Singletrack Trailguide
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