How do groups manage trail building ideas
Looking for some sage advice. Has anyone found a good way to help a group of trail gnomes manage new trail development and trail modifications? I am specifically looking for some guidance for a core trail builder group not vetting opinions of all the users. We all like what we like when it comes to trails and we all have our own preferences. But, how do you balance that with development and maintenance of shared-use trails, generally bidirectional, with a goal of also providing a quality user experience for mountain bikers. These would all be legit trails approved by our local land owner.
Not looking for some complex bueracratic process, but some simple guidelines/objectives in which to follow.
Simply put just sit down and make a pros and cons list. Decide what options are available and what is possible. Most important thing is the ability to openly disscuss other veiws and allow others to critique yours. If this is not possible then forget it it will tear friendships apart. After completing your list between each other take it to the land manager then go through the same prosess as you did before. One thing to remember is KEEP AN OPEN MIND!
Remember, alternate lines requiring greater or lesser skill are nearly always an option.
opinions tend to be considered if the person is holding a mcleod in their hand.
What I have found is that many folks say, you should build this, there should be more or less of that... but they don't show up for work sessions, they are too busy to come out and flag and clino with you, ... now if you are talking about differing opinions within the trail building group. then perhaps a work on "mine" and then we will work on "yours" kind of thing. the topo will govern what can or can't be done to some extent, if all you have is a 200 foot elevation change, then downhills will be so short they would likely not be practical. and optional lines to add the hucks and drops are good.
This. "Show up or Shut Up" is another way of putting it but this is much nicer. At any rate, it's a starting point to filter out some of the noise as you move forward with your project.
Originally Posted by twright205
Show up or shut up = braids and issues down the line if you're not considering Park usage properly, so take it with a grain of salt.
Best way to do it is know your local rider base and "flavor" of the park, and if you're in an area that's got numerous builders and heavy use, ALWAYS try to get out with a group of builders. Whoever your "lead" (most respected, most trail built in immediate area, etc) builder is should guide discussion and suggestion but everyone should jump in and out. There's always a line or option or route etc. that we might not see our selves....
And guys who show up on work days with real boots and pants get even more weight in the decision process...they are planning on full day's work!
Originally Posted by twright205
If I wanted to make a formal system, users would get votes based on the number of workdays/hours worked. Someone who doesn't dig gets no say whatsoever (did you hear that hikers and equestrians whom I've never, in 25 years, seen lift a finger?)
I get that it's a generalization, but knowing who is committed via something other than lip service and youshoulds is a good place to start filtering out what ideas and info to consider.
Originally Posted by thefriar
yes, I tossed the mcleod comment in as a way of saying that people need to know a thing or two about trail work before their wants and desires may be factored in. Oh,, put in some berms,,, well to do berms the right way we are talking several hours each.... are you going to show up and dig clay from 50 yards away and carry two 5 gallon pails up the slope? our braiding happens most often due to mud issues, not preferred lines, but we have such undergrowth, you can't easily detour simply by riding, unless you have a machete in your hand. I've had a few riders want more flow, fast, flow(y) don't interrupt my speed,, I have others saying technical, technical, make it technical... in the section that I am working, (adopt a natural resource agreement with the state), I flag it, and if LM agrees it happens, I work in a few other areas, in which I show up just to be trail hand, and let someone else do the planning and design.
I will always consider the ideas of folks who put the time in, more so than those who simply enjoy riding it.
but as was said alternate lines with features can go along way to help everyone get a bit of what they want...
I am the the trail coordinator for our local chapter BAMBA and just recently completed a reroute and a new trail for a county park property.I contacted there trail coordinator and and explained the need for the reroute and met did a walk about and had the ok in under a week same as new trail,since BAMBA had established a rapor with the county and they are familiar with our good works and expertise and also allowed us authority and over site for their trail system I can get results quick.our other board members trust my expertise and experience and never question or interfere with my say on trail development.we are fortunate to have such a great Mtb community and board members who work so well together with no petty or personal power plays,everyone has there roll and other then discussions and feedback we can get things accomplish with little or no opposition.
Rapport is a huge factor, there are some people who come to TM every time its being held and you have to hold their hand to get good work, and others who are one time-a-years that just do better work and "get it".
There's no magic bullet.
For our local org we have a committee that has worked together for over 5 years and one of us leads with flagging, etc. Then everyone else comes out, critiques, asks questions, and we leave with a better product.
That way, come build days, if someone does have a question, the response is that 3-5 people looked at it and thought this was best option. If they want to get involved, they have to show up and express an interest in part of design (not show up then walk away and do their own thing cause they don't like your project).
I can't stand volunteers that don't like doing "general" trail maintenance, i.e. trimming corridor/creating nicks/choking trails back in, that then want to have a say in the cooler projects (i.e. new trails, big armor projects, TTFs). Pay yer dues across the trail maint/build spectrum and prove you're not just in it for you, otherwise you'll get ignored like mozzies on a humid day after the rain... swatted away and make people upset and want to scram.
That is more like a benevolent dictator; the best, really
Originally Posted by techfersure
Agreeing that sustainability is paramount will get you a long ways. Eliminates a lot of bs because it's hard to argue against, also gives importance and authority to experience. Having other entities involved usually cuts through naivete quickly too.
I ride with the best people.
Dictator's get things done!
I went into building trails with a firm idea that the best way to make decisions was talking to as many riders as possible about what the design goals and maintenance priorities should be.
After a lot of conversations with people inside and outside of my club, it became apparent that no two people shared much in their priorities. Furthermore almost no one thought my ideas had any merit. At least that they would admit to.*
In some ways it became like that work situation where you have two or more people who think they are your supervisor, but they don't get along, don't talk with each other, and are continually issuing contradictory instructions.
But instead, in this situation, you can easily end up with dozens of different "bosses". If you run it like a democracy where every one's opinion counts the same, in my experience nothing useful will emerge.
I believe it is possible, and even desirable to have more than one person making trail design and maintenance priority decisions. But it's probably not going to work with lots of people involved who have nothing at stake other than hearing their own voices.
Limiting input to people who show up to do the work is a useful way to cut down the useless chatter. I'd go a little farther and assign final decision making power to a single individual. Hopefully that's something short of dictator, but it's virtually certain not all problems will have consensus on how to proceed, and it may be necessary to have an executive make the call.
Having a group of builders with a firm goal of getting a good job done as opposed to a group of people bent on enhancing their egos is a pretty essential part of a successful trail building team.
*Edit/ There's some kind of weird dynamic going on that I don't fully understand in discussing trail building/maintenance ideas with the riders I meet out on the trail. It's almost like they feel compelled to to take a contrary stance to anything I'm considering. Kind of like "if I admit that you're doing something necessary or desirable, then maybe somebody expects me to do something. So I'll just try to throw some cold water on your idea so nobody expects anything out of me." Or maybe it's more like "I don't really know anything about this, and you might take me for a fool if I agree with you, so I'll disagree with you to get your respect instead."
It's kind of hard to sort out the people who just want to BS, and those who are genuinely interested. The BSers fool me most times. /Edit
a quick question:
-what guidelines/standards is the landowner yard-sticking your work/access by?
create a committee of your core group, develop a set of mandates to drive the project with a timeline. review often, modify as necessary...
oh, and be transparent about the process...
"the vinyl basement"
Good thread. One thing that I think needs to be remembered is that one or two minds should be in charge of the "big picture." These people need to be savvy to local/regional/state politics and regulations. The person (or people) in charge need to have an open mind (as stated by others) and, if it is a pair, need to share a vision so that only one person is required to have presense for a given situation.
These people should be the ones harvesting ideas. I say harvesting because as the local trail boss (whether official or not) it is your responsibility to engage others to get their opinions. Often the people with the best ideas are the people who keep their mouths shut and just help out now and then. Ask for their advice, because they tend to see more than they say.
As others said, show up or shut up, dig before you dictate, yadda yadda ya, and transparency is key.
^ very nicely stated! yes very important to have savvy board members well versed in local/regional and state politics and also well connected in the community as we here BAMBA are so fortunate to have and not just a pack of enthusiast Mtb'ers,which of course we do,all though well meaning and want to protect what trails they have but sometimes fall short on the intricacies of bureaucracy and the political machine.
Originally Posted by sambs827
We are doing a formal crew leader training program in preparation for our next project (~4 mile long, 1280' drop "flow" trail). We have 5 classes that cover trail design, construction, and volunteer management. 3 classroom sessions, 2 field sessions + 2 field trips to recently built trails for critical evaluation of design and construction decisions. We have about 35 people taking the class. I think it is a great way to get a lot of people on the same page about what design considerations and specifications are for the trail so we have a common ground for discussions about design, layout, features, etc.
It is a lot of work but I think the payoff will be well worth it.
In addition to all that we have a private area in our club's forum for board members, trail stewards and a few other stalwarts. Add we use a web-based project management application called Basecamp.
Originally Posted by Walt Dizzy
The value I place on the web-based management application varies. I use same professionally and it's not always as effective with volunteers. It's effective for files tied to a project or task, moderately effective for dates, and topics can wonder more than they do using same for my day business. No matter how well individuals use it, the layout is better than a forum because things don't disappear as easily, and you can synchronize the calendar part to your personal electronic calendar.
These products can and do send posts via email. Responses from email often seem to be the culprit that takes them more off topic or tasks.
You can get trial versions of Basecamp and Teaamwork Project Manager.
Great feedback from all of you guys. Thanks a bunch!!
"We work as a team, and we do it my way" - The 12th Man.
woah... there's a lot i can say, but i'll try to keep it short ?
Trail building is landscape architecture/landscape design.
Design is different than art. Design means building things that are used by people--whether it's a carrot peeler, a chair, or a skyscraper. A great designer understands how different users approach an object or their surroundings. Great design usually goes unnoticed--because when things are designed well, the designer is invisible; the thing seems effortless; it puts smiles on faces; it facilitates human interaction. It becomes 'favorite' of people often for reasons they can't express.
So, make sure, as a trail leader, to allow great design to happen--even if that means listening to one person instead of many.....
Last edited by cmc4130; 08-13-2013 at 06:29 AM.
Forest Trails Alliance (.org) utilizes a tiered approach to involvement.
Supporters = Free level, creates mailing list and identifies general trail community.
Member = 10 hours volunteer work or $50 donation. Is covered by our insurance and now has access to join trail crews.
Leader = Member who is nominated by two other leaders or donates 100hrs, and then is voted up or down by current leaders. You must be a leader to be a project manager, in the design group or be trained to operate our heavy equipment or any other key representative position.
The concept here is that you provide easiest access at the entry level and restrict opportunities at the top. (those who do the work...get the opportunities) Having a human interface prior to accessing the leadership level means there is opportunity to work with new people and identify their qualifications (mostly relationship based) way before they can impact the harmony of the leadership level. We have found, ego, drama and poor communication techniques can do major damage to the harmony needed in an effective core group of volunteers.
With in the leadership level, we branch out into specialty groups. Design and layout is one of them along with sawyer, mechanized, shape and finish crews. Identifying a core group that signs up to manage the design and development aspect reduces opportunities for random interference from short term contributors. Design / layout includes project development and could entail durations of years before work starts on the ground. This insures everyone is related and aware of restrictions and requirements of the land manager and goals of the trail experience as well as vested.
Each project is managed by a small group (3-8 leaders) that manage the different aspects/crews. Project management can be a lot of work but fun with the right people...and the beer is free during meetings.
We have several people with significant experience and training in design and layout. We truth each others work and work to train others to expand this skill set which is critical to identifying and developing new projects. Who is lead for design with a project has a lot to do with the land manager, you MUST have a trusting and good relationship with this person and understand their vision and values.
In closing... we are growing and getting more effective each year. Part of the trick is developing a fun and rewarding experience for volunteers. We do special events and have trail project shirts etc... to stoke crews as well as on site spike camps during construction with entertainment at night and tasty meals... it all helps. We built 9 miles of trail last year without any paid labor. Oh yeah!
Found this thread a while back and you guys have put together some very valuable information. What are your thoughts on making this a sticky?
Just as tools and getting permissions are essential for trail building, so is working with other people and groups. Larger scale or small, there aren't too many one man shows building solely for themselves.
At any rate, thanks for the info. It has given me hope that there are logical solutions to these problems and that others have worked through them.
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