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  1. #1
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    Legal question about trail building.

    Sorry if this has been covered, but I didn't see it if it has.

    There is a paved bike trail near me that goes through some woods near a city park...so this is all city property. There are two small run offs of the trail, but they only go about 50 yards each, and they just stop. They aren't connected. If I were to get a couple guys out there, and connect them, clean them up, re-route them for better flow would I be violating any laws? I wouldn't be cutting down any trees or anything. Mostly just a little digging, and sawing off a few branches. I could probably go the legit route and ask the cities permission, but my city is a real stick ups ass type of city. It would take so many hours, and so much waiting to get permission for something like this. I'd like to just go out there and start doing it.

    I can tell kids go back there and get drunk. There are couches back there lol. So, it's not like I would be clearing forest. It's clear no one gives a **** about the area, and it's a shame because it would be a pretty cool little spot, and it's only about 2 miles from my house.

    Also, what is the bare minimum of tools you would recommend? I planned on just a shovel, a rake, and a little folding hand saw.

  2. #2
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    clean out the trash if you want. but if you do any digging, the city might take issue with it. especially if they're really uptight. that sort of thing can get you vandalism charges.

    it's better to get official permission. if it does take a long time to get approval, it could well be worth it. sometimes stuff like this leads to new options and new access in the future. I know of at least a few cases of this.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Treyness View Post
    Sorry if this has been covered, but I didn't see it if it has.

    There is a paved bike trail near me that goes through some woods near a city park...so this is all city property. There are two small run offs of the trail, but they only go about 50 yards each, and they just stop. They aren't connected. If I were to get a couple guys out there, and connect them, clean them up, re-route them for better flow would I be violating any laws? I wouldn't be cutting down any trees or anything. Mostly just a little digging, and sawing off a few branches. I could probably go the legit route and ask the cities permission, but my city is a real stick ups ass type of city. It would take so many hours, and so much waiting to get permission for something like this. I'd like to just go out there and start doing it.

    I can tell kids go back there and get drunk. There are couches back there lol. So, it's not like I would be clearing forest. It's clear no one gives a **** about the area, and it's a shame because it would be a pretty cool little spot, and it's only about 2 miles from my house.

    Also, what is the bare minimum of tools you would recommend? I planned on just a shovel, a rake, and a little folding hand saw.
    talk to your local mountain bike club / advocacy group, if there is one. it may be that things have already been discussed for that area and approved/denied.... or who knows, maybe the club can make a few calls and get permission. point being, there may already be channels of communication.

  4. #4
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    I'm with these guys. I couldn't imagine a city anywhere in North America where trail building on city property without permission is legal. The official route is usually long and full of red tape but the rewards can be great. I spent a year getting permission to build a trail in a local regional park but because of that, I can now go to the parks department and get approval for trails in other parks usually within a couple of weeks. I can also "improve and upgrade" trails in 3 different towns locally with no approval required.
    I have a device that can access the total knowledge of man. I use it to look at pictures of cats and argue with strangers.

  5. #5
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    There's not much I can add to this conversation except that you can pitch the added benefit of legitimate usage slowing down or stopping the kids going back there drinking. That alone may not get you permission, but it often helps.

  6. #6
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    The only thing I have to add is, something worth doing is worth doing right! If this area is such a "cool little spot" then do it right, or the city could come in and take away your "cool little spot" without thinking twice. Advocacy takes time, be patient and resist the urge to jump in and cut trails on the DL. As others have already mentioned, doing the legwork now will pay dividends down the road and make your life so much easier in the long run.

    We have a couple situtations similar to yours around my area. In one case the city "discovered" the trails (they had been there for more than a decade ). Also a few local kids had built some dirt jumps in the area, which didn't help the situation. The city threw a huge fit about it all threatening to close it all down, and unjustly blamed it all on the mtb community. Things have since then improved, but it was a very stressful couple months.

  7. #7
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    Second everything above about getting permission.

    Additionaly, you should never assume a piece of property is public. There are many green spaces ajacent to public property which appear unused which are privately owned. Many times they are corners, or strips of land where the property owner has never seen fit to put up a fence or any type of property line marker.

    Sadly when these properties get developed the naive public becomes outraged at the city for allowing this.

  8. #8
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    The only thing I would add is to try to make friends with someone from the City who is involved in the issue. The mayor or a councilor would be great but a parks and recreation person or even a GIS person can give you more credibility. Liability is often given as a reason to do nothing but in reality is not usually a problem once things start moving. I would have no problem with raking and pruning a trail without permission. Nothing big or technically illegal, but it sort of forces the issue. The smoke and thunder usually blows away pretty quick. If you can get your IMBA rep to come to the table it will help a lot with credibility. Or you may have a US Park Service Rivers, Trails, and Conservation person who knows how to get things moving, or a State Highway Dept. Rec Trails person. These folks come with funding resources too, and available money talks when dealing with local officials. Make it a point to know everyone at the meetings you attend, even if it's just remembering their name. Many times folks at meetings don't have a real vested interest in the subject, it's just their job to go to the meeting. If you are skilled at group dynamics you can get some amazing results, like becoming part of the official agenda.
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  9. #9
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    Be the advocate of the park and all park users, around here people can sometimes 'adopt' a park. Having an existing advocacy group approch the city is good. If it's just you, and the park/city is scared of development, you'll want to be the guy who picks up garbage once a week etc., who maintains the existing trails. You'll have to explain to them that there are existing derelict trails that would get use by foot traffic and bikes if they were cleaned up, and the legitimate users would make those areas less attractive to the unwanted users who leave trash back there. I think you'd also want to stick to hand clippers and make sure they know you won't be building jumps or ramps or digging holes. Most parks folk are scared of the liability that allowing building of anything un-natural brings.

  10. #10
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    Do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    “would I be violating any laws?”
    “I could probably go the legit route and ask the cities permission, but my city is a real stick ups ass type of city. It would take so many hours, and so much waiting to get permission for something like this. I'd like to just go out there and start doing it.”
    “It's clear no one gives a **** about the area.”
    “what is the bare minimum of tools you would recommend? I planned on just a shovel, a rake, and a little folding hand saw.”

    You already know the answer to your question, and you have already decided what you are going to do.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by bsieb View Post
    . . . . Liability is often given as a reason to do nothing but in reality is not usually a problem once things start moving. . . . .
    very true.

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