Trail Closure Techniques
There's usually "issues" with trail closures on MTB forums - why's that being closed???? etc. When it does come to closing trails, there can be extreme examples as well
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Nevertheless at times trails, or more likely sections of trails must be closed. Hopefully to be replaced by better trails. I'd like to see how you do it. I could post a few pics to start, but the link gives a better idea of what we like to do (with our very limited resources). If you don't want to read, then click on the first pic and then the arrow back from that pic to number 1.
Trail News - MTB Trailcare
Looking forward to seeing what others do, why and where
Here in the arid American west we can't count on things to grow back if we pile a few logs and rocks on an old tread. It usually takes more effort if we really want things to get back to an undisturbed look. There are lots of techniques that people use, but one simple method that works for a lot of situations is to simply dig up the downhill edge of the trail and spread that earth uphill into the tread area, with the intent of filling in as much of the tread as we can without having to haul in all kinds of dirt. After that we try to rake any organic debris we can find from the surrounding areas across the old tread so that there is a uniform cover of organic matter on the old tread and the surrounding area. Finally, if there are logs and/or rocks around we will scatter them across the area. Note that I said scatter across and near, not pile onto the old tread line. We don't want to create a line of debris where the old trail was, we want to make it look as natural as possible with the hope that in a few years you could look over the area and not be able to tell that there used to be a trail there.
I can understand why you would want to fix/improve that trail. Erosion is a great eg of why a section would need to be closed and moved. Sounds like it was the right move.
I can think of other examples here locally where they closed and moved a section more because it was too technical for the average rider. As someone that has done a lot of riding over the years I have come to appreciate technical sections that force me to slow down and work my skills in order to stay on the pedals so I am disappointed when they "fix" it to make it easier.
We first do any erosion control features that may be necessary, then blend the old tread back into the terrain using whatever is appropriate to the situation, be that hauling in dirt and rock or just raking available duff over the area. Planting a few dead bushes in the tread area can help hide the old corridor. If you can't tell there was ever a tread there when it's finished chances are it will work. We do this with closed two track roads sometimes, then build a single track in the corridor. Lots of stone erosion control features make it hard to drive through and they usually give up after a hundred feet. Sometimes we winch big boulders into the old road or trail, and this is very effective for stopping vehicles. Just make sure they can't drive around them. Log fences seem to work pretty good too.
Making the smack track baby.
I see many poor reclamations done, often a bunch of dead fall strewn along the first 20' of a trail with a PFO sign in front of it. Typically, the dead fall is gone in 24hours, the sign within a week.
I subscribe to the scorched earth method, where the trail is erased. The tread is broken up for the first 20m or so, foliage is transplanted onto the broken tread, trees and shrubs are transplanted into the visual space where the opening of the trail used to be, and the intersection is changed so that the natural line is to not take the reclaimed trail. Doing all this takes more time, but trails closed in this way tend to stay closed. We typically don't put closure signs up, as that alerts people to the fact that there's a trail there.
Oh, we always make sure the alternate route is open before closing the original. I've never had to close a line because it's too technical. Closures occur because of unresolvable drainage issues (swamps, erosion, etc.) or shortcuts/braiding, where the more technical line stays in place.
In a deciduous forest environment, we usually till up the old tread to allow native plants to take hold more quickly and visually block the entrance/exit of the trail by transplanting nearby low value plants. I subscribe to the theory that if a user can't tell a trail used to be there, it will stay closed. They are very keen at finding and using old trails.
In the case of a nearby reroute, we take the dirt/debris from the new trail construction and transport it to the old section to be closed to fill in any excavations in addition to tilling the tread. We then transplant larger shrubs/plants that were removed from the new section and finishing by covering all of that with the duff from the new construction.
It isn't always possible to do this to the entire trail if the new construction is shorter than the old. In that case we concentrate on the most visible portions of the old trail.
I agree that there are too many poor reclamations done. It's a good idea to go in and break up the old tread as deep as you can. Aerate that soil well because it's going to be seriously compressed. Scattering deadfall is good, but most importantly, I think, is to add a vertical component to the barrier. Downfall that's simply leaning against trees can help with that. Transplanting shrubs is a great tool. I tend to avoid doing that with native shrubs because I don't want to kill a healthy native. Dead ones work. I will also dig up an invasive like honeysuckle and plant it in the tread. I make sure to do a really poor job of digging up the shrub so its chances of surviving are lower. It just needs to be there for about a season or two where I am.
I would like to convince my local club to purchase native seed mixes for different types of reclamations. One for shady forests, another for grasslands, that sort of thing. spread seed and then scatter duff over the top should help speed recovery. I bet land managers would love that sort of thing, too.
It is interesting the desert vrs deciduous, vrs Gold Coast closure techniques. I need to explain more and then I want to see what you guys do too.
We are lucky here. Even the largest of the logs in the blog I posted will be rotted in 5 years or so - eaten by insects and becoming part of the hill. Our biggest maintenance issue here is keeping trail lines open. The plants come back fast. However, it is important to create a surface that allows plants and grasses to grow in more easily. Transplanting grasses and sometimes larger plants can be important and we try to never waste plants (same as rocks).
Here are a few more pics of the trail closed in that blog, starting with the trail surface before we started closing it. The closed section is just around the corner, but you get the idea - hard, compacted, gravelly tread, made worse by the effect of water running down the falline trail for years.
First we covered the trail surface with loose soil we harvested to allow re-growth. As much of this as possible was organic material. Adding drains can help hold water in areas where grasses and other vegetation are transplanted, as well as protecting the area from falline water. You can see the start of water bars in the next pic and they were topped with larger logs and then more soil added to encourage regrowth into the timber, as well as on the trail.
A different spot, but no grasses were killed in the making of these closures.
Here's a section of trail closed about 6 months ago to give an idea of the speed the bush reclaims itself. A lot of the grasses were transplanted in amongst the debris.
Some more pics of a spot closed with top dressing as well as by transplanting some saplings. Three of the saplings in this pic were transplanted. One is a bit brown (but all the tips are green and healthy), as you can see, but the others look like they were always there. New grasses are growing back a month after we added some top dressing. The sediment has come from a drain on the new section of trail in the foreground.
I've had long conversations about this topic with 3 different IMBA crews over the years plus with our own and other regional crews every chance we have.
-Break up the visual corridor, we have a ton of invasive species of small trees, we will plant them in the corridor every 30-50 yards for first 100 odd yards. Vertical blockage at eye level that creates a wall really disorients quite a bit
-Break up the soil, if fall line stagger check dams and add displaced soil and plants from reroute to stabilize
-We have more rock than most mason supplies and drop big 3-4 person (i.e. takes that many to move) into dug out points along the old tread and across the corridor leading to old trail
- After first 100 odd yards is "disappeared", large dead fall, rock, leaves, till tread through out till other end point, repeat 100 yds disappearing and blocking act.
- Always make the reroute provide a better experience and flow than closed area; i.e. if previously fall line fast and rocky, then contoured with rocks/roots; if techy erosion or features, then sustainable rock-garden or feature with option lines.
Really if the new trail is better than old you'll get 80-90% of people wanting to use it, if the masses want to use the new line, you have a lot less fight than if bad reroute.
-At the end of the day its a war of mutually assured destruction, whoever is willing to move bigger stuff longer will take the day if you have "determined", to put it politely, users that don't like the closure.
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