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  1. #1
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    Widely excavated trails

    I do trail work for a landowner who has about 20 miles of really nice singletrack on his mountainous property. This summer, against the advice of everyone, he hired an operator to cut out a bunch of trail about the width of a jeep road with a full sized excavator. He wanted new "trail" fast and cheap. My first reaction is to ignore it and let it grow back in as quickly as possible, but I wanted to ask other trailbuilders what they would do in this situation. How can I make the best of this? Thanks.

  2. #2
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    How fast does the foliage re-grow and take over in your area? Too bad he didn't hire a smaller machine.

  3. #3
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    I've seen unused roads be reclaimed by the vegetation in several months. He built this in a sunny part of the forest surrounded by raspberry and blackberries. This will all but vanish very quickly if I let it.

  4. #4
    humber river advocate
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    what type of a trail/use does the landowner want eventually?
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  5. #5
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    Good question. I think his theory is that he'll make it wide and then let it grow back in to "singletrack."

  6. #6
    I build my own.
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    It works. This trail is over 30 years old and no tread maintenance has been required. We cut it back to 8' wide every 5 years or so with a backhoe/brushcutter. It's not a very technical trail but incredibly easy maintenance.
    Widely excavated trails-p1010004-3-.jpg

    Widely excavated trails-frogafter.jpg

    Features like this get removed and then rebuilt during maintenance. 5 years is about the life span of a log pile like this anyway.
    Widely excavated trails-feb8073.jpg
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  7. #7
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    Thanks Trail Ninja. Looks good. How do you ensure that a single line develops over time or does it naturally occur on its own?

    Another problem is that it was done on the fly and not graded very wisely. I thought I could utilize the sections that work and then reroute parts of it with some hand built additions, or make it into a progressive trail by finding some technical terrain off to the side to venture into.

  8. #8
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    I ride a section of a county park that used to allow 4wheelers. Once the park booted them out, our club began to work on there wide (6-8 feet) trails/roads to make them bike worthy. We placed logs and partial tree tops to narrow down to singletrack randomly to force bikes to stay in the same track. After one summer, the trails are now SWEET SINGLETRACK which you would never know there was ever a 4wheeler on them. Good luck and remember. Mother Nature always heals herself over time.

  9. #9
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    Google "Road to Trail Conversion". Trails Dynamics gave a good presentation about it a few years ago. You an easyly convert a wider multiuse logging road to a singletrack.
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  10. #10
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    Widely excavated trails

    Quote Originally Posted by zaab70 View Post
    Thanks Trail Ninja. Looks good. How do you ensure that a single line develops over time or does it naturally occur on its own?

    Another problem is that it was done on the fly and not graded very wisely. I thought I could utilize the sections that work and then reroute parts of it with some hand built additions, or make it into a progressive trail by finding some technical terrain off to the side to venture into.
    The "not graded very wisely" is the part that concerns me. Whatever happens, to have a good sustainable trail the grade needs to be addressed for the same reasons using old roadbeds are not often the best choice for trail routing.
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  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by shiggy View Post
    The "not graded very wisely" is the part that concerns me. Whatever happens, to have a good sustainable trail the grade needs to be addressed for the same reasons using old roadbeds are not often the best choice for trail routing.
    +1 that. If the drainage is good then it shouldn't be an issue; if they created drainage problems then you will constantly have to fix it.

    In any case, sounds like a way to create an easy (but potentially boring) path thru the forest.

  12. #12
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    Thanks! I'm going to fully assess what I have to do once I get over there in a month or so. I think I'm going to reroute any potential maintenance nightmares right off the bat. Worst case scenario is that I have at least some useable trail that I can salvage and then considering the jungle it was built in, the rest will regrow in no time. I'll take a look at that presentation as well.

  13. #13
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    Is this at your usual stomping grounds? Is it the same operator/style of trail as was built there in years past?

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by zaab70 View Post
    How do you ensure that a single line develops over time or does it naturally occur on its own?
    If ridden only by bikers it will probably develop into singletrack... but wait until the leaves fall on it and rake/blow a narrow strip in the spring to really define it.

  15. #15
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    Yeah, epic, you know the place. But, no, all the stuff in the past was cut in using a mini ex by the same operator and that has grown in very nicely and was graded correctly for the most part. He's actually a very skilled operator and does nice work, but all he can do is follow orders in this instance.

  16. #16
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    Not only worry about the grade, but also the outslope. My park has a lot of old logging roads and I avoid putting trail on them whenever possible, even if the grade is ok it still doesn't have proper outslope. When the rest of the trail is dry those spots are soft and slick.

  17. #17
    I build my own.
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    Quote Originally Posted by zaab70 View Post
    Thanks Trail Ninja. Looks good. How do you ensure that a single line develops over time or does it naturally occur on its own?

    Another problem is that it was done on the fly and not graded very wisely. I thought I could utilize the sections that work and then reroute parts of it with some hand built additions, or make it into a progressive trail by finding some technical terrain off to the side to venture into.
    When it's freshly cut like in the 3rd picture, we can "encourage" people to ride to one side or the other with obstacles but usually we let it occur naturally. It will. The entire bed is outsloped and drains well so it doesn't matter where on the corridor people pick for the singletrack. For some reason there is a section that has become a really fun slalom. A group of kids (this is a middle school trail system) just chose to weave back and forth on that section a few times and it stayed that way.

    Most of our trails are built with technical features on side trails or at least on the side of the main trail. We have kids as young as 5 years old riding here but we also have experts and everything in between.

    Old roads tend to cup over time and can be a nightmare to work with unless you re-grade them.
    Widely excavated trails-malcolm_oct-027.jpg
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  18. #18
    local trails rider
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    In my area, wider tracks mostly tend to develop into singletrack if left alone. Sometimes, there are spots where two or three lines remain, for a few reasons:
    - an otherwise "best" line keeps water in it
    - some prefer to go around, instead of over the rock or roots
    - people prefer different lines up hill than down hill
    (trail culture is very different from USA here. "heavy" machinery for maintenance is a no-no)

    I believe that a wider track with multiple lines has positive sides too, as long as there are no political reasons against it.
    - if there are lots of users (not just cyclists) it makes passing easier.
    - multiple lines allow for different skill levels - and add to the challenge in picking "the best line" (easy and slow, fast if you can take a bump, etc.)

    "it IS possible that you are faster or slower than anybody else who is having at least as much if not more or less fun"

  19. #19
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    Yeah, I'm concerned about the outslope as well, and retrofitting a trail for outslope is no easy chore.

  20. #20
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    road to trail conversion

    If you have access to the same machine, you can start from one end and outslope and narrow the trail behind you as you go.

    In these pics, we had a 10 foot wide road that was crowned and had a drainage ditch on the inside. We excavated the downhill side and used those spoils to fill in the ditch and push the backslope out further, narrowing the trail to 5 to 6 feet. A little seed, straw, organics, and plantings on the raw edges completed the job.

    Widely excavated trails-p8230007.jpgWidely excavated trails-p8230011.jpgWidely excavated trails-p8250026.jpg

  21. #21
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    That looks great! No. Unfortunately I think the idea was that he wanted something quick and dirty then I would come in and clean it up by hand. If he wanted to do a narrower cut, he had a mini ex on hand. Too expensive I guess? (yes, I see the irony).

  22. #22
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    I wonder if you could build a trail on top of a the trail with the mini-ex?

  23. #23
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    With regards to the sections of trail with poor slope:

    If there is a good way to reroute, that's my preferred fix.

    If not, I think that double track lends itself well to adding in rollers to force the water off the trail.

    With regards to the trail width: If you are in an area with any reasonable amount of rain, the problem will fix itself within a year. My $.02 is don't waste time on this except to fix the outslope.

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    Last edited by Walt Dizzy; 08-20-2013 at 07:20 AM. Reason: Add comment about trail width.

  24. #24
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    I started working on one of the cuts today. This particular one isn't too bad. The top layer is still not very compacted, so I'm able to hand build a narrower trail within the excavation. Some rough berms were piled up by the excavator and in the process of reshaping them, I was left with a huge amount of very good, clay heavy dirt which I'm making rollers with. But this is the best of the three cuts undertaken, so the biggest challenges are yet to come.

  25. #25
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    My machine of choice when available is a 65hp rubber track loader w/ 78" 6way blade. That said the park in which I build is soft shale (modeling clay) overrun with invasive Autumn Olive so thick the deer can't penetrate it in spots. Hand building for the most part is out of the question, many have tried and failed. The attached clip is about 60-70% 78" machine. It is wide but not sanitized, lot's of character.

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