Dafydd Davis to deliver the keynote address at
the 2011 Sustainable Trails Conference in Ashville

Welch trail pioneer Dafydd Davis will deliver the keynote address at the 2011 Sustainable Trails Conference in Asheville on March 15th. The conference is a 3 day conference with attendees coming from all across the US and Canada and is hosted by the Professional TrailBuilders Association. Mr. Davis’s keynote address is entitled “The Welch Mountain Bike Initiative” and will document a 10 year process to develop world class trails and mountain biking in a formerly depressed area in rural Wales. Mr. Davis’s keynote address is entitled “The Welch Mountain Bike Initiative” and will document a 10 year process to develop world class trails and mountain biking in a formerly depressed area in rural Wales.

Dafydd worked as a recreation officer for Forestry Commission UK for 11 years until 2004. During his tenure with Forestry Commission, Mr. Davis was responsible for development of 5 world class trail centers on government forest lands including Coed Y Brenin Forest Park in North Wales in the mid-1990s. His work is credited with saving the local economy in rural areas of Wales. Previous economic drivers of these areas had been extensive extractive use of the forested lands (coal mining, timbering). The design and building of these trail centers which included hiking and mountain bike trails boosted the local businesses that catered to visitors and thus turned depressed areas into eco-tourism based thriving economies.

Before the development of the Coed Y Brennin trail network, the visitation in 1994 to that forest park was 14,000. After the great work of Dafydd and his team developing the world class trail system, visitation grew each year with 2004 figures reaching 200,000.

Dafydd stepped down from his position with Forestry Commission in 2004 to start a private trail consulting business. His work in development of these great trail centers and saving the local economies did not go un-noticed by government officials. In fact, in 2004 Mr. Davis received a MBE award as Part of the Queen’s Birthday Honors for “services to forestry”. The MBE is the highest award a civilian can be awarded in the UK, equivalent to being benighted by the Queen. As a private trail consultant, his work has taken him to Japan, Israel, Poland, Canada, Ireland and the Czech Republic.

“We are really excited to have Dafydd coming over to present at our conference” said Woody Keen, President of PTBA and President of Trail Dynamics a western NC trail contractor. “The story for Wales is a great one to tell and many areas could learn from this lesson”. “We have many “trails” in our area but many of them started life as timber extraction corridors and were not designed and built in a sustainable way and thus are now having a large negative impact on natural resources”. “I had the opportunity to go over to the UK for 3 weeks in 2009 and came away really impressed with what I saw.” The trip for Keen was part pleasure visiting many great hiking and mountain biking trails, but also part work as he had been invited to speak at the World Mountain Bike Conference in Scotland.

The Professional TrailBuilders Association is a trade association of companies in the US and Canada who offer trail related services including: trail planning and design, trail construction, maintenance and re-construction work, GIS and mapping services, and trail education work. PTBA holds its conference on a bi-annual basis and the conference in 2009 was the most successful ever. Keen said “2009 was so successful for us it was easy to make the decision to return for 2011. There are a lot of different types of trails for us to go look at as part of our conference, some good and some really bad”. The Asheville area is well known nationally as being a hot bed of trails and even President Obama and First Lady Michelle enjoyed a hike on a Blue Ridge Parkway trail when on vacation in 2010.

A special 1-day rate has been set for Tuesday March 15th of $50 to encourage locals to take advantage of the Keynote address by Dafydd Davis. The full conference is 3 days of concurrent sessions (40), an indoor expo with vendors who supply machines and trail related products such as lumber, and an outdoor demo area where participants can try out the latest machines for trail building.
The entire conference happens at the Crowne Plaza hotel and the demo area is held on part of the old golf course.

There are also many pre and post conference workshops associated with the PTBA Sustainable Trails Conference ranging from 1 day to 3 days in length. Topics for some of the workshops include: chainsaw safety and certification, mechanized trail building, rock armoring, wilderness first aid, and road to trail conversion.

Many of the workshops take place in nearby DuPont State Forest. Forest Supervisor David Brown is thankful for all the professional and yet free work to trails in DuPont. In 2009, workshops completed several great trails including Pine Tree which has become a very popular trail for mountain bikers. Mr. Brown reports that mountain biking has become the number one recreational activity in DuPont Forest. Mountain bikers from local areas but also far away have enjoyed the development and improvements to trail system in the last 10 years. It is not uncommon to see riders from many states away and also Canada out on the trails and in the 5 trailhead areas in DuPont. The readers of Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine have voted DuPont State Forest as the favorite mountain bike trail system in the southeast twice in the past 5 years.

The message that Dafydd Davis will deliver at the keynote address is a good lesson for the local area with so much public lands. The investment in good sustainable trails at the UK mountain bike centers has more than paid off in return dollars spent in the local economies. Local eateries, local hotel/motels and bed and breakfasts, as well as local outfitters and guides have combined to collectively be the economic driver in many of the rural areas of Scotland and Wales. Western NC is similar in that trails are becoming a very important eco-tourism driver and the impact that trails have on the local economy and quality of life are just now being recognized. Woody Keen noted “In DuPont and local USFS trails we are not where we need to be, but we are slowly getting there. Replacing old timber extraction corridors with purpose built single track trail is not only more sustainable and causing less long term natural resource problems, but the improved visitor experience is having a large and positive impact to the local economy”.

For more information on the PTBA Sustainable Trails Conference, please visit:
http://www.trailbuilders.org/conference/ptba_conf.html