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  1. #1
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    Mechanized Trail Building Advice

    An opportunity has come up to build a trail system on a soon to be abandoned golf course. The agency in charge of the golf course has already secured funding to reforest the area, and has approached local builders about designing and building a trail system first, then having the trees planted around the trail.

    This blank canvas is a trail designer's dream when it comes to having the flexibility and line-of-site to really make great use of the property. On the other hand, the property is completely devoid of natural benches, so practically every inch of trail will need to be bench cut. In most past projects, I've used mechanized tools very sparingly due in part to inexperience, but mainly to preserve delicate features such as trees, rock formations, etc.

    This project however seems primed for a nice machine cut bench. Given the lack of professional trail builders in my area, it's likely that I will have experienced operators at my disposable but with little experience building trails, so I need to educate myself to effectively combine my design experience with their operating experience. I also expect to produce a lot of clean, usable dirt from the bench cutting, which I would like to transport to a defined spot for use on a pump track or skills area.

    2 questions for those of you experienced in mechanized trail building:

    1. Given what I'm trying to accomplish, along with the absence of tree roots and rocks that would otherwise require something with considerable ripping power, what equipment would you use to perform the bench cutting as well as dirt hauling? I'd like to keep the impact of hauling dirt to a minimum.

    2. Since the machine operators will likely have little trail building experience, do you have any recommendations for communicating clearly my goals as well as any potential pitfalls I might encounter working with operators that are new to trail building?

  2. #2
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    You need to direct this question to Woody Keen. Experienced machine operators are one thing. Experience using them to build trails is a totally different animal. May wind up making a mess.
    What I know working with Bob Karriker at Lake Norman State Park and Fisher Farm Park is to conserve your resources the most you can. I would say the best machine for doing that would be a mini excavator.

    Here is a very brief and generalized description that is only to give you an idea of the technique and in no way is giving you detailed instructions on how to accomplish it.

    1. Clear duff and organic material off.
    2. First pass with the bucket on the inside (towards the slope) side of the bench.
    3. Lay that dirt on top of the outside edge of the cut.
    4. Level to create complete bench cut.

    This is a full bench cut but could be considered a partial bench as you're not completely cutting dirt from the total width of the tread. But since you would be driving several thousand pounds of rubber track over it, it will compact well and act exactly like full bench.

    I've seen this technique used over 15 (soon to be over 25) miles at Lake Norman State Park.

    Good luck!

  3. #3
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    I've got some experience working on a golf course, and the best low-impact transporter I have seen is the Toro Workman HD.
    -They come in gas or diesel options (go diesel if you can).
    -23+ horsepower motor, standard transmission that makes it drive just like a truck.
    -Max speeds of over 20 MPH
    -ROPS for safety
    -2WD and 4-WD options
    -1.5 ton rated load capacity (we put in more)
    -4' x 6' x 1' hydraulic dump bed. AWESOME!
    -drawbar for towing trailers, etc
    -PTO and remote hydraulics for additonal tools and equipment


    If this place hasn't sold all their equipment yet, see if they have one. Chances are you could buy one used, get the job done, and sell it afterward without any real depreciation. The things are AMAZING. We drove them on all parts of the golf course except the greens on a daily basis.
    Go ride your bike.

  4. #4
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    A mini-x is a great do-it-all tool, which I prefer most of the time. For the type of terrain you're talking about, I would suggest bench cutting with a Sweco and finish with a mini-X to add some fun factor in the trail. The Sweco is way faster than the mini-x in clean terrain, so that would cut your price down.

    I also suggest you talk to a professional, like Woody @ Trail Dynamic, to get a better idea.
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  5. #5
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    Oh what could be done with that kind of clean slate... i'll return to this thread when i got some time. i just had to say, for a mountain bike park, as a park designer, you could NOT do any better than to have an abandoned golf course.

    Access for everything is open, with careful planning you could shoot the moon.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by sambs827 View Post
    I've got some experience working on a golf course, and the best low-impact transporter I have seen is the Toro Workman HD.
    -They come in gas or diesel options (go diesel if you can).
    -23+ horsepower motor, standard transmission that makes it drive just like a truck.
    -Max speeds of over 20 MPH
    -ROPS for safety
    -2WD and 4-WD options
    -1.5 ton rated load capacity (we put in more)
    -4' x 6' x 1' hydraulic dump bed. AWESOME!
    -drawbar for towing trailers, etc
    -PTO and remote hydraulics for additonal tools and equipment


    If this place hasn't sold all their equipment yet, see if they have one. Chances are you could buy one used, get the job done, and sell it afterward without any real depreciation. The things are AMAZING. We drove them on all parts of the golf course except the greens on a daily basis.
    Kubota RTV 900 are another option in that kind of Mule. I'ts a good personnel transporter and "light duty" workhorse (we move thousands of cubic yards of dirt and rock with that), but it's clearly not the machine he will need to build the type of bike park he's aiming for. Mid-size to full-size excavator, bulldozer and such are the key. Smaller machines for landscaping.
    I build trails for moose & beaver
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  7. #7
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    Ype

    Quote Originally Posted by HypNoTic View Post
    A mini-x is a great do-it-all tool, which I prefer most of the time. For the type of terrain you're talking about, I would suggest bench cutting with a Sweco and finish with a mini-X to add some fun factor in the trail. The Sweco is way faster than the mini-x in clean terrain, so that would cut your price down.

    I also suggest you talk to a professional, like Woody @ Trail Dynamic, to get a better idea.
    +1 on the sweco and mini-x to follow. My local chapter has a sweco that me and another operate and it is by far the fastest way to build trail. The mini-x comes in behind and finishes with little or no handwork. You got alot for what you pay for with experienced trail builders. Just have a good plan with the trail flagged, gpsed, and approved no what you really want the finished product to look and ride like. Just my opinion.
    Too wet to ride!

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by th29 View Post
    1. Given what I'm trying to accomplish, along with the absence of tree roots and rocks that would otherwise require something with considerable ripping power, what equipment would you use to perform the bench cutting as well as dirt hauling? I'd like to keep the impact of hauling dirt to a minimum.

    2. Since the machine operators will likely have little trail building experience, do you have any recommendations for communicating clearly my goals as well as any potential pitfalls I might encounter working with operators that are new to trail building?
    If you're in a wide open situation like a golf course, access is going to be ridiculously simple.

    As per your description and not knowing your budget. i know that a mini-excavator is you for sure ticket item.

    i have never used a dozer and won't argue about it's effectiveness. But to me i could see a loader being way more of a benefit especially if we're looking to be more creative in bringing in material. i was looking at Bobcats and you can switch the bucket to a blade which would give you much more freedom. Are you going to backfill the sandpits with the extra organic from the cut? Are you going to do anything with the sand.

    Another item i would totally get would be a simple dependable used flat-bed with removable side-boards, preferably with a dump-lift. Since we're out in the open there is no reason in the world you can't use a conventional vehicle to speed things along. As per your description this sounds like a must-get. Stockpiled organics to take away, extra mineral soil to transport, materials to bring in like rocks for rock gardens, logs board for wooden features etc.

    Quote Originally Posted by th29 View Post

    2. Since the machine operators will likely have little trail building experience, do you have any recommendations for communicating clearly my goals as well as any potential pitfalls I might encounter working with operators that are new to trail building?
    You will likely have to hold their hand constantly if they don't have any experience in that regard.

    i personally think the learning curve is going to be faster training yourself and other trusted trail building members of your group to operate the machinery. And i think the final product will likely be much better.

    If this isn't an option, i would expect to be onsite constantly.

    There is a learning curve in each individual aspect here. Trail building, machine operating, and trail building with a machine. Each one involves a completely different approach. Even if you don't eventually operate the machine, the better you understand the process in it's effectiveness and learn how to support it and put it into positions where it is sped up by your decisions, and it speeds up the building is where you want to be.

    Or put more simply, you don't want to get too brutish with the machine as it will just make more handwork later, and you don't want to get too cute with it too.

    Having a plan for each work day, and thinking on a faster larger scale, all the while constantly teaching trail building virtues. Be prepared to clearly explain what you want, because you won't want to undue what's been done and create more work with miscommunication.
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    .\....FAILBOAT..../

  9. #9
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    Thanks guys. As things progress I'm sure I'll be reaching out for more advice. It might be awhile, but I'll post pics and project plans as they get approved.

    Looks like funding might be getting more difficult with RTP in limbo. Time to get creative.

  10. #10
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    Specialty dozers like a sweeko are scarry expensive. You can find a used toro dingo and there is an aftermarket 6 way blade available which makes cutting a bench easy. A dingo type machine is easy to operate since you walk behind it. There are other brands also.
    All the attachments available for them is great also. This is what I'm looking for her in NW WA.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by no nancies View Post
    Specialty dozers like a sweeko are scarry expensive. You can find a used toro dingo and there is an aftermarket 6 way blade available which makes cutting a bench easy. A dingo type machine is easy to operate since you walk behind it. There are other brands also.
    All the attachments available for them is great also. This is what I'm looking for her in NW WA.
    This is not a typical trail system. Being open, without any roots/rock/crap to care about, planning cannot be viewed the same way as a trail in a forest.

    A 8000lbs Sweco with 83hp is still the fastest way to cut a trail in that kind of terrain. I've heard numerous case of 1 MILE per day of benchcut (specially in Utah). Hiring a pro with his machine to cut that for you is still cheaper than buying a Ditch Witch/Bobcat/Toro walk-behind skid-steer + training + equipment.

    For the sake of comparison, in the best conditions, I average 400m of rough cut per day with a SK650 and a blade, after many years of practice. Keep in mind that grass on a gold course is pretty strong so a small machine will lack the weigh to push through it.

    Rule of thumb : get the right tool for the job or you'll waste your time and money.

    My 0.02$ CDN
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  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by HypNoTic View Post
    For the sake of comparison, in the best conditions, I average 400m of rough cut per day with a SK650 and a blade, after many years of practice. Keep in mind that grass on a gold course is pretty strong so a small machine will lack the weigh to push through it.

    Rule of thumb : get the right tool for the job or you'll waste your time and money.

    My 0.02$ CDN

    Hint: Use old tires under the tracks. I used to be a greenkeeper. When we wanted to bring in a dozer to do some work we would get some old tires and rotate them under the tracks to get the dozer where we were working. Works like a charm.

    And I completely agree on hiring a pro with the right equipment. Nothing is faster or as cost effective.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by UncleTrail View Post
    Hint: Use old tires under the tracks. I used to be a greenkeeper. When we wanted to bring in a dozer to do some work we would get some old tires and rotate them under the tracks to get the dozer where we were working. Works like a charm.
    True.dat

    For lighter machines, a plywood sheet is pretty efficient too. And if you have a thumb on a mini-x, the operator can work with 2 sheets of plywood, moving one while standing on the other. No need for an assistant that move the stuff around.
    I build trails for moose & beaver
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