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  1. #1
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    Suggestions for ignored switchback? [pics]

    Hi all,
    Last year, our local group created a switchback around a steep section of trail that was doing more harm than good. It was rutted and could not be climbed uphill. We cleared and bench-cut a switchback, and reinforced it. We then covered the old trail and made it pretty clear that you need to follow the switchback.

    See pictures and more here: http://www.exit-row.com/northpark/

    I came back to check on that switchback, and it's completely not being used. Now granted, the pictures I posted on that site are from March, but it's the same situation. People have completely cleared all the deadfall we placed on the old trail, and instead have just neglected the new switchback.

    What can we do about this? I originally considered laminating a small directional sign and putting it in front of the old trail. Someone else suggested we move a HEAVY tree in the way of the old trail.

    Ideas?

    Thanks!

  2. #2
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    Beyond the obvious...

    Close the corridor with large (3 person) trees or rocks.
    Can you put any standing deadfall there? (I.e. downed trees with leaves still on 'em, Kinda replant 'em right IN the old trail.)
    Curn up the old trail tread with pick-axes and shovels to loosen the dirt and make it 1) easier to grow stuff there, and 2) harder to ride.

    Is there any obvious reason why people would go the shorter route? Is the switchback a pain to do? Is the old section fun? Is the switchback apparent?

    Good luck,

    JmZ
    JmZ

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    Advocate as if your ride depends on it...

  3. #3
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    Flow ruiner from the looks of it.

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    Heavy stuff blocking the old line is a must. Make it so the old line really sucks and would take some serious effort to make it not suck. Those that "just ride" usually don't go for serious efforts off the bike.

    Perhaps an interpretive sign endorsed by the land manager explaining why the fall line section had to go and why the new re-route is needed.

    I put signs up here that say "Stay on trail or stay home". But these are usually at rideable logs/rocks that folks make lines around.

    Folks hate change, even it improves the flow, moves water off the trail. I have said that I could build a trail to someone's front door and they'd complain about it. But I never ride the trails they built because they don't build any.

  5. #5
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    I thiunk your best bet would be to start the reroute further back, out of sight a bit from the bottom leg. Take the top part a bit higher and further than the turn you guys added before looping back. Give them more trail and trail that is out of sight of the old line.

    Dewayne

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by drumbum

    Ideas?

    Thanks!
    Sorry for the questions. May help get more answers.

    Is this a shared use trail with hikers? Most cyclist are up for longer trails, but hikers will want the shortcut when the two legs of the trail are that close. "Why walk all the way down there when I can see the trail right here?" If hikers are responcible, you could install some stairs.

    Is the reroute turn to tight? Can you bring the turn out to a view or something that folks will want to see before they head the other direction. Did you build a nice burm or retaining wall for the new turn?

  7. #7
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    I'm one of the people that worked on that too. I was just out there today and witnessed some riders using (and skidding down) the old route. I did see some logs and such that we could use to make a more substantial barricade.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly
    Is this a shared use trail with hikers?
    Yes, the county parks (this trail is in North Park) are all multi use.

    Is the reroute turn to tight?
    I don't think it's unrideably tight. I would call myself an intermediate rider and I can ride it.


    Can you bring the turn out to a view or something?
    It's really kind of moderate/heavy vegetation in that area. Would be too much work to clear.

    Did you build a nice burm or retaining wall for the new turn?
    We did build a retaining wall

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fattirewilly
    Sorry for the questions. May help get more answers.

    Is this a shared use trail with hikers? Most cyclist are up for longer trails, but hikers will want the shortcut when the two legs of the trail are that close. "Why walk all the way down there when I can see the trail right here?" If hikers are responcible, you could install some stairs.

    Is the reroute turn to tight? Can you bring the turn out to a view or something that folks will want to see before they head the other direction. Did you build a nice burm or retaining wall for the new turn?
    The trail is open to hikers, but it's not in a location that hikers would care about. I highly doubt any hikers use it.

    The reroute is not too tight. It's challenging, but no different than the rest of the trail; it fits right in. There really isn't a view or anything special that we could use. However, the switchback has a pretty good retaining wall/small berm; we put a good amount of thought into it.

  9. #9
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    Hmmm, I'm not sure I'm aware of this spot in the park. I'll have to check it out this weekend. Probably the only viable suggestions I can think of are Dewayne's to start the reroute farther back (avoiding the sight line of the old trail) and JmZ's suggestion to work heavily on revegetating the old section (transplant some saplings INTO the old trail tread and break it up with pickaxes), and placing VERY large boulders in the way. Knowing North Park, I'm not sure it would be easy to get rocks large enough placed there. The only way I see that option working is if there are really large rocks nearby (preferably uphill from the work site). If you can move them with only one or two people, they're not big enough.

    In my experience, the only way logs work is if you use relatively fresh ones (that are not rotten) and you can use heavy bailing wire to tie them into place. It also helps to place or plant some nasty, thorny plants in the vicinity to discourage tampering. I have had bailing wire log barricades last a couple years (long enough that people don't think about the old route anymore).

    I would also caution against reopening this feature if it really is a flow breaker. There's one series of switchbacks that heads Northwest from the dam that REALLY break the flow of the trail if you're coming downhill. I'm not sure who built that section, but it looked awful new a year ago when I rode it for the first time.

  10. #10
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    A battle

    I saw in an IMBA publication a good way to deal with "trail editors" is to drive some stakes in, put some brush over the old trail, then wire the brush to the stakes. Make sure you use heavy wire, and place it under the brush in a hard to get at location.

    Putting heavy logs or rocks over the old trail would do the same, with more work.

    Good luck!

    Walt

  11. #11
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    a solution

    I studied your photos and have a couple of suggestions. first of all I've never seen the trail, don't know what was discussed before the reroute and am basing my suggestion on photos that may not accurately convey what is there.

    1. The reroute looks to me to disrupt flow. If it didn't disrupt flow the re-route would be used. It is hard to fight flow, that why we go with it.
    2. Is this a two way trail?
    3. The old trail looks to be a very short, isolated area. But per your post is getting eroded by downhill traffic hitting the brakes. At times short isolated areas will have erosion. The only way to avoid it is to stay out of the woods. But I believe we can minimize your situation.

    If a two way trail, keep the reroute for those going uphill, a simple sign can point this out.
    For down hill traffic, the key is to get your riders to slow down before braking and skidding into this spot.

    page 80 of Trail solutions talks about controlling speed, corraling, chokes and turns. It looks like there is a long site line. A long sight line gives you some options for a gentle transition to a slower speed. . I suggest a choke before the steep section that will slow riders down that will not disrupt flow. This is also a challenge and maybe be brought up in a separate thread. ( I bet you will get some very good suggestions. photos too??).
    list what materials are nearby for use.

    Suggestions: narrow the trail down with a few rocks or piles of dirt. or. a few large logs sticking into half the trail, stagger them to create slight swoopy turns. Also add a sign asking riders to not skid or drag tires on downhills.

    I looked on the imba site, as I recall seeing a good example of a choke and could not find it today.

    My reply is not intended to diminish the work you've done on the reroute.

    good luck and please post photos of your solution.

    Charlie

  12. #12
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    I forgot to mention the choke. Uptrail about 25-40 feet is a rather large log "roll-down". Although not a true "choke point", it does slow down most riders. It looks more technical than it is, so riders slow down beforehand. Plus, they are coming off of a turn, so they don't have that much time to build up a ton of speed.

    The trail is for both uphill and downhill traffic. I know that uphill riders have been using the switchback, which is good. It's just the downhill traffic that ignores it. Yes, it is somewhat of a flow killer.

    I guess I've come to the conclusion that both "spurs" should be left as-is for the time being. I fear that we don't have the resources to permanently close off the old rutted slope. I'm thinking it would be wise to just attempt to armor the old hill and hope for the best. Maybe a small arrow sign would get in the conscience of at least a couple more riders.

    I'll post more detailed pictures, and maybe a solution in a couple weeks.

    Thanks again!

    -Vaughn

  13. #13
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    Respectfully disagree

    cjohnson says: "I1. The reroute looks to me to disrupt flow. If it didn't disrupt flow the re-route would be used. It is hard to fight flow, that why we go with it. "

    Pretty much by definition a switch back is going to have less flow than a fall line trail. In other words it will be slower by flattening the slope, and further slow the riders down by inserting a sharp turn. Surely you are not saying that we should stop building switchbacks?

    drumbum: My $0.02 is that it's going to take at least as much work to armor the fall-line decent as to close it off. Your choice.

    Walt

  14. #14
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    I agree with Walt Dizzy...if you try to armor that fall-line segment, it'll take at least, if not more work than closing it and forcing people to use the switchback.

    Now, it the switchback is a major flowbreaker, then there are solutions to get people to use it. You could slow down the traffic on that trail by inserting obstacles (more than the log you mention). Logs would be easier, but if you could use some local stone, they'd be more permanent. If you could slow folks down on the downhill approach, the switchback would not interrupt the flow so much, and they'd be more likely to take it.

    Just be careful of abrupt changes. You don't want to go immediately from a fast & flowy trail to a slow & technical one. It sounds to me like the curve before the downed tree would be the beginning of your transition from fast & flowy to slow & technical.

    Drumbum or Leaf Magnet, do either of you guys have a gps file of this spot so I can get out there and actually look at it? I was planning on going for a ride on Sunday, and I could probably check this spot out as a part of my ride. I'd meet up with one or both of you guys, but I'll be riding with my wife and I'm sure the pace will be WAY too slow for you. Send me a private message.

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    While 4-5 hours of work seems like a lot of time, when it comes to switchback construction, it can take much longer to complete what really needs to be done. As with most trail work, experience building structures of any kind will show that most work crews want to leave an area when the structure appears finished but is maybe 60-80% of what it should be.

    The ideal switchback that will need very little maintenance, is one that has no gain in altitude. You have an incline on the approach and after you come out of the turn but you cut the turn so that it is perfectly level. Most switchbacks varry from the ideal and some are downright corkscrews that degrade rapidly.

    Think about removing the three small trees that appear in the photo just after the uphill rider would make the turn. Then maybe remove another foot of material in the area where those trees were to lower the trail. This will allow the riders to easily make the turn without spinning out or worrying about catching their handlebars on the small trees. Then they can accelerate on up the trail. Later on, if you find that downhill riders are coming in too hot and skidding or creating washboard on the approach to the turn, you can create a small chicane in the area of the photo where the wheelbarrow is, to force them to scrub of a bit more speed. In that same spot, you could undulate and slightly outslope the trail slightly to capture and drain any downhill water flows before it can get to your switchback.

    It really looks like you chose the best location for your reroute and that you have done some good work to this point. A little more work and perhaps riders will forget about the old line.

  16. #16
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    We had a similar problem near here. We solved it by planting some whitethorn and poison oak.

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    OK, I talked to our trail group's founder today and he said they're thinking of having the Parks Dept. put in some fencing there.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leaf Magnet
    OK, I talked to our trail group's founder today and he said they're thinking of having the Parks Dept. put in some fencing there.
    Fencing? Come on...there are MUCH better options than that!

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk
    Fencing? Come on...there are MUCH better options than that!
    I agree, the fencing idea sucks. I can see the plastic blaze orange netting now.

    So a few DH riders are the problem. Give them an nice "burm turn" that they'll want to hit, plant a few saplings, find 1 or 2 four-person logs or rocks, and it's case closed.

  20. #20
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    It's not even a downhiller thing. This is very much a XC trail, and you have to earn your downhills. I haven't heard from drumbum or Leaf Magnet about a meeting time yet. I'll probably just go out there tomorrow sometime and try to locate this problem spot on my own.

  21. #21
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    Stop calling me shirley :)

    Nooooo, I am not saying we should stop building switchbacks. I'll have to re-read my post, but what I wanted to convey, was to keep the switchback for uphill traffic, slow down the downhill traffic and let them use the bit of old trail. I meant those comments only for the short stretch of trail in that photograph, not all trails in general.

    If there is going to be some revolutionary trail building technique devised, it won't be from me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Walt Dizzy
    cjohnson says: "I1. The reroute looks to me to disrupt flow. If it didn't disrupt flow the re-route would be used. It is hard to fight flow, that why we go with it. "

    Pretty much by definition a switch back is going to have less flow than a fall line trail. In other words it will be slower by flattening the slope, and further slow the riders down by inserting a sharp turn. Surely you are not saying that we should stop building switchbacks?

    drumbum: My $0.02 is that it's going to take at least as much work to armor the fall-line decent as to close it off. Your choice.

    Walt

  22. #22
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    I got out this afternoon (only went from the TH to the problem site and back, which MIGHT have been 1/2 mile due to the heat) to check out this problem area, and I came away feeling pretty positive that the whole mess can be fixed with a work day and maybe half a dozen strong bodies.

    The photos posted don't really give you a clear idea of really how much deadfall there is nearby. There is a TON of it, and it would make an excellent barrier wall to prevent people from shortcutting the switchback. Furthermore, there are a lot of sharp, thorny shrubs nearby that could be transplanted to protect the barrier wall from being tampered with. The materials are already on-site. If we're ambitious enough, there are some uprooted stumps that could be half-buried in the problem spot, too. There are PLENTY of materials, we just need people to do it.

    The only things we'd need would be a chainsaw to cut them, several bodies to move them (or, some strong rope and a come-along), some heavy duty bailing wire to secure them in place (there are two trees that would be ideal for this), and possibly some lengths of rebar to hammer into the ground to help prevent tampering. We'd need a shovel or two for transplanting the shrubs, a pick or a few for loosening the compacted, rocky soil, a garden rake or two for 'grooming' the reclaimed trail so vegetation can grow, and plenty of sturdy work gloves.

    I have in my garage a shovel, garden rake, a pick mattock, and some rope that MIGHT help. I also have some wire cutters, an axe, and a maul (to hammer rebar or split any logs). The only supplies I'm lacking are the chainsaw, bailing wire, rebar, bodies, and something to haul the tools.

    I saw a couple fairly minor changes that could be made to the switchback itself. The approach could be changed a little bit to reduce people's tendency to want to take the old trail and slow traffic down to prepare them for the switchback, but there's not a whole lot of wiggle room. Also, it doesn't appear that the turn itself is level, and it doesn't drain appropriately. A little more soil relocation (and moving some downfall) would fix that problem (but a single person with a shovel could do it anytime, really, so this part doesn't have to be tackled at the same time as the barrier construction). I would also probably like to see at least one of the saplings on the upper leg cut out. It looks like quite a bit of the roots were cut during the bench, and the trail runs right over most of the remaining roots. Those trees are going to die, anyway, so better to remove them entirely, IMO.

    I am game for closing the fall line trail completely and for good if we can get together enough bodies to pull it off. Anyone available on the 12th/13th of this month for a work day?

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by NateHawk

    I am game for closing the fall line trail completely and for good if we can get together enough bodies to pull it off. Anyone available on the 12th/13th of this month for a work day?
    If you have enough people in your area reading this Save the Trails forum to pull off a successful workday, more power to you!!!!

  24. #24
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    Id be game for sometime early this month. We could do the work in stages too if we can't all get together at once. Stage one, we could cut out the smaller trees near the switchback. Stage 2, plant bushes, etc......

    I wonder if we could just put in a logpile on the "rutted" downhill instead? It would slow riders down in addition to making it more challenging. Plus, downhill logpiles are still rated fairly high on the fun factor. The switchback could be used for uphill riders and people unwilling to go over the pile. Good idea/bad idea?

  25. #25
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    A downhill logpile could be a possibility, but I think it would take just as much work as an actual barrier wall. I think the temptation would still be there for someone to come along and pull out the log pile because it changes a trail that they liked before. To do it right, we'd still have to use some pretty long (I'd estimate 20' or more) logs to anchor to existing trees to keep it from getting moved. Then, what happens when the log pile rots away in a couple of years? Is someone going to go out there and build the log pile over?

    By building a barrier wall out of logs and transplanting sharp, nasty shrubbery, it ought to last long enough to give vegetation a hold and people will start to forget a trail was actually there in the first place. Then, when the barrier wall has rotted away, there will be undergrowth and saplings in its place.

    If it has to be done in stages, I think the wall should be built first. If you put the shrubs in first, the risk is very high that someone will come along and pull out the shrubs to open up the old trail again. Ideally, this project ought to be completed in one day. That way, there's no way around it.

    This wall MIGHT be feasible with fewer people, as long as all the necessary tools are present and some muscle power is replaced with ropes and pulleys (I also have a rock bar to use as a lever if we need it). Oh, and another thing I thought of...if we want any transplanted vegetation to actually take root, we probably ought to find a way to haul in a few gallons of water. I could probably personally lug 15 liters or so (using my backpacking pack, 4 hydration bladders, and a few bottles).

    Let me know if the 2nd weekend is cool (12th/13th) or if you need it to be a different day. I am EXTREMELY flexible at this point, and probably the biggest issue to contend with would be the weather. There are at least 3 of us local to the area who have been following this discussion, and the word could be easily distributed over some local e-mail lists, and there are probably a few other locals on the PA board who might express an interest.

  26. #26
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    It's pretty obvious what people prefer. You covered the old trail and did a damn good job on your new trail. If the case reversed itself after a season then leave it alone. Riders and hikers have decided over the year. You meant well, but leave it be. If you want to take a windabout route, then feel free, but don't close harder sections that some people may actually like. Again, it's cool what you did on the trail, but not everyone likes change on a trail.

  27. #27
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    Chainsaw work

    County parks doesn't want volunteers using a chainsaw for liability reasons. When we have our workdays, Don from the park maintenance staff does all that. Also they bought us a bunch of tools last year. As far as organising a workday, best bet would be getting in touch with PTAG's North Park contact person Craig Lewis (go to http://www.bike-pgh.org/ptag.html ,click on 'Work Days' and scroll down to North Park).

  28. #28
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    Good reason

    Quote Originally Posted by Odranicus
    It's pretty obvious what people prefer. You covered the old trail and did a damn good job on your new trail. If the case reversed itself after a season then leave it alone. Riders and hikers have decided over the year. You meant well, but leave it be. If you want to take a windabout route, then feel free, but don't close harder sections that some people may actually like. Again, it's cool what you did on the trail, but not everyone likes change on a trail.
    Possibly you are misunderstanding why the switchback was built. Folks like drumbum are not trying to take away riding fun by closing "harder sections that some people may actually like."

    If you go back and reread the initial post you will see that the section they are attempting to route around is rutted. While ruts may be fun to ride for a while, they only get deeper with time. We as mountain bikers don't tend to see anything wrong with this, but it makes parks people crazy. It's their job to protect the park, and things like this can make a manager look bad to his boss. Not to mention it's more ammunition to the environmentalists who want to ban bikes from all public land.

    The mountain biking community is fighting a never ending battle to keep trails open and to expand access. If we don't act responsibly to maintain the trails we have, our enemies will use it against us. The sad truth is that most bikers don't get involved in access or trail maintenence, and leave the work to a small group of people who work hard to keep users and land managers happy.

    May I respectfully suggest that if you feel the people doing the trail maintenence are doing it wrong, that you get involved and work with them to get it right? Before you dismiss the idea that you could have any influence, let me point out that I went from newbie volunteer to maintaining and expanding a trail system in 3 years.

    I strongly disagree with your statement "If the case reversed itself after a season then leave it alone. Riders and hikers have decided over the year." I've seen too many bad decisions made in exactly this way. We may think with our heads as well as our feet, maybe better.

    Walt

  29. #29
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    Is this the trail at North Park with very large tree tha fell across and was reroute into the where the roots were?

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    Quote Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA
    Is this the trail at North Park with very large tree tha fell across and was reroute into the where the roots were?
    I can think of a couple of instances where this has happened. Whether on purpose or by virtue of the fact that people needed to find a way around a huge impassable tree, I can't say for each case.

  31. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by BushwackerinPA
    Is this the trail at North Park with very large tree tha fell across and was reroute into the where the roots were?
    Uh, you could say that, yes. Some dirt has been built up so you just roll over the base of the tree.

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