Trail Building School - BLM Style- Mtbr.com
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    Trail Building School - BLM Style

    This past week I participated in a BLM sponsored two day Trail Management Workshop. The instructors are two long time trail builders from the Forest Service, one from the Lake Tahoe area and one from the Northern California coast. The instructors were Karl Knapp and Don Beers and both are very knowledgeable in trail construction and maintenance issues and provide training for Forest Service, National Park Service and BLM planners around the country. Overall the class is like an intense masters level IMBA trail building school. It is definitely more detailed than a TCC visit.

    Here is a little run down of the training.

    Day One:
    1. Trail management process
    2. ADA and Accessibility Board issues (REGNEG)
    3. Road and Trail Plans (Agency use plans)
    4. Topographic maps and Aerial Photography (identifying geologic & hydrologic features like watersheds)
    5. Road to trail conversions
    Day Two:
    1. Trail design principles
    2. Trail layout concepts
    3. Field Day
    a. Clinometer use
    b. Identify area on topographic map
    c. Start sighting trail corridor with clinometers
    d. Refine corridor by back walking corridor (noting all clinometer readings for every section of trail (we had 14 drainages to cross)).
    e. Layout trail path and detail drainage approaches and flag new trail alignment
    f. Take down flags, report and debrief

    This was an excellent trail building class. Our trainers really stressed that pre-field planning was absolutely essential to the process. We as trail builders really need to study the topology and hydrology of the land – and not mess it up! We spent an hour with topographic maps identifying watersheds, drainages and multiple levels of sub drainages. In all of my trail building experiences in the past 13 years I’ve never had the opportunity to really study the layout possibilities of a new trail system. We normally end up fixing existing trails that weren’t designed, rather adopted from wild horse and game track. Wow, what a difference it would have made if our Cottonwood trails would have been properly designed. We’d still have maintenance, but not nearly the amount we have now.

    But that is a difference and a problem that we as volunteers have. We are coming into a trail building / maintenance situation after this pre-planning process should have been completed. Most of the time it has not been done by land managers and we pound in a trail where we/they think it should be. In the years I’ve been working on the Cottonwood Trail System we’ve never been provided with good topographic maps, let alone high quality GIS data.

    Our trainers had one major issue with our IMBA process. They really didn’t like the Rolling Grade Reversal! They felt that if the trail took advantage of the natural geologic features better – rolling grade reversals would not have to be fabricated arbitrarily (possibly messing up the natural drainages). I think they are right, but I also think that our IMBA principles are good, just sometimes our execution could be better in the field. But when you’re building trails with enthusiastic volunteers, things like approach angles into and out of drainages get botched a little.

    And, Oh yeah --- Clinometers are our friends!!!!!!!

    mbb
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