Mille horarum fodiendi

Trail Dirt

Monthly musings on trails to inspire & educate all who share a passion for exploring the outdoors. Join me as I dig into the art & science of creating & maintaining trails.

Trail Dirt

“In Spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
Margaret Atwood


Musings on trails to inspire & educate all who share a passion for exploring the outdoors. Join me as I dig into the art & science of creating & maintaining trails.


Speaker for the Trails

It’s easy to take for granted the amazing network of trails we have on the North Shore. Mountain bikers come from all over the world to ride here. We’ve got it good…a variety of trails serving beginner to advanced riders and multiple flavours to choose from: fast and flowy, slow and skinny, or steep, rooty, and rocky. We have established permitting processes and trail maintenance agreements as a result of good working relationships with the local land managers. For the past few years, the NSMBA has even received funding from some land managers to support both regular trail maintenance as well as new trail construction projects.

But there are still very real threats to trail access for mountain bikers as well as threats to the variety of trail experiences that we enjoy. Recently the District of North Vancouver issued a closure notice of the Griffen switchbacks(1) on Fromme citing environmental risks. Metro Vancouver’s LSCR Trails Strategic Plan(2) for trails on Seymour within their jurisdiction potentially threatens the character of some of the trails they manage. If these recommendations are followed there is the possibility these trails may lose their original technical challenges.

Your voice matters. Many land managers hold public consultations, including user surveys at trailheads and online, open house events, and stake-holder meetings. Many trail organizations also compile annual surveys. Participating in these formal feedback sessions is important, but they are not the only opportunities to speak for the trails. Email is a powerful tool. Do not underestimate the strength of your single voice(3) and don’t wait until it’s too late. There’s no time like the present to be a keyboard hero and send a quick note. There doesn’t need to be a crisis facing the trails to show your appreciation for the current trail work that is being done or to share your ideas for the future of the trails and the network.

Trail: Bridle Path, Mt Seymour. Photographer: D. Clendenan

Impressed at how well a trail held up over winter despite the heavy rainfall? Stoked to see an old wooden stunt rebuilt? That’s thanks to the trail work done by your local builders and trail association. If you like the work you see on the trails, let the Land Managers know. Tell them you appreciate the work of your local trail association and the hard working volunteers. Often land managers only hear about complaints, it’s important that the squeaky wheels are not the only voice they hear. Be passionate, be polite, be professional. If you’d like guidance on what to say, reach out to your local trail association or builders, they’ll be happy to help.

Looking forward to progressing your skills on a trail that’s a little steeper and a little rougher? Enjoy the wood features and want to help ensure they are replaced rather than removed? Excited about taking your child out on the upgraded Empress Bypass and being able to ride together as a family? Again, let the Land Managers know that you value each of those trail experiences and want to preserve the character of those trails. The variety is what makes our network so great.

Trails always need your support, don’t take it for granted that we’ll always have access to our present variety of trail experiences, it’s up to all of us to speak for the trails.

Trail: Bridle Path. Rider: P. Deck. Photographer: D. Clendenan

Trail: Bridle Path. Rider: P. Deck. Photographer: D. Clendenan

Trail: Forever After. Rider: P. Deck. Photographer: I. Deguise

Trail: Forever After. Rider: P. Deck. Photographer: I. Deguise

Not sure which land manager looks after the trail you want to give feedback on? Use the “Land Owner” overlay on Trailforks to view maps that illustrate the boundaries between jurisdictions.

Notes and References

Full disclosure: I am a permitted builder through the NSMBA on various trails managed by Metro Vancouver, the District of North Vancouver, Recreation Sites & Trails BC, and BC Parks.

  1. DNV Closure of Griffen Switchbacks

  2. Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve Trails Strategic Plan- Metro Vancouver 2019

    The document proposes to “restore CBC as a unique downtrack mountain bike trail”(1) but the restoration includes recommendations to remove double black diamond features(2). While the LSCR Trails Strategic Plan does allow for the provision of “adequate work arounds for intermediate riders”, LSCR staff indicated at a stakeholder meeting in November 2018 that they will not support having double black diamond rated trails on the land they manage. For Dale’s Trail, the report recommends “upgrading lower sections to flow better with Section 1 of Dale’s to provide a cohesive user experience from top to bottom”.(1) Another recommendation from the strategic plan proposes upgrading Cabin Trail “to be part of ‘top to bottom’ flow to provide a cohesive mountain bike experience”. Some recommendations are made based on environmental concerns: rerouting a trail around a sensitive wetland area will protect that area from user damage and can also improve user experience of the trail. Other recommendations are based on safety: removal of rotting wooden stunts eliminates hazards to all trail users. Assuming that the feature is replaced in kind, the trail’s character remains unaffected. Repairing the trail surface, improving water management, and protecting floral and fauna also does not need to change the character of the trail. Hopefully the Land Manager will work with the NSMBA and the permitted builders and approve repairs and maintenance work that preserves the present trail experiences.

  3. Recently I and two others volunteered over 70 hours of time (collectively) to replace a rotten feature that had become a hazard. We had met with the Land Manager, written up a work plan, and had permission to do the work. Unfortunately, a member of the larger community disliked the feature and complained. Compounded by some miscommunications and a swift reaction from the Land Manager, the feature was removed on a sunny Sunday a mere two days after we finished construction. All the result of a complaint from single trail user. We’ve since clarified the communications and were able to rebuild the feature. Most of the materials were salvageable. Again, the take home message here is that your voice matters.

Penny Deck