Volklgirl posted this on TheSkiDiva.com and with her permission I am copying it over here. This looks like an awesome project and a great way to lend to the sport.
This weekend I'm attending a 2 day event called Trail School. Its purpose is to instruct students in the proper building of sustainable singletrack (day 1) and certification as a "Crew Leader" (day 2).
Today started with 3 hours of classroom time focusing on the safe use of tools, routing trails using natural features to control erosion and trail widening, proper digging of the trail surface to avoid water and erosion damage, and avoiding fall line trails while maintaining good trail "flow" and interest. The presentation and bookwork were both interesting and incredibly informative.
Our instructor and Michigan Mountain Bikers Association (MMBA) Northern Chapter president, Eric:
A quick break for bathroom and pizza, then we headed out to actually design and build some new trail!! We had 9 people, so we split into 2 groups to tackle 2 different re-reroutes of an existing trail.
My group (myself, Chris, Dave, and Eric) was given a section of trail that is currently routed badly with a slow-speed braking downhill section that's starting to erode followed by a sharp switchback and steep climb with bad flow. The land manager (Justin) and Eric had already walked the trails and determined the points where the new trail should depart and rejoin the original trail, then we were given free rein to design the new trail between those points using all the principles we had learned earlier. It turns out that I have an eye for appropriate slope grades and good flow - who knew?? The guys just looked kinda lost, so I jumped right in pointing out features where I thought the trail should go. They just gave me shocked looks, then followed me around flagging it as we walked. . Finally, I ran sections of it when we had questions about clearance and turn shape until it just looked right. Once we had it laid out with little red "pin flags", Eric and I picked up any deadfall and debris then Chris used a leaf blower and Dave used the weed eater to clear the trail.
Click each pic to go to host site, then click "Full Size" for a larger view
Here's Eric clearing deadfall along the pin flag line and trail "corridor" (the clear area to both sides of and above the trail):
To the left is the new trail markers, to the right is the old trail:
Chris leaf blowing the trail "tread" (the actual 18" trail surface) - you can actually see it begin to take shape:
Dave weed eating the tread:
A section of the new trail:
The new trail meets the old trail:
And.....our very first rider, already!!!
Turns out this guy had been loudly protesting the re-route, saying that we were closing his favorite part of the trail. When asked what he thought about the re-route, he grudgingly said "Well, it's slow now, but it'll be fun once it gets ridden in". Wow.
Tomorrow we'll be learning skills to be Crew Chief then going back to close and disguise the old trail. Then we're all going to ride the re-routed trails!:
Time to update the thread with day 2.
The morning class work consisted of learning proper armoring and switchback construction, the use of "rolling dips" to aid watershed, "reclaiming" (covering up) the old trail, and basic information on being a crew leader and a Trail Coordinator. Pizza for lunch at noon again (sigh), then off to the trail.
Because it was decided that our group's re-route would be the new trail and the old trail would continue to be used as an alternate advanced route, we had very little work left to do other than some final trimming and flagging the trail opening. Once we finished that, we headed over to the other re-route to help the second group.
Group 2 still had a significant amount of work to do. They had started at the end of the re-route and had worked backwards along with trail with a number of "climbing turns" (switchbacks that aren't so tight and are not built up on the outside). The main reason for the re-route was this totally erroded climb quickly becoming a huge sand pit.
Above this erroded area, "trail dams" were erected to prevent further erosion and allow natural cover to settle and grow over the old trail:
Digging the trail dam pit
Setting the dam
While some were setting trail dams and others were continuing to clear the new trail, a couple of us worked on reclaiming the old trail. First we filled in as much of the big ruts as we could, then we loosened up a bit of the top soil and knocked down the edges of the ruts
The dark area is the fresh top soil exposed and loosened
You can see where we leveled out as much of the pit as possible
Then the fresh topsoil is covered with natural debris to both disguise and protect the tread (can you see where the trail was?)
Finally, the old trail is blocked off and the re-route sign is installed
The proud builders
Walking out on the new trail
And - our first riders already!
We all got to ride both re-routes.....I even made the uphill section without walking any of it .
A couple of weeks later, we all received really nice certificates and a classy sew-on patch recognizing us as MMBA Certified Trail Builders. Cool :.
I highly recommend this experience for every off-road rider. It certainly gives you new skills and a new outlook on the trails you ride every day as well as an appreciation for the work and dedication that goes into building and maintaining our precious trails.
Trail building is an art, I love riding well built trail. When I do ride something that someone spent sweat equity building that doesn't follow good trail building practices I'm bummed... all that work incested in something that doesn't ride well and is doomed to erosion, oh well.
Several weeks later, we got to put all our new-found knowledge and experience to work. The community ski hill where our training took place already has around 11 miles of nice single track and has now flagged an additional 10 miles of new trail. They hope to have all 10 miles done before Labor Day when they will be hosting the Michigan Bicycle Festival. So, we scheduled some more trail building for National Trails Day on June 7.
Our core group was augmented with several more people (Yay!). We got started at 10:00 am and managed to put in another 3 miles of trail by 4:30. One section rockets along a long downhill (staying well under the 10% grade rule) through some hardwoods with a couple of whoops for interest. As we were clearing this section, I found and left several smaller trees (large branches) that had fallen across the tread area. I figured that they would 1) add interest and challenge, and 2) aid in containing possible erosion by acting as natural trail dams. Unfortunately, the guy using the weed wacker right behind me hadn't been to trail school so didn't really understand why I left them. He removed most of them while I was clearing farther up the trail : (stupid leg-shaving, heart-rate monitoring, weight-weenie cross country riders ). Just behind him, though, was the weed wacker/chain saw crew.....they put a couple of the logs back and left a really cool triple-bunny-hop-at-speed combination .
We had all brought our bikes with the intention of riding the main trail and the finished sections of the new trail, but 6 1/2 hours of grueling physical work had us all looking at each other going, "are you gonna ride?", "naw, what about you?", "naw, me either." We were all whipped, so everybody just went home .
there is absolutey NO log, roots, or log piles in Utah I am pretty convinced. It sucks!!! people need to learn how to actually ride here and not just be content with smooth single track. MY other beef is we have tons of eroded trails that are cut straight into the fallline they dont do that **** back east and I have no clue why they do this here.
I see deadfall(if small enough) as opptunity to make the trail more fun, I usually will take time and make a log pile over it perfect rideable by anyone with a brain only to see it gone when someone come through with a chainsaw.
BTW the irony that my favorite trail is amoung the buffest but that just because it was designed by the IMBA and has the perfect flow to it, basically no fallline cut that lead to water/tire erosion.