Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by John Tonin

CREATING A TRAIL – Rob Kunde removes the undergrowth to create a connecting trail for Logan’s Run and the 24 Hours of Light trail during the Contagious Mountain Bike Club Trail Maintenance Bootcamp on Wednesday in the forest behind Mount McIntyre.

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Photo by John Tonin

CLEARING THE ENTRANCE – Meagan Wilson the City Trail Crew lead begin work on the entrance of the connecting trail between Logan’s Run and the 24 Hours of Light trail during the Contagious Mountain Bike Club Trail Maintenance Bootcamp on Wednesday.

CMBC provides Trail Maintenance Bootcamp

The warm weather continues as we push toward summer, the winter sports have all but wrapped up, and it’s time for outdoor enthusiasts to trade in their cold weather gear for their mountain bikes.

By John Tonin on May 30, 2019

The warm weather continues as we push toward summer, the winter sports have all but wrapped up, and it’s time for outdoor enthusiasts to trade in their cold weather gear for their mountain bikes.

From Tuesday to Thursday of this week, the Contagious Mountain Bike Club (CMBC) hosted a Trail Maintenance Bootcamp starting at the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club to give its members the power and the confidence to to oversee the maintenance of trails.

CMBC has long hosted volunteer trail maintenance nights but this was the first ever bootcamp. The club, in working with the city’s trail maintenance staff, presented theory and practical skills for building and maintaining trails according to accepted standards.

They will also be looking at existing sections of trail to assess for sustainability and approaches to resolve problem sections.

During the first day of the bootcamp, a presentation was given to the 20-plus people in attendance.

Landon Kulych, the city’s manager of parks and community development, spoke to the attendees. He said the city relies on groups like CMBC to maintain, build and monitor trail infrastructure because there are more trails than the city can keep up with – the city has three people on its trail crew.

In the Whitehorse city limits, there are more than 700 kilometres of trails. The crew is responsible for maintaining just 150 kilometres of them, and Kulych noted it’s important to the city that the trails are maintained the right way.

It can be a lot of risk to the city and the person doing the trail work if it’s is not done though the proper channels.

CMBC and the city have a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which authorizes a certain amount of activity on the trails.

As official trail stewards, CMBC has certain trails they must maintain.

Kulych said there is a collective responsibility to maintain the asset or the "crown jewel" which is the trail network.

The education process continued with guest speaker Dexter Kotylak, the former city trails co-ordinator.

He outlined traits which make a good trail. They are: a trail protects the environment; prioritizes public safety; avoids conflicts; meets user needs; and requires little maintenance.

He continued to speak on trail grade, tread, using tools safely and what to look for when designing or maintaining a trail which meets all users’, not just bikers’, needs.

Scott Keesey, the CMBC’s director of trails, said more and more people are using the arteries, which is heightening the demand for trail maintenance.

"These trails are getting a lot more traffic now than they used to," said Keesey when asked about the decision to host a bootcamp. "The population is increasing, the popularity of the sport is increasing, as a result, we got a lot mountain bikers in this town on these trails.

"It's a lot more pressure, and that means the trails get beat up faster and need maintenance more often and sooner."

Keesey said there are volunteers who are encouraged to maintain the trails; at the moment, they lack the confidence to do it by themselves or while overseeing a small group.

"We have a lot of volunteer enthusiasm for maintaining trails, but there is a relatively small number of people who are competent and have the skills and knowledge to do that work on their own or lead a small group to do the work," said Keesey.

The club holds volunteer nights three or four times a summer, with generally a good turnout.

"That's not enough," said Keesey. "Even when it is combined with the city. We still need more people. We need more crew leaders to go out and lead small groups that can pick a section, with a few tools and go nuts."

Those who have finished the bootcamp can ask Keesey for tools if they encounter a section of trail that needs work while out on their rides.

"We have a good inventory of tools the city has helped us build," said Keesey. "Any CMBC members can come and borrow any of those tools at any time if they know what they are doing and we as a board are comfortable with who they are and what they've done.

"This event is our way to get more people up to speed that we are comfortable with doing that work."

Trail maintenance and mountain biking, Keesey believes, go hand-in-hand.

"It definitely should, it doesn't for everybody," said Keesey. "I think there is a growing awareness of the importance of maintaining trails. I'll be honest: it's not apparent to everybody the beautiful trail that they are riding on someone put a lot of sweat into it.

"The other side of the group are the people that understand and recognize that someone did this and have to keep it up. There are more and more people stepping up and saying, 'I want to give back. I really appreciate them. I know it takes a lot of work and I want to be a part of that work.'

"That enthusiasm is growing. I hear more and more of it every year."

As a mountain biker himself, Keesey said it is 100 per cent more satisfying to ride a trail that he has worked on.

"Every little section you ride through, you get that feeling of, 'I worked on this, I remember doing this,'" said Keesey. "You'll often remember the day and the friend you did it with. You are creating memories in that place.

"When you are on a bike, it goes by pretty quickly, but it is a little nugget on the trail right? Ever more so, if you are champion of the trail, it’s even more rewarding. But every little bit you put in, even if it's just a few hours or even stopping to remove a tree or fix a little problem spot, it feels good."

The mountain biking lifestyle has seen growing awareness of trail maintenance.

"I've seen that shift," said Keesey. "People realize now and I like to think the approach we have taken in our club, and I am just the latest in a long line of people to institute this sense of awareness, we've worked really hard to try and help our membership understand what goes into building and maintaining these trails."

Keesey said the trail network is a substantial asset to the city.

"They (the city) have put a lot of into maintaining it," said Keesey. "We want to help with that effort; we are a big user base, and it is the right thing to do."

The second day of the boot camp took a more hands-on approach. All the participants grabbed some tools and headed out to build a connecting trail between Logan’s Run and the 24 Hours of Light trail to keep the mountain bikers and fat bikers off one of the cross country ski trails, near where Mount McIntyre disc golf course.

Under the guidance of the city’s trail crew, who had mapped out the outline of the trail earlier, the participants began removing brush and dead logs strewn through the trail path.

Axes chopped out stumps blocking the way and others began creating the tread, the area the trail’s users will actually ride along.

The first day of the bootcamp also featured a panel discussion, where the participants could bounce questions off of experienced trail builders in the city. One of the big takeaways: a good pair of boots is your best tool for trail maintenance.

If that task is something that may interest you, CMBC will be hosting three trail maintenance nights through the summer, with the first event scheduled for June 12.

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