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Digging the ride

Posted: Tuesday, Mar 12th, 2013

photo by Jon Stinnett Todd Gardner guides a boulder down Crawfish Trail while members of the UO mountain biking team look on Sunday.

“The worst thing that can happen to any trail is inactivity,” Scott Taylor said. “Over time, nature will just reclaim it. If we left this trail alone for 10 years, you wouldn’t even know it had been here before.”

Taylor knows trail maintenance. Years ago, he and an enterprising group of mountain biking enthusiasts became a part of land use proceedings that would eventually lead to a timber sale near the upper end of Crawfish Trail, a four-mile route and a steep ascent into the mountains starting from Brice Creek that has since become a destination for the serious mountain biking enthusiasts who love to scream back down it.

Back then, Taylor and others had an idea.

“We showed up and asked, ‘How about we put a trail in here instead of just going down the road?” he said.

Previous logging roads had been constructed across the trail, according to cyclist Anthony Beck.

“The trail was a fault line trail, which means that it basically went straight down the hill,” Beck said. “There was very little drainage, which meant that water was just running down the trail and it was eroding. It had become a gully, and it was somewhat dangerous.”

Since then, Beck said, the mountain biking community has taken a keen interest in Crawfish Trail, and several local enthusiasts spent this weekend (and many previous volunteer hours) augmenting the drainage on the trail and constructing features such as berms and jumps that should keep mountain bikers visiting long into the future.

“Riders like this trail in particular because it’s easily shuttle-able,” Beck said. “There are three access points, one of them at the top of the trail, and it’s very accessible all year long.” Mountain bikers on Sunday claimed it is very possible to ride the trail 10-15 times in one day.

In order to manage water on the trail, Beck said, volunteers worked to add new drainage in problem areas, including drains that sometimes reach five feet in depth and were built using rocks in excess of 300 pounds.

“Instead of the singular water bars installed years ago, many of which have since been breached, we’ve installed at least 10 drains,” he said. “We’re effectively deconstructing the logging roads and restoring the trail, all using volunteer effort.”

Beck also said that a grant written to the National Forest Foundation allowed the group to rent equipment such as a mini excavator and skid-steer loader to move rocks and earth. The U.S. Forest Service, which manages the area, contributed rock toward construction.

“We’re trying to make the trail fun, with nice lines and berms, while at the same time making it sustainable,” Beck said. It’s an effort that has involved numerous groups and individuals, including students from Cottage Grove High School and the Disciples of Dirt, a Eugene-based group of hardcore riders that spends much of its offseason acting as “trail stewards” and engaging in rehabilitation projects. On Sunday, members of the University of Oregon’s mountain biking team also contributed their labor.

Within the last eight years, Beck said, volunteers have been able to eliminate many of the sections of old logging roads that had crossed the trail. Since December, he’s calculated over 800 volunteer hours put toward Crawfish Trail alone.

For the complete article see the 03-13-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 03-13-2013 paper.

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