By Mike Jones
BLM Park Ranger
Grand Junction Field Office
The eight mile singletrack trail on the Bookcliffs (trail F, aka “Sarlacc”), that was funded by OHV grant dollars last year has proven to be a challenging but great community project. Here is a write up on what has been completed since the OHV funds were exhausted on this project last year.
In May we partnered with VOC (Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado) for a two day project where 75 volunteers completed approximately two miles of trail on the east end. In preparation for the VOC project, WCCC provided a sawyer and five saws; an eight person AmeriCorps crew ran the other four saws and swamped the vegetation. Three miles of corridor were cleared with that crew.
In June the Bookcliff Rattlers Motorcycle Club (BRMC) organized a work day and 12-15 volunteers rough cut approximately another ½ mile of trail on the Quick read more or view full article
east end. This project has been an excellent opportunity to continue to form a working relationship with the motorcyclist.
In July the BLM rented a mini skid steer and WCCC (Western Colorado Conservation Corp) operated it with a three person crew. WCCC spent three weeks refining much of the hand built trail the WCCC crew built the previous year. We learned from the time we spent riding in and out on the hand built trail with motorcycles that the trail needed to be wider. Using the equipment, WCCC built the first ¼ mile of trail on the west end that was not previously cut and then completed approx. four miles of tread work.
At the end of August we were able to gain access to the prototype Sutter 300 singletrack dozer that we had seen at the COHVCO conference. One of our OHV crew members, Dan Gourley, had experience with the 50 inch Sweco, so he and I drove over to Rampart Range and received some training and brought the machine back to Grand Junction. The OHV crew, using the 30 inch Sutter built a two mile connector single track trail (trail E), that was approved at the same time as trail F. While building the two mile section WCCC provided a crew member. Our OHV crew, volunteers and WCCC interns, got trail F pushed all the way through in about two weeks.
In October the statewide OHV crew spent six days cutting corridor that needed widening and hand building several sections of trail that the dozer went around. The statewide crew has worked on trail F for the past three years; designing, building and finishing.
In November, partnering with GVTA (Grand Valley Trails Alliance) the BLM had approximately 35 volunteers, (20+ motorcycles with Bookcliff Rattlers and MTRA (Motorcycle Trail Riding Association) and 15 mountain bikes with COPMOBA (Colorado Plateau Mountain Bike Trail Association), come out and help push the trail closer to completion. The mountain bike group with a few motorcyclist built the last remaining section of trail that hadn’t been constructed on the east end and the remainder of the motorcycles went to the west and worked on finish work on the west where the skid steer had left a rough finish (critical edge, tread and backslope). One of the most beneficial outcomes from this last work day was getting the different users working together and sharing the skills they have amongst them.
We will need a couple more volunteers days like the November work day to have trail F complete to our trail building standards. The tread is in but in the middle section of the trail still needs tread definition, critical edge and backslope work. The BLM plans on coordinating with GVTA, BRMC, MTRA, COPMOBA, and the local trail riding community to complete this work in the spring of 2014. Trail F will have a seasonal closure Dec 1 – May 1, so we won’t officially open the trail until the spring after it has the opportunity to settle in over the winter. The OHV crew working with the Department of Corrections crew out of Delta is installing fencing and singletrack limiters, which will have gates on them, for the seasonal closure this week.
In addition to this trail the GJFO OHV crew also built a connector trail (Trail E) that connects 16 rd. to Coal Gulch, this year. Using these two routes, other singletrack routes that currently exist in the North Fruita Desert, and building an additional 20 miles of trail there will be a 65 mile loop available in the near future for a long distance singletrack loop opportunity.
This project has been and I’m sure will continue to be a great learning opportunity for our office and hopefully for a bigger area. I’ve listed several of the things I’ve learned from this project below.
1- When building motorized trail on steep side slopes you need some sort of equipment to make the initial cut and then hand crews to clean that up.
2- A hand crew following the equipment seems the most efficient way to build trail. Our experience was the dozer needs one person with them at all times. A 4-5 person hand crew behind the machine can complete the finish work on the trail as you go, generally keeping up with the machine.
3- Knowing the limitation of your equipment will help in minimizing later problems. We learned that the equipment would get stuck in the sand quickly and would slide on rocks. We mitigated those issues by going around sand and rocks where possible and hand building the trail. When we did get stuck we learned to stop soon as you started to get stuck and use the come a long to pull the equipment back up on the trail.
4- The logistics of supporting a crew in the backcountry warrants looking at the crew working an alternative schedules (8 days in the woods, 6 off), otherwise you waste too much time in transit.
5- We were able to tweak the trail as we learned and adjust our alignment to create a faster flowier trail. We built, rode, and then adjusted.
6- Having volunteers, especially clubs, helping build the trail creates ownership and understanding of what it requires to build well designed trail.
7- Having the trail designer present during construction helps to ensure the intended flow of the trail is built. Adjustments often need to be made once the building begins and this is easier and more effective if the designer is on hand.
8- Building trail is expensive, be sure to use reasonable numbers estimating cost
Thanks for all your hard work and support,
Mike Jones, Park Ranger, Grand Junction Field Office