When Mountain Bikers are the Saboteurs

Photos Cam McRae (unless noted)
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There are a few trails on the North Shore that have retained the character they had when they were first built. From a distance, and often from handlebar distance, the North Shore appears soft and new in geological terms. In reality in most places there is only a thin layer of duff and mineral soil, beneath which you’ll find either hard pan or rock, usually granite. If a trail survives the periods of neglect that virtually all older local trails have lived through, this means it’s found the durable layer that can be ridden for years with little or no maintenance.*

*There was a time when Digger’s talents weren’t appreciated by local government


This sign is a replacement for one that was removed, possibly by a mountain biker. Someone has been trying to remove this one as well By rocking it back and forth. So far the concrete block has kept it in place. Most riders agree with the double black rating Digger assigned to Bookwus.


Digger's original sign is of course the best. Bookwus is a native character in West Coast Indigenous mythology of the Kwakwakaʼwakw people (previously known as Kwakuitl).

Much of Bookwus, built by Todd “Digger” Fiander in 1995 or ‘96, hit this layer years ago and this has helped preserve its often nasty character. Less than a minute into the trail there’s a challenging rock face with several rooty and steep exit options. After that it’s time to buckle up because old school tech moves start coming at you in waves. Many features are combinations meaning if you don’t clear the previous tech move, and exit to allow the perfect set-up for the next, you may as well head back to the fire road. It’s the sort of trail that will slap you hard and often if you miss a move or two; at that point you’re unlikely to find your mojo again before the exit.


This move, which continues into a root-strewn fan below this frame, is one of the biggest on Bookwus but far from the most difficult. Rider - Cam McRae Photo - Pete Roggeman

For as long as I can remember Bookwus has flown under the radar. The entrance was for years partially concealed and for a very long time someone (I believe I know who) nailed sticks and branches into the opening log roll-over to further discourage riders. Some of these remain today. Even now that it’s on the map, it’s not very inviting, considering its justified double black diamond rating and its proximity to the much less frustrating and janky Seventh Secret (the 6th most popular trail world wide on Trailforks). While the heatmaps and the Trailforks ranking (172nd in the world) suggest it sees quite a few tires, I don’t think I’ve ever run into another group on Bookwus. As we were about to drop in today, an afternoon so slick you could see your green reflection in the roots, both riders who passed us on their way to 7th asked about the sanity of our trail choice.


Pete Roggeman tackles the roots. Photo - Cam McRae

I often encounter skilled riders who want nothing to do with the trail, but in the last couple of years I’ve rediscovered Bookwus and the focus required to navigate it without a hospital visit. I even cleaned it for the first time last year. While I’ve come close a couple of times in 2020, one feature, a blind narrow ramp that angles steeply downard, continues to confound me. On my previous visit I was sure I’d nail it, but a bobble on the rock roll before turned me into a tripod. Today I was very happy to make it work but next time will likely be a crap shoot.


Trevor Hansen gets this every time, and he's been doing it for years. Photo - Cam McRae

Even the hardiest trails need some love and Bookwus has some wood and rock work that needs labour periodically. A large bridge was rebuilt a few years ago and this year some holes have been filled. This welcome maintenance, most of it subtle, has brought the trail closer to what it was like originally. Much of this labour has been performed by the local trail association’s paid crew, but I was told today that an unidentified trail fairy has been contributing as well.


Occasionally Bookwus lets you collect your wits, but mostly it's unrelenting. Rider - Trevor Hansen Photo - Cam McRae

Like almost every rider, I don’t agree with all maintenance decisions. There are a few places near the top of the trail where it was necessary to let your front wheel drop off a root or cedar board as you descended, and a few of these have been skillfully backfilled with rock and dirt, and I wasn’t sure why.* Clearly it makes the trail a little easier, but, I thought to myself, it’s a double black trail FFS and it’s supposed to be hard. For the most part however, the work is welcome, essential, well intentioned, and skillfully carried out by my estimation.

*a conversation with Digger cleared this up and he told me he built the trail this way originally


I'd never approached this line from this upper angle before. It turns out I was riding the Wade Simmons line just with much less flair and at about a quarter the speed. (check Wade's line at 2:35 and 3:27 of this video). Photo - Pete Roggeman

Mini rant aside, unless I’ve got a shovel in my hand, I don’t think it makes much sense to nitpick and second guess skilful work done by trained professional builders.* Others disagree and sometimes feel they deserve to have a trail preserved at exactly the moment when it suits their skills and tastes, and never changed again. These riders sometimes fail to realize that these lines were once much different and their affection for trail decay shouldn’t override either the original or current builder’s desire to maintain it to a certain level. Still, constructive ideas may be welcomed with the right approach. It seems to me the best way to have some input is to pick up a shovel and volunteer with your local trail association.

*When the changes have been made by amateurs, simply to make a hard trail easier, that’s another story.


This bridge was rebuilt a few years ago. Thanks to everyone who has ever helped maintain any trails on the Shore, but particularly those who have looked after the less popular lines, like Bookwus. Trevor Hansen following Cam McRae. Photo - Pete Roggeman

I thought to myself, it’s a double black trail FFS and it’s supposed to be hard.

I recently heard about a troubling manner of expressing contempt for trail work. A pair of professional builders was working their way down Bookwus and the entire time they were digging, only one rider passed them. As they climbed back to the top when their day was done, they discovered that some of their work had been removed and destroyed. The rider who had ridden through was asked about this later but he denied having had anything to do with the vandalism. It doesn’t end there, unfortunately. Someone removed the sign for the trail earlier in the year and hid it in the woods a short distance away. A previous sign, that hung from a tree by a chain, was turned around so it couldn't be seen, and eventually removed. Someone has since been trying to yank the replacement sign post free from its moorings and it was loose and off kilter when we saw it today.

You have to wonder what sort of person sees fresh trail work, on a trail that he (likely a dude) had no hand in building originally, and decides they have the right to put it back the way it was? I can't imagine the conversation this person might have in their head to justify shitting on the hard work of fellow mountain bikers.


These cedar planks were used by some mystery builder to fill holes on one section of Bookwus. They are an effective and original solution. Photo - Cam McRae

I've heard of a few other examples of this lately, and one was very close to home. Someone I know recently had trail work undone, despite weeks of work completed with the blessing of the original builder. The perpetrator carved a message into the large jump he built, leaving the builder rather annoyed. He ripped out the work and put it back the way he wanted it and left a note expressing his feelings rather forcefully. I was riding with that same builder, in an area of unsanctioned trails built by others, and he told me he'd changed a couple of corners on the trail we were riding, seemingly unaware of his hypocrisy. What was that golden rule again?


One of the most original moves on Bookwus. A little buffing here was welcome in my books. Rider - Pete Roggeman Photo - Cam McRae

Mountain bikers have always had enemies and while it’s troubling when they come from within our ranks, it’s hardly surprising. Entitlement is as human and universal as hairy armpits. We can get used to any sort of royal treatment and feel like it’s our birthright, even if we had no hand in its creation and no reason to feel deserving. There are few mountain bikers anywhere in the world as privileged as those of us who live in British Columbia. There are many places in the world with great trails, but it's hard to think of an area that comes close when you think of the entire province. And what did most of us do to deserve this? Through hard work and selfless sacrifice, we were born in the right place at the right time making us very deserving indeed.

This works in reverse as well when we are asked to make even small sacrifices. COVID-19 has shone a light on what spoiled children many North Americans have become. I shudder to think what my grandparents, who lived through the Spanish Flu, two World Wars, and the Great Depression to name a few wee hiccups, would make of those unable to deal with the inconvenience of wearing a mask when it's required to protect vulnerable members of society.


Pete Roggeman inspecting my nemesis. Wade just hucks the whole thing. Photo - Cam McRae

If you ride locally, keep an eye on Bookwus, and particularly the sign. I’m not an advocate of vigilante justice, but if you see someone vandalizing a trail, wherever you ride, do your best to dissuade the perpetrators, collect some evidence, and report whatever you learn to your local trail association, if you are lucky enough to have one. Canadian Thanksgiving was last weekend and I have never been so thankful nor humbled by the trail builders who have made the North Shore and other areas a mountain biking nirvana. Thanks to every builder and trail advocate for your hard work and diligence, especially Digger for leading the charge and demonstrating an impeccable building standard.

Continued access is not guaranteed so please slow down for hikers and get out of the way when you can, say hello to everyone you encounter out in the woods, and express your appreciation for those who keep your trails in good repair.

If you'd like to see Bookwus as it was meant to be ridden, watch Wade Simmons tackle it here...

The best way to support your local trails is to become a member of your local trail association (better yet, join several if you ride in different areas):

North/West Vancouver: NSMBA

Tri-cities (Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody): TORCA // Fraser Valley: FVMBA

Squamish: SORCA // Whistler: WORCA // Pemberton: PORCA

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+10 DMVancouver Cam McRae Pete Roggeman Jman Lynx . ollyh jaydubmah Nologo Mammal Cooper Quinn

I think sometimes people don’t understand that trails evolve over time. I rode Severed Dick in 87 when it was pretty much a so called loamer. Things changed. Many of the older trails on the Shore people only knew as janky rough eroded messes. When those trails were maintained a put back closer to what they had been people complained. I get that. It seemed like things were dumbed down but you have to remember that our bikes got a lot better during that time too. So the “dumbing down” seemed unnecessary. I’ve torn out stuff myself on a trail I had established. Builders had constructed an entrance that directed water to flow down the trail. But they wanted a jump rather than a slight uphill turn. 

Stealing or hiding signs is just criminal though. We had a spate of that several years ago too if I remember right. Visitors wanting souvenirs? Locals wanting things to be secret? Lately here in Whistler I’ve been blocking braids. A certain trail not on any maps yet gets cut into at the halfway point because the pussies don’t want to climb the hard way. That’s massively disrespectful to the builder in my opinion considering how much work he put into the climbing part of the trail. And this trail is so well built it can be ridden when wet as there are virtually no puddles let alone mud holes. 

I many instances I think riders are simply ignorant of the issues involved in building and maintaining trails. They don’t remove obstacles to make things easier out of any malice. Or they braid trails thinking  It’s a better line. There’s no shame in walking something over your head. There is shame in creating a braid.


+6 Cam McRae Lynx . ollyh Andy Eunson Mammal Cooper Quinn

Yes... pretty much every ride I do these days I try and spend at least a few mins blocking a braid somewhere or clearing a drain.  The old school mantras of "don't braid the trail", "ride, don't slide", and "ride through the puddle" don't seem as well known these days.  In the last number of years people seem to be taking pride in finding "new lines" more than they do in riding the actual intended and built line.

As many times as you dismantle my blocks, I'll build them back up, usually bigger than before.  I'm getting older and crotchety-er, and have more and more times on my hands... you braiding-trail-kids have no idea what you're up against!  **shakes cane viscously**


+6 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae IslandLife Lynx . ollyh twk

This was a great read. Entitlement is a blight on modern society. I could go on about it forever, but I will say that the world would be a lot better if we all tried to act with some more humility. 

I have pretty unique circumstances, owning the land, building and controlling access to the trails I ride almost exclusively. I already get pissed off when friends roost corners I've put effort into building. I can't imagine what it must feel like for builders of public trails to see people shit all over their hard work. 

You guys are really lucky to have the trails in BC. I hope to have the pleasure of riding them one day.

+4 Pete Roggeman Cr4w Sean Chee danimaniac

Wow! Sounds like we need an invite! We'll show you ours if you show us yours! Post Covid in 2030 that is. Cheers!


+4 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman Mammal danimaniac

Let's contact our respective embassies about a cultural exchange program!

+1 toddball

You have your own embassy? Solid.


+6 DMVancouver Pete Roggeman Cr4w Lynx . ollyh Michael Klein

Love Bookwus and have been riding it a bunch as of late (have taken that 'high line" a few times just no where near as fast as Wade.  Goals...).  While I love the jank (and the weather related deterioration of the trail), and generally don't like to see a trail "dumbed down"..., I like the new work on Bookwus.  The cedar use in some of the more soggy and muddy holes is welcome and some of the erosion repairs bring the trail back to original use.  Still janky and still has all its difficulty.  

What I saw shortly before this recent work, and saw on a few other double black trails, are some ridders making "ride arounds" (braids) of the hardest sections of the trail.  This occurred on Bookwus but was repaired by the builders to eliminate this ride around and restore the original hard line as the only option.  Not against those riding trails above their level as that is how we all progress, however every time a rider makes a braid around the hardest sections of trail, the trail loses some of its gnar.  A braid gets ridden more, original line becomes less ridden, more riders on the trail, more ride arounds happen on other difficult sections and the trail loses its original flavour and difficulty.  If the section of trail is too hard, walk the section and leave for another day.  

So question to Cam as this is a contentious issue... How can this sort of change to a trail (braiding around the hardest section of a trail) be managed?

+5 jason Lynx . ollyh Andy Eunson Michael Klein

Its something I struggle with as well and I think the only response is diligent persistence.  Our group often stops mid-ride to cover braids or other changes. The same goes for the occasional unsanctioned line where the builder wants people to walk in. 

Entitlement is also evident with those who feel they deserve to ride in and can't deal with carrying their bike for ten seconds. Spikes can also come in handy to make a more permanent barricade. Sometimes a friendly note in a ziplock bag can be helpful. Entitlement doesn't always respond to counterpoint, but you can hope a little education eventually makes a difference.


+2 Cam McRae ollyh

Thanks Cam,  I often take the time to cover the braid if I see one starting.  Sometimes a losing battle as a trail gets busier, but I still stop and re-cover the braid.  Have seen the more permanent barricade from builders on trails as well.


+2 olaa danimaniac

Sometimes I think the solution is to embrace the ride around and build it well. There are lots of trails that are labeled black for one single feature while the rest of the trail is blue. As a former insurance adjuster of sports claims, I think some features should have a well marked easier route. It’s a perfect defence to a claim where some person got hurt on the hard part. If the builder truly wants to stop the braiding you have to make it really hard to do. Boulders and large logs. Other trails are so obviously black from the get go that they shouldn’t get ride arounds. There’s a new trail near my house that’s not on any maps that has no ride arounds. It’s insane. Very large rock features maybe 50 60 metres high. The ride arounds would be double black. That trail though is an example of something so obviously pro line that no one with limited skill would ride very far before turning back. Except me because I didn’t know how insane it was.


+5 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman ollyh toddball Cooper Quinn

We've had some similar issues on a few trails in Washington state. The people dismantling trail work and complaining about trail design don't bother to show up and dig where they have the opportunity to influence the trails. Those of us digging build trails we want to ride.


+5 Cooper Quinn Lynx . ollyh Andy Eunson Andrew Major

Trails are art. Personal interpretations. i dont care if if is some janky shite built by teen agers or some massive built flowy road. Its all built with passion. destroying any ones labor  of love is disrespectful of some ones only intention which is to bring joy to the sport. 

There is no accepted time to rip apart some ones work. Built out of passion.   

Good and bad trail building are opinions   and nothing  more. The thousands of people in BC who build and maintain trails, with or with out consent are my heros.   

Thank you. 

Any one who destroys some ones work because it does not fit your personal opinion . I have no respect for such people.


+4 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae ollyh Kerry Williams

Good article. Quite interesting as an outsider who just saw Bookwus for the first time these past couple days ridden by Dale Stone in a FP view and it was gnarly. As someone who started a lot of the trails here, I welcome people doing maintenance, once it's to take a trail back to what it was like originally, fixing bad erosion and such, BUT filling in/dumbing down and making trails easier because their skills aren't up to the task, is just annoying as hell when you've worked years to build yours to be able to tackle those type trails. If you can't ride a certain trail, clean and don't want to work at it until you can, there are loads of other, easier trails most to go ride.


+7 Pete Roggeman Cam McRae IslandLife Lynx . ollyh Angu58 Kerry Williams

We have been seeing this cropping up on our local trails here in AZ recently.  Shortcuts to bypass the original technical bits.  I even had to call out a guy who rode over the brush and deadfall we had used to block a shortcut.  

In regards to the article, I love tech trails as much as anyone, but why mess with an established trail?  Just leave it alone, aside from maintenance/cleanup.  If the trail isn't hard enough for you, go find something else to ride.


+2 Cam McRae Mammal

I hit youtube to see what it was like last night. WOW. It's everything I thought the shore was like from magazines in the 90s.

The top half looks like the riders just pick their way randomly through the forest. I can barely make out the trail save for some constructed items.

The whole trail seems to be brutal and relentless even with the go pro effect. That rock roll in to the skinny mentioned in the article looks absolutely terrifying in fpv.


+1 Kerry Williams

As someone who's been mountain biking in BC for 20 years, but only moved to the shore 4 years ago, I find around 25% of Bookwus to be absolutely and completely terrifying. 

There are certain aspects of Shore riding that the Locs just have completely dialed. the Slow Jank Jedi.


+4 Andrew Major Cam McRae Pete Roggeman Lynx .

The recent work on Bookwus has improved the riding experience while maintaining the previous character of the trail. It was well done.

That said, with other examples of under-utilized expert trails being revamped to something completely different from the original nature of the trail and the difficulty of sanctioning a completely new trail in North Van, I can see how something like an official trailhead sign and a top-to-bottom tune-up on Bookwus could have people nervous. I don't see Bookwus being rerouted as a flow trail any time soon, but it would be a real shame if that happened.

On the flip side, I appreciate how a derelict, neglected trail can be revamped into something that can be enjoyed by many. I am not one of the 'dumbing down the Shore' types. But trails like Bookwus, Grannies, etc. need to exist.

Also, whether you agree or disagree with a direction, nothing justifies sabotaging official trail work.


+3 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman ollyh

Nodding approvingly over the morning cup. There's a local system that's had several rocks removed from the trail by unknown folks. On one hand, yes, it'll make the trail faster. On the other, controlling a rider's speed is half the intent as it's a multi use trail. On another hand, it was possible to keep a bit of speed if you bump jumped the rocks, so it shows it's likely due to the rider's skillset and trail vision being at fault. The part that really doesn't compute is why anyone would mess with signage in addition to dumbing down the trail. Those seem a bit at ends with each other. And thanks for the refresh on the Pipeline advert. That trail looks like a helluva good time, and one of the reasons I venture out three hours from home when I get the chance: to get to the good and tough dirt as opposed to the flowy stuff much closer. I've yet to see a vid of Wade that didn't have me smiling.

+2 Pete Roggeman ollyh

I remember riding in Sun Valley and seeing where the only root on a section of trail was a great jump, and then someone would come in and cut it out! So frustrating. 

Regarding the signage damage, there has always been a contingent of riders that has wanted to keep Bookwus a secret but it's not really necessary. The difficulty and awkwardness of the trail for riders of lower skill levels, particularly when it's anything but bone dry, limits the trail's popularity.


+3 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman ollyh

Simmons is a fucking magician. Not even a little washed up. I can watch that guy ride anything.

+2 Pete Roggeman ollyh

Right there with you new dad!


+3 Cam McRae ollyh Pete Roggeman

Also, I was one of the people who rode by your group yesterday and said you were nuts. I still think that is the case. It was greasy out there!

+3 DMVancouver ollyh Pete Roggeman

Nice! Hope you had a good lap. 

It was a little slimy but, like Seventh Secret, it handles water very well. Also - inserts FTW particularly in snotty season.


+3 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman Andy Eunson

I get it now....I've been riding Bookwus since I had Judy forks, and I try to get on it a handful of times each year. I rarely see anyone with interest in riding it, but in the last week, I had two groups asking me about it (one group was a couple of young teens...awesome!)....looks like the signage and/or this article has people seeking it out.

"...These riders sometimes fail to realize that these lines were once much different and their affection for trail decay shouldn’t override either the original or current builder’s desire to maintain it to a certain level. ..." .

And let's not forget that the original lines were ridden on very different bikes...geometry, technology, and material.

To that point, Kirkford is an excellent example of how a trail can change over time...It was only the original Kirkford for about 2 years before it eroded away into  water funnels and gulleys, and the subsequent the work was put in to make it the S-curves it has now. 

In the climbing world, the route is established (and named) by the first ascentionist. Any changes to the route are deferred to that person.


+3 Cam McRae Pete Roggeman StuckInUk

Such a great trail, but it's such a different style to a lot of trails now. I used to be able to clean it most of the time, but I rode it a couple of weeks back and was absolutely owned by it. I think it's because I don't ride that style much anymore, and it was a good reminder to mix up my trail choices so that I keep (re-learn) those skills.

One other thing to keep in mind is that trail builders are often happy to listen to your ideas as long as you're polite about it and approach without an expectation that your ideas matter more than theirs. I've made changes to trails I have worked on based on suggestions from riders, and if I disagree with their ideas I'm happy to explain why I've done what I've done. But the flipside is that if you do something on your own without talking to them/me - it creates enmity rather quickly.


+1 Cam McRae

Exactly what Michael said.

I would also like to add, that there is a trail permitting process that details what work will be done on a trail and this is all pre-approved by the land owners.  If a non-permitted person goes ahead and makes changes that are not on the permit, they can seriously jeopardize the trail access we are lucky to have.  Land owners are hyper concerned about litigation and us having fun on our bikes is way down the list of priorities for them.  Our access to trails is tenuous at best and it would not take much for it to all go away.  

There is a bigger picture at play here that all of our collective small actions feed into.

Also, there are not enough builders to keep all the trails on the Shore maintained.  If folks want to put shovel to trail we have  lots of opportunities for them to do that. Whether it is showing up for a trail day or taking on maintenance of a trail yourself , if you have the passion and desire we can make it happen.  There is a right way to do things, so if people feel that passionate about this, get involved with the NSMBA trail builders.


+2 Lynx . Michael Klein

Part of the problem is "flow trails" have become so popular that many mountain bikers simply do not know how to navigate trails without berms and rollers.  I understand the broader appeal and enjoy a flow trail as much as the next person, but at some point technical trails become harder and harder to find and convincing people to add features becomes difficult.


+1 Cam McRae

This is always a hard one to quantify for riders/builder/maintainer. The first thing is there are a lot of new riders/builders that have never ridden the trail when it was first created they are riding it years after so that is the trail in their minds. But if you where there when the trail was first put in and it was smooth and flowy and slowly over time became rougher and more challenging. What is the standard you maintain that trail to? the original intent of the trail builder when it was completed or do you keep it as it is now. It is definitely complicated since you have varying images of reality of what that trail is.


+1 Cam McRae

Even us inland hillbillies in Nelson aren’t immune from this ruse. A tweak here and a berm there and it sure rolls smoother. I’m not sure what to think...



This comment has been removed.


It looks like the Dreamweaver Sign was also stolen over summer



Wait, the one over the bridge?



I remember a certain person saying that they'd turn around the sign on the tree a few feet down from the trail head so people couldn't see it 10 plus years ago. Weird behavior if he didn't build it. I'm assuming they wouldn't be sad enough to mess with the current work though. Its a shame that the sign by the steep skinny mentioned went missing. Hopefully its in Digger's living room!



Its a different day when the rogue actions actually set out to re-gnar a trail. As you all know, Bookwus is fairly unique on Fromme - barely armored - janky rocks and roots - that plank is terrifying - but my impression is that what is most unique is that Bookwus is a gnarly dirt/loam trail that is on the map and authorized!

The rogue actions described all seem to be pointed at reducing the traffic on the trail. Sign removal. Modifying the bits that de-janked it somewhat or improved the experience for most. Making Bookwus a more enjoyable trail seems to be exactly the opposite of whomever is doing this wants. Keep it less visible and make it unpleasant for those who choose to ride it - thats the goal it seems.

Or perhaps the goal is to keep it from evolving into something that looks like 7th? If Bookwus becomes more fun for more people, it will eventually become armored just like the rest. And then we have lost Bookwus.

Zero excuse for removing the trail work of authorized trail workers on an authorized trail - that is BS. But this is probably a symptom as you dont have to look too far on the Shore to realize that people are struggling with how many of the authorized trails have evolved. Armored trails are still gnarly (and fun) but they're a different experience than Bookwus in my opinion. Never an excuse for the entitled actions of this/these person/people however; its not their trail!

I would throw my vote into the hat to protect the janky not armored experience of Bookwus, and that might infact mean keeping it very low traffic. It also means not riding it when wet, which Im guessing whomever is doing this feels that they're entitled to do also. There are two ways to avoid armor - keep traffic low and keep traffic off it entirely in the wet.

Perhaps Bookwus should be officially closed in the rainy season? That is probably the best way to keep the armor off it, if that is infact the concern. Id support that to protect the experience that is Bookwus.


+2 Cam McRae AlanB

Armoring was added where there used to be armoring. 

Erosion is not a trail feature.




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