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Maintenance of unauthorized/unsanctioned/illegal/whatever trails

April 25, 2024, 6:48 p.m.
Posts: 1382
Joined: May 4, 2006

What's the etiquette for this when you're not the builder and don't know who is?

For the record, I was hiking this fairly obscure trail recently and noticed a lot of minor blow down (the type that won't stop you riding but has high potential to wreck your derailleur).

I know that branches are often used to disguise the entrance/exits to trails but this was much more than just that. But, other trails in that area don't seem as affected so I can't tell whether it's deliberate or just a symptom of lack of use of the trail.

As I'm in that area hiking occasionally, I was gonna clear all the blow down except at the very top and very bottom of the trail.

Is anyone likely to give a fuck if I do this? If so, how do I get a message to the builder?


 Last edited by: SixZeroSixOne on April 27, 2024, 11:33 a.m., edited 4 times in total.
April 26, 2024, 2:31 p.m.
Posts: 603
Joined: April 15, 2017

Ha very timely - there's a few sections of a trail I use and love (and would love to help on) but without some extra planning for runoff it will turn into an unusable swamp.

April 26, 2024, 3:26 p.m.
Posts: 423
Joined: March 14, 2017

It's not that hard to find the builder/maintainer of a trail.  Just have to ask the right people, probably 2 degrees of separation at maximum.  Clearing rocks, sticks and cleaning drains doesn't need permission and should be encouraged by the builder.  Probably anything more than that should be a reach out.

April 26, 2024, 8:17 p.m.
Posts: 18888
Joined: Oct. 28, 2003

It's not that hard to find the builder/maintainer of a trail. 

just start following the bros and jerrys on Instagram.   :)

Keep in mind that some unpermitted builders will temporarily close trails which are sensitive to winter traffic and rains, especially higher up.  If the whole trail has a "closed for winter' sign, or branches and trees across all of it, it's likely intentional, please leave it that way till the builder opens it for the dryness of summer.  

If it's one deadfall in the middle of a ridable trail you want to move off trail, please have at 'er!  Even on sanctioned trails, just please post up on Trailforks if something's been cleared. (although not with a chainsaw on public land unless you have a permit).

May 23, 2024, 4:08 p.m.
Posts: 138
Joined: March 13, 2017

If you are moving branches, logs or debris off the trail, please be sure to not block existing drainage areas. If you can move stuff at least 5 feet past the edge of the trail, that helps, further is always better. Try not to crush, or bury, any of the greenery/plants and do not make unsightly piles, spread the branches out over multiple larger areas.

Everything helps.

My 2 cents on the process.

May 24, 2024, 9:01 a.m.
Posts: 1765
Joined: Dec. 31, 2006

I wish builders maintained what's there before cutting in new lines. If you've got a thirst for fresh lines then perhaps take an abandoned, eroded, shitty section of trail and make a re route. I spent years and years maintaining existing lines before making a foray into something of my own creation. It'll help you understand what works and what doesn't. And I wish there were more people doing general maintenance. We all ride similar bikes and the same trails, if something sucks for you, assuming you are at a high enough level to be riding the trail, it probably sucks for a lot of people. Filling bombholes with rock and gold and digging lots of knicks and grade reversals goes a long way in keeping trails rideable and keeping water off the trails. The rainstorm on Tuesday did quite a number on several unsanctioned trails.

May 24, 2024, 12:33 p.m.
Posts: 1143
Joined: March 15, 2013

This brings up another question to me as well, what's the etiquette on minor spot maintenance of established trails with builders?

I know the builders are all busting their asses so this isn't me laying blame I'm just curious about what to do with things like the photo below. That lip is in rough shape now just from regular riding but who knows when the next trail day / builder is going to come along. A lot of dirt is long gone and (unless you suck it up) the log from the box is going to kick riders rear tires in to the air and make the jump way more awkward than was originally built. Is it poor etiquette throw a couple handfuls of dirt on to that lip to fill the box, tamp it down with your feet, ride it to make sure it's safe and then keep on with your day?

I see things like this all over the trails but never really know if I should be "touching it up" or just leaving it alone. I know that a trail report on Trailforks would help and I have done it in the past for larger issues but that seems a bit nitpicky for something like this when it could be fixed in 15 minutes.


 Last edited by: thaaad on May 24, 2024, 12:35 p.m., edited 1 time in total.
May 24, 2024, 1:26 p.m.
Posts: 423
Joined: March 14, 2017

if it's a sanctioned trail, contact the trail association, if it's unsanctioned, contact the builder.  If the builder has abandoned, have at it.

May 24, 2024, 1:31 p.m.
Posts: 1382
Joined: May 4, 2006

Is that a trail you ride regularly?

If so, I'd put a report in TF without doing any work but mention that if it's not fixed with x days or you don't get a response, mention that you'll go back and fix it up. At least that gives the builder some heads up and they can tell you not to do anything if they already have plans.

Only works, I suppose, if you want to ride the trail regularly and know if you have some time to get back to it...

That's the problem I had with the trail which prompted this posting. It's not on TF (but is on other mapping).

@canadaka: Trevor: if you're reading this, I suggest you allow reports to be submitted in-the-field even for hidden trails. At least you'll know which trail orgs admin that polygon so can route the report to them to figure out what to do with the info

If it's done in-the-field, the user is standing right on top of the trail so whether it's hidden is irrelevant!


 Last edited by: SixZeroSixOne on May 24, 2024, 1:33 p.m., edited 1 time in total.
May 24, 2024, 1:45 p.m.
Posts: 423
Joined: March 14, 2017

Lots of trails on "other maps" shouldn't be posted and builders have tried to get them off.  TF does a good job of posting of what shouldn't be posted.  Exposing unsanctioned trails is bad on so many levels.  

Not that hard to find out who maintains/builds the trails.

May 24, 2024, 2:46 p.m.
Posts: 1765
Joined: Dec. 31, 2006

I can only speak for myself, not other builders, but "spot maintenance" like drainage or throwing a little gold on lips/landings/holes that have developed is appreciated. The only issue is when a random volunteer takes things too far and starts building new berms/lips/whatever. This happens more than you think. Basically minor fixes that restore the trail to what it was are OK but changes to the character or flow are not OK unless the trail is clearly abandoned or you have the blessing of the builder. And this only applies to unsanctioned trails, generally modifying a sanctioned trail is a faux pas unless you've contacted the builder. As was said, Trailforks is a good tool for getting in contact. 

Good convo on etiquette, it's always nice to have a reminder.

May 24, 2024, 8:11 p.m.
Posts: 138
Joined: March 13, 2017

What Kever said.

Just be warry of where you grab the gold dirt from to fix that lip/landing. If you can find the original "gold pit" to source from, that would be best, don't start new pits close to the trail. You also need to be warry of what is in the "gold", a lip like the one shown would require clean gold, with little or no aggregate (small rocks/pebbles) in it. Some other spots, like dips or low points, can allow for some aggregate on the lower soft point (when wet, with clean gold on the top. The higher traffic spots, will require "clean gold", as the traffic brings the aggregate to the surface and the gold will crumble/powder more quickly.

This definitely differs for sanctioned vs unsanctioned, as traffic on the sanctioned will always be higher.

May 24, 2024, 9:51 p.m.
Posts: 3254
Joined: Nov. 23, 2002

Just to add to that ^^^

Using a sift will guarantee good dirt. If you don’t have a sift to clean the gold you could buy a blue plastic recycling bin and drill 1/4 or 3/8 inch holes in the bottom and use that to sift the gold. A recycling bin is pretty strong and has comfortable handles on it for shaking the bin. They are also cheap and much easier to make than a real sift. 

If you want to make a real sift you’ll need a 2x8, 1x2,  screws, 3/8” steel square mesh, 1/2” wide steel flat bar, and some 1” pvc pipe. You want the box to be about 20”x14”, that will hold about half a bucket of gold at the 8” depth of the 2x8.  Any bigger and it’s a bit unwieldy. The plastic recycling bin will be way cheaper, faster and easier to make - just don’t fill it up with any more than a half bucket of dirt.

The other thing I’d add is that I would place some large flat rocks at the edge of the lip to keep it solid (same thing for entrances to bridges). Over time dirt will get scrubbed out from the dirt/rock interface but it’s easy to throw some gold back on there. 

May 27, 2024, 8:42 a.m.
Posts: 1765
Joined: Dec. 31, 2006

I always thought the smallish rocks helped hold the gold together. I've seen "clean" gold turn to peanut butter in high traffic areas.

May 27, 2024, 9:08 a.m.
Posts: 3254
Joined: Nov. 23, 2002

Depends on what the drainage is like. If the trail bed sheds water fairly well then it should be pretty solid.


 Last edited by: syncro on May 27, 2024, 9:13 a.m., edited 1 time in total.

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