Of trails and due process
As a person interested in mountain biking for fun and fitness, rather than either risk or competition, I none-the-less joined this year?s Tour de Soo. The main draw was a chance to see some backcountry between here and Pemberton. Overall, I join others in saying to PORCA and WORCA: "Well done, and thanks for the effort."
At the same time I want to raise what I think are serious questions about some aspect of the trails on that route, and on many routes here in the valley. Perhaps half way through the race, the route diverted from an old logging road to a newly found route down though a previously untracked forest. In the Aug. 24 Pique this is referred to as "a significant new single track decent from Echo Lake." I too think the new track was significant ? but in my view it is significantly irresponsible of the organizers to have added it to the race, or to have created it at all.
By the circumstance of age and the opening sentence, I was by this time either last, or near last in the race. This meant that some 60 had gone before me. The new-found trail was already in sad shape. It was not fun for me to find myself an unwilling participant in the destruction of even a relatively narrow ribbon of the environment. The terrain had been mostly mossy over rock or roots. It will take decades to recover from the activity of a couple of hours. The ribbon itself widened as each of us came by. In some places the best riders would be the least destructive, those with hands on the brakes probably the most destructive, and only perhaps those who got off and walked had less impact. For all it was easy to tear off whole sections of ground cover.
The reader who wants to know the next chapter in the life of this trail should visit now that we have had a serious rain. It would be a real demonstration of the role that moss plays in an ecosystem.
But you don?t have to trace out the trail from Echo Lake to Highway 99. You can walk, run or cycle any of the routes between the cross-country trails of Lost Lake. You can visit here within the municipal boundaries wide, bare trails, where trails didn?t exist last year, and others that as two-year-old creations are thrashed. They are continually widening, and "webbing," and in using these verbs we give them a life of their own.
Trails built over existing paths, logging roads, drag lines, etc are unlikely to fall into an area of great criticism. But trails where none previously existed need to be well thought out, well constructed, and, if not first aired in the public domain, avoided. This is doubly true if the new trail is down steep terrain, and trail proponents need to be aware too that some terrain and soils will support a trail better than others. Fun is not the only criterion.