The network of mountain bike trails in the Lake Tahoe Basin is steadily growing and becoming more sustainable thanks to the U.S. Forest Service, the Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association and a small army of dedicated volunteers.
The mountain biking association holds work days throughout the summer to build and maintain Forest Service trails, with most of the actual grunt work volunteer-based. TAMBA Trails Director Ben Fish estimates the group has devoted about 1,000 volunteer hours since last July to South Shore trails.
"We're all volunteers and we just do this for the passion. I've been riding these trails for years now and these new plans are really going to improve these trails," Fish said.
Those new plans include a complete redesign of the Lower Corral Trail that will add about 30 features to the route, and a series of new trails and connectors in the Lake Tahoe -Nevada State Park. According to TAMBA President Kevin Joell, work on the new Sunflower Hill Trail in the park should be completed on Aug. 11.
The 2.6-mile route has been under construction for the past three years, and Joell estimates that volunteers did about 90 percent of the work. The trail is part of a park-wide project to create what Joell terms, the "super loop," a network of trails that would connect routes like the Tahoe Rim Trail and the Red House Flume to get riders off the fire roads.
Overall, it's about 15 additional miles of single-track, Joell said.
On Aug. 25, TAMBA volunteers will continue work on the Corral Trail. Last year, the Forest Service contracted a professional trail design company to create a multi-use, sustainable route for motorized and non-motorized traffic. The implementation started this year and Jason Quinn, trail engineer for the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, said he anticipates the work will be completed this season.
They need more volunteers to reach that goal though, he said.
"The trail is open with some features, but we're hoping to engage the community to complete the project," Quinn said.
The features include table top jumps, log rides and rock drops. It's meant to challenge the riders - both on motorcycles and bikes - and it's meant to teach them. The jumps are smaller at the top of the route, and progressively get larger towards the bottom.
The work the federal agency and the mountain bike club do isn't all about making a great ride. It's also about environmental sustainability, Joell said. By building a trail that can last up to 30 years and doesn't shed water into the lake, the groups can help keep sediment out of the water.
"We're a model for how this can be done elsewhere. We tend to go over the international standards because erosion is so important here," Joell said.
TAMBA works throughout the Lake Tahoe Basin, but Fish said much of the energy really comes from South Lake Tahoe. It helps that many TAMBA board members live in the community.
"The population base and the energy has been here [in South Lake Tahoe]. We've gotten a lot of support from local riders and that's really encouraging," Fish said.
Joell and Fish welcome those looking to support TAMBA to the upcoming trail work days. The next one is Aug. 11 at the Sunflower Hill Trail, followed on Aug. 25 by a work day at the Corral Trail. For more information, check out the TAMBA website at www.mountainbiketahoe.org.