Forest Service reaches out to users to create ‘unprecedented’ trails
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Assistant Forest Service forest engineer Garrett Villanueva stood in front of a crowd of 30 or so mountain bikers and off-road motorcyclists April 28 and asked, “What do you want out of the Corral Loop Trail?”
To mediate the discussion and to form a plan of action, mountain bike trail consultants Hilride were contracted by the Forest Service. Hilride’s lead designer Nat Lopes even handed out a survey form to capture the group’s input in written form.
Answers from the crowd ranged from table tops, to log rides to bank turns and better flow. Members of the group spoke up about keeping the trail’s difficulty at a medium level while others suggested that challenging features be installed on the sides of the main trail.
Every so often Villanueva would step in and explain the constraints of building trail on Forest Service land in the Tahoe Basin: No metal connectors or brackets, no pavement or concrete, no damage to sensitive ecosystems, no fall-line trails. With each limitation set forth, the crowd modified their suggestions, asking questions like, “Can we bring heavy equipment onto the trail? Can we use chain saws?”
The meeting represented the Forest Service’s concerted effort to reach out to mountain bikers, hikers, off-roaders and equestrians to best develop trails to meet the needs of every faction of user.
“I think they are being vastly more receptive,” said mountain biker Lauren Linvey after the meeting. “The mountain bikers need to be open and receptive of the opportunity that the Forest Service is providing us.”
That opportunity, Villanueva hopes, could result in the Corral Trail being one of the premier single-track trails in the world, he said.
“I think the sky’s the limit,” Villanueva said. “It depends on the creativity of the folks that are out there.”
The planning going into this trail is unprecedented, he said. Though the meeting was primarily filled with mountain bikers, Lopes was quick to remind the group that all types of users need to be considered. He asked the group, “Who here rides off-highway vehicles on the trail?” Two people raised their hands. One recommended that the trail be designed with uphill flow for motorcycles as well as downhill flow for mountain bikers.
“We’re really working hard,” Villanueva said. “We have to accommodate a lot of different users and the resource concerns.”
Tahoe Rim Trail Association executive director Mary Bennington said it’s not new for the Forest Service to reach out to users, but that their effort to work with the mountain bikers has increased lately.
“I think it’s really smart of them to reach out,” she said. “I’ve been really impressed with the Forest Service for being so open and accessible to the mountain bike community.”
Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association president Kevin Joell said the change is that now the Forest Service has an organization (TAMBA) to work with rather than a scattering of individuals.
“I’ve been really pleased with their willingness to work with us,” Joell said. “We’re encouraged by their commitment.”
Villanueva admitted that the Forest Service has had problems in the past with illegal mountain bike trails and that reaching out to the riders would hopefully stem the construction of unpermitted trails, especially if that effort resulted in some of the best legal single tracks in the world. Attracting out-of-towners with world class trails built with input from users, is a positive byproduct, he said.
“We already knew we had an opportunity on the (Corral Loop) trail and we had a problem (with illegal trails),” Villanueva said. “The solution to the problem could also help the Corral trail.”
Hilride’s Lopes said he believes the Forest Service’s outreach in Tahoe was part of a larger change in the way mountain bikers are seen.
“On a national level, mountain bikers are being viewed as a legitimate user group now more than ever,” he said.