Spoke Talk: Green-knuckle riding
July 26, 2013
Steamboat Springs — Where is the trail? I know it's there. I can feel the smooth dirt under my tires as I roll through the turn by rote. As the turn finishes and my bike returns to an upright position, the trail reappears through a screen of green foliage. Looks like we will have to dedicate a workday to this trail before it vanishes into the Yampa Valley jungle. The foliage around here does not need much water to grow, and Emerald Mountain is a perfect example of the never-ending growth that encroaches on singletrack trails until they barely are visible.
Trimming the foliage around the trail and re-establishing the corridor is thankless work that often goes unnoticed, but it is essential to keeping the trail rideable and open.
We have many miles of trails in the valley, and most of them need regular maintenance just to keep them as they are. Much of that work falls on a few dedicated members of Routt County Riders and the volunteers who graciously show up to our trail workdays in exchange for food and beer. We hope they get something else out of it also — perhaps the knowledge that they have done their part to keep our trails established and accessible.
There are many more mountain bikers in this valley than miles of trail. If every mountain biker gave one four-hour volunteer shift per summer, we would stay ahead of the game and never lose sight of the trails behind a sea of green.
On one recent work session, we were trimming the foliage that had gotten overgrown on Larry's with a volunteer group of six. During our four-hour work session, we were passed, and usually thanked, by almost 100 riders. Of all the riders, I only recognized two from previous trail workdays. Although the riders were thanking us as volunteers, it's Routt County Riders that really deserves the credit.
The group spends much of its limited budget on these trail workdays. This summer, $5,000 has gone toward trail maintenance, and another $1,000 was spent on additional tools. The money Routt County Riders spends is much more than the organization brings in through membership dues and is just a fraction of the value given to the community when all the volunteer hours are taken into account. Routt County Riders is able to do this through grants, donations and community support, and the more members we have, the easier it is for us to raise these funds.
As trail design evolves, our trails are becoming more sustainable and require less maintenance of the tread surface, but the vegetation never stops. It grows relentlessly, and as we add more trails, we will need more bikers and other trail users to give a few hours back to the trails that give them so much enjoyment.
Aryeh Copa is a board member of Routt County Riders.