Thanks for the post, and all of your work, 2ridgid. Many good points, many of which apply to any trail system. A couple thoughts.
CORP, and Madison Parks, and Dane County Parks, are all aware of the lack of amenities on the east side, and are working as actively as resources allow to solve that. All three of those groups have many other things going on, though, and any support/encouragement/help anyone is able to lend is more valuable than you might imagine.
Bringing these trails above board would alleviate some of the problems you mention, though their long history will mean that some users will feel proprietary toward them regardless of what happens and will continue to treat them as their own.
What would it take to bring them above board? A person, or small group of people, willing to spend some time going to meetings, emailing and calling officials, talking with other users, and the like. Not alot of time, perhaps an hour or two a week, but it might take several months, and it will be frustrating at times, and not near as glamorous as hacking through the woods with a machete.
As has been mentioned a couple times above, the land here is owned by Dane County Airport. I don't know who the appropriate contact to begin talking to is, but CORP has a very good relationship with Dane County Parks and I'm confident that a few emails or phone calls could get is in touch with that person. What we don't have is a person with the time and commitment to follow up with the amount of time that getting through the process would take. Is someone on this thread that person?
To legitimize these trials would be super valuable to the larger riding community, a great way to build a small community of caretakers, and would give some assurance that your work would have some permanence. CORP has support, expertise, contacts and a communication network to help out. Most of us started out taking care of or building trail in our favorite local system, and understand how rewarding that is, and appreciate that that is as far as most riders are going to go. But every official trails system we have got that way because a few folks were willing to take the next steps.
I have been doing a good share of cleanup, trimming and trail improvement for the last couple years. The place is a jungle in the summer and the trimming definitely got away on me this last summer. There are some low areas that get rather muddy when the trails are wet. I have hardened a few places to keep them from being torn up too much. I routinely trim branches (sides of trail and overhead) to ensure it is rather safe to ride. As with probably most trail systems, people who hike in there don't want to do any work to maintain them but once you do some improvement work, they begin to complain about how it isn't good enough. I have also found there are saboteurs that purposely block the trail with logs, branches, etc. So, be on the lookout for changes. As mentioned, this is owned by the County and so it could be lost at any time.
Justin, I appreciate what you are doing and would like to work with you and others on the trails come spring. It would be good to have help.
Some things I have observed and have been doing: 1. Use non-powered tools so that we don't worry/disturb the neighbors. Grass whip or weed whacker to cut back the burdocks, grass, etc. Loppers and small pruners to cut individual small branches. Machete to cut back the dense jungle bits. When I first worked in there it was mid summer and it required a lot of machete work. Folding saw for cutting smaller downed trees. Someone left / donated a small yellow bow saw out there. I'm not sure it is still there but I have used it a couple times to cut larger downed trees. A shovel. I don't think it is the one you mentioned. I don't own one but feel that is something we could use.
2. Being friendly and courteous to people walking in there. We want their impression of bicyclists to be positive. 3. Carry out what I bring in. 4. Repair inappropriate/unsafe changes made by others. A lot of non-mountain bikers spend time out there especially in the non-winter, non-heavy mosquito seasons. I can ride there one day and everything is normal, then the next day someone has dug holes next to the trail for no apparent reason, left their trash there, put branches onto or across the trail, deficated on the trail (yes, that happened), any tools left there (e.g. saw, shovel) are moved, bricks are moved, added, removed from the trail, etc. One time, while I just rode a portion of trail, a guy and girl blocked parts of the trail with big branches! I watched them do it! I am mentioning the negatives only so you know going in, what kind of things can happen there and how much of your work can be undone or sabotaged. My experience is that those biking the trails aren't the ones doing bad things but because bicyclists the ones most noticeably using the area, they will continue to get the blame.
5. Suggested maintenance schedule: Bushes and small trees: Cut back during the fall, winter, spring before they develop leaves and while there are no bugs. It is also a good time to cut back the thorny wild raspberries. Grass, burdock and smaller weeds: Begin about 2 weeks before memorial day. Cut back a couple feet on each side of the trail with a non-powered weed whacker. Things are still a bit short so it is rather easy during this time. Repeat about every 4-6 weeks. Hardening low/wet areas, movement of dirt, etc: Spring and Fall. I have been using the bricks from the brick pile for hardening some areas.
These are user-created trails; not sanctioned or supported by a mountain bike association. According to a study done by the mountain bike association of Santa Cruz, user created trails simply exist because of an unmet need by local mountain bike associations. Hopefully, some attention will be given to development and maintenance of east side trails in the future. I remain optimistic that this may happen.
I think there are a good number of persons living on the east side that use/would use them to get out for an hour or so without having to load up their bikes or riding them for an hour to a trail.
Thanks for your involvement. Improvements are always good.
I found even wide conventional tires would still sink or cut in packed snow and thought I was more of a skier in winter. Fast forward.... Now we have two fat bikes in the family.
Fast forward some more. Recent times have confirmed I made a good decision to fit the biggest possible and full knobby studded tires in my frame. They're not pleasant on dirt or pavement but faster than expected on groomed snow trail, and worth it for traction in any direction. Sunday riding in a group with everyone having fat studded tires you could see no one in that gang was veering off course like other tracks. No going down or recovery moves where the non-studded fatties would fail.
Everyone should visit our sponsor shops and get a studded fattie. Rent a fat bike if you are a skeptic the way my family was.
P.S. Owning a fattie is also great for utility. The granny gear makes it our pull the trailer bike. They've come in handy for trail work.
I have had the best experiences with service at Neff Cycle Service. Isaac Neff is a skilled and knowledgeable mechanic, and I know he will charge me a fair price. The downside is that their hours are fairly limited, so I usually have to leave work to drop off or pick up my bike.
For quicker service or parts, I usually go to Trek West because it is close to home, is open late, and I know one of the mechanics.
After three winters of bike commuting without studs, I finally decided to get a pair of studded tires. The bike paths especially can get icy in the winter. As others have said, the trails can get icy too. I hope that studded tires will allow me to ride off-road more often than in past winters.
To follow up on the "who owns the land" discussion, a friend recently pointed out that anyone can look up land ownership at https://dcimapapps.countyofdane.com/dcmapviewer/. Zoom in, then click on an area and there is a popup that shows the owner and other information.
Excited to finally get some decent snow tomorrow and ride at CamRock. I'm planning on bringing out snowshoes and was wondering if there are certain trails that the group would prefer over others. Target hillier trails that may be hard to groom or more popular flat areas?
I am interested in helping out with trail building / upkeep. Through my current work place, we are allowed to apply for volunteer time to go and help out in the community. I love hitting the trails around town and really want to help out with trail upkeep and grooming. Let me know if anything is coming up for this trail in the next few months. Thanks!