Leaves on the trails

BadMontso
Seminole Administrator
Doesn't have to look pretty, just has to work.

November 04, 2015, 01:20 PM

For those out on the trails this fall and those who help out with trail work, please do not rake or blow the leaves.
We are leaving the leaves on the trail to help protect the soil over winter.

Thanks!
Melissa Ontso
Seminole Trail Steward


~ "All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise something great will come out of it"
           Benjamin Mae, We Bought a Zoo


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XXX

November 04, 2015, 06:59 PM

I'm a bit confused, please explain how leaving the leaves on the trail protects the soil. In particular, how will that measure effect the trail in the spring through the freeze/thaw cycle?

I understand if we don't have the time or a leaf blower out there but I've never really heard soil protection being used as a  justification for leaving leaves on the trail. Typically, we find the contrary to be true.


Thanks!

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TheMayor1
Trail Steward - CamRock
Trail Steward
608-772-7833

November 05, 2015, 10:30 AM

This one can be debated until you are blue in the face. There was a good debate about it last week on the IMBA FB site.
Logically leaves on the trail will protect from direct impact of rain hitting bare dirt.
But leaves are also organic, and therefore serve as kind of a sponge and can prevent trails from drying. A real thick bed of leaves can greatly affect this and be very slippery.
Leaves on the trail also obscure features and or hazards, be slippery on corners, and make it harder to get a "feel" for the trail. It's not bad, just different. There is nothing that says fall in Wisco to me more than riding in leaves. A totally different experience.
There are some trail systems that try and blow the leaves early. Then leave a thin layer of leaves to get a bit of the benefit, without the problem negative effects of too many leaves.
My take. And this is just me. There is no right answer. Every trail system is different. Type of trail use (fast, slow, etc). Amount of trail riders. And perceptions of the trail stewards all factor in. 
I have not talked to Melissa, but with new trail work, protecting the soft soils of new trail work could also be a factor.
At CamRock, we have tried all of the above mentioned approaches. Deep leaves left a trail that never dried out, and was very slippery on the corners. When we tried light leaf litter, it just blew off from the affect of fast riders on most areas, and on the slower corners was still somewhat slippery.
With the really hard soils at CR, and the many fast sections of trail, we have opted to go with blowing the leaves. Getting the trail dry as soon as possible is the thought. There are times, mostly winters with little snow, that I could see the advantage of having leaf litter left behind. Basically protecting the bare dirt from damage of riders when it thaws. But then again, this coverage is never everywhere, so the trail will be damaged if riders are out on a thawing trail. Therefore we close the trail in thawing conditions throughout the winter if there is not sufficient snow cover. 


~ Chuck Hutchens


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Walt Hougas
Trail Steward - Blue Mound SP
To Be A Man...

November 06, 2015, 09:49 AM

I can't stay on the trail riding over leaf cover, especially after dark.

Sent from my XT1028 using Tapatalk


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imwjl
Pleasant View Trail Steward

November 06, 2015, 02:34 PM

There can be some wear from blowing but I try to do it just after rain. That minimizes dust. There's also a mess when leaves get mashed into mud. We ad a rather spirited ride on these trails Tuesday and the leaves made for some slick spots in addition to the challenge of seeing.

If trail is too much on fall line there might be some preservation with not blowing the leaves but real fix for that is move to sustainable grades and benches that allow years more life.

Finally, we approved buying the same Kombi unit we use for cutting and blowing at Blackhawk for this property. It's a small enough property where the Kombi format will be fine vs backpack. When Brian and I were blowing leaves last week I saw I did 4 miles with the Kombi and my old back survived.

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BadMontso
Seminole Administrator
Doesn't have to look pretty, just has to work.

November 06, 2015, 10:25 PM

This one can be debated until you are blue in the face. There was a good debate about it last week on the IMBA FB site.
Logically leaves on the trail will protect from direct impact of rain hitting bare dirt.
But leaves are also organic, and therefore serve as kind of a sponge and can prevent trails from drying. A real thick bed of leaves can greatly affect this and be very slippery.
Leaves on the trail also obscure features and or hazards, be slippery on corners, and make it harder to get a "feel" for the trail. It's not bad, just different. There is nothing that says fall in Wisco to me more than riding in leaves. A totally different experience.
There are some trail systems that try and blow the leaves early. Then leave a thin layer of leaves to get a bit of the benefit, without the problem negative effects of too many leaves.
My take. And this is just me. There is no right answer. Every trail system is different. Type of trail use (fast, slow, etc). Amount of trail riders. And perceptions of the trail stewards all factor in. 
I have not talked to Melissa, but with new trail work, protecting the soft soils of new trail work could also be a factor.
At CamRock, we have tried all of the above mentioned approaches. Deep leaves left a trail that never dried out, and was very slippery on the corners. When we tried light leaf litter, it just blew off from the affect of fast riders on most areas, and on the slower corners was still somewhat slippery.
With the really hard soils at CR, and the many fast sections of trail, we have opted to go with blowing the leaves. Getting the trail dry as soon as possible is the thought. There are times, mostly winters with little snow, that I could see the advantage of having leaf litter left behind. Basically protecting the bare dirt from damage of riders when it thaws. But then again, this coverage is never everywhere, so the trail will be damaged if riders are out on a thawing trail. Therefore we close the trail in thawing conditions throughout the winter if there is not sufficient snow cover.

THANK YOU!

Part of my reasoning is to protect all the work we JUST put into Seminole. Part is me applying my experience with sustainable forestry to this trail. I am also still learning and as was said here this is a topic of debate with no clear answer. My take on this is that stewards walk a fine line on what is sustainable for the land and what is fun for the riders. I think that taking some extra measures to help keep the trail in good condition is worth it, and riders need to adjust for conditions in Fall anyway.
I welcome input as I am new. But doing something "just because we all do" or "makes for more riding time" doesn't seem to be sustainable to me...


~ "All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise something great will come out of it"
           Benjamin Mae, We Bought a Zoo


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Gary S
Board Member, co-Trail Steward Blue Mound SP
Administrator

November 07, 2015, 01:02 AM

THANK YOU!

Part of my reasoning is to protect all the work we JUST put into Seminole. Part is me applying my experience with sustainable forestry to this trail. I am also still learning and as was said here this is a topic of debate with no clear answer. My take on this is that stewards walk a fine line on what is sustainable for the land and what is fun for the riders. I think that taking some extra measures to help keep the trail in good condition is worth it, and riders need to adjust for conditions in Fall anyway.
I welcome input as I am new. But doing something "just because we all do" or "makes for more riding time" doesn't seem to be sustainable to me...

I really didn't want to answer this but I'm now worried that this attitude will spread and affect the ability to recruit volunteers to blow leaves, which is already an issue.

There really is a pretty clear answer if you read between the lines here and if you search MTBR for similar threads.  There are very few cases where it makes sense to not remove the leaves, and even then I think it's probably a wash either way. I understand you are new but when new it's generally acceptable to conform unless you have a really good reason not to.

The majority of the trails in this area are on hardpack/clay.  If the trails are designed properly there's no reason not to remove the leaves, and if not, leaves are not going to save them.  The idea of leaving a protective layer of some kind is without merit.  The ground is going to freeze and heave and loosen regardless of leaves on the trail.  Leaves are organic matter that hold moisture and if left for any length of time are just going to turn into mush when wet or get crushed up and either blow away or get ground into the dirt.  Ideally you are riding on dry dirt, not wet leaves, not dry leaves, not wet or dry leaves mixed with wet or dry dirt. As already said, leaves make it very hard to follow the trail, which can be dangerous in itself.

Seminole may be new but it is already packed pretty firmly.  This will change in the spring after the frost heaves the ground up and loosens it.  It's important to get tires on the ground ASAP after the frost melts and the trails dry out enough to handle traffic.  Blowing leaves in the spring is going to not only delay getting tires on the ground, but the process is going to be more difficult and time consuming because the leaves are going to be matted down and mixed with mud. It's also a very messy job in the spring, because you are tearing up loose soil along with the leaves. I might make a light pass in the spring but that's generally to clear any oak leaves and sticks that have fallen over the winter.

Lengthening riding time is what it's all about here, so long as you're not damaging the trails.  In this case removing leaves is beneficial for both fall and spring.

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XXX

November 07, 2015, 10:53 AM

Melissa, is anyone mentoring you or consulting you with these types of decisions?

Trailbuilding and maintenance is a complicated beast and a big job. As you say, you're new to the sport and to trail building, I'm just wondering if we have a good plan in place to help you learn and assist you as you gain more experience.

I want nothing more than to see you succeed and I could see a mentoring type of relationship being beneficial.

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BadMontso
Seminole Administrator
Doesn't have to look pretty, just has to work.

November 07, 2015, 01:45 PM

Melissa, is anyone mentoring you or consulting you with these types of decisions?

Trailbuilding and maintenance is a complicated beast and a big job. As you say, you're new to the sport and to trail building, I'm just wondering if we have a good plan in place to help you learn and assist you as you gain more experience.

I want nothing more than to see you succeed and I could see a mentoring type of relationship being beneficial.

I just sent a message to the other Trail Stewards to ask them to impart wisdom my way. I also have been reading up on IMBA's trail best practices as well. The honest truth is there are only a couple of spots where there is more than just scattered leaf coverage on Seminole to begin with. I plan on going out and clearing some of the bad spots in the next couple of days. I also believe that trails are best managed by a couple people and not just one. I am enlisting help from Tim Heckman, and Nick as a back up.

I am not truly new to MTB, I have just been off the trails for quite some time. The community has changed a lot in that time too. So I am starting out with fresh eyes (so to speak).

Thank you for the vote of confidence!

Melissa


~ "All you need is 20 seconds of insane courage and I promise something great will come out of it"
           Benjamin Mae, We Bought a Zoo


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G
And last but not least.......

November 09, 2015, 03:22 PM

Thanks for stepping in and volunteering. Your help is appreciated.

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XXX

November 09, 2015, 05:47 PM

My vote is to get the leaves off the trail.  Most of us are riding at night these days and it gets tricky to distinguish the trail from the rest of the woods under bike lights plus it does seem like the trail dries out more quickly in the spring when leaves are gone. 

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