Need help with trail upkeep (Burdocks)


January 12, 2020, 09:57 AM

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.

The burdock trails are made up of two parcels, both owned by "DANE COUNTY TRUAX AIR PARK":
https://accessdane.countyofdane.com/Parcel/Index/081032200991
https://accessdane.countyofdane.com/Parcel/Index/081032106040

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XXX

January 15, 2020, 01:22 PM

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.

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« Last Edit: January 16, 2020, 10:56 AM by 2ridgid »

XXX
augs
President
Board Member

January 17, 2020, 08:50 PM

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.

If anyone is interested in taking those steps here, or just learning more about those steps, email me at jon.augspurger@madcitydirt.com.   

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XXX

January 22, 2020, 09:52 AM

@2ridgid, thanks for work you have done on the trails. Would you have any interest in meeting up sometime to discuss some of the work you brought up? I think we will get more done if we are at least aware of what the other person is thinking. Feel free to send me a direct message here.

@augs, I sent you an email .

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XXX

April 11, 2020, 04:29 PM

I had ideas about organizing a work day for the burdock trails this spring but covid19 put a stop to that. It doesn't really seem like much work is needed anyway.

Today I did a little riding and carried out two bags of garbage. The trails were in good shape and ready to ride any time it is dry.

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« Last Edit: April 11, 2020, 06:05 PM by Justin Meyer »

XXX

April 20, 2020, 10:28 AM

I've noticed that a lot of new trails were made over the winter and spring and are still being made. This place is the wild west and people will do what they want but I want to make a couple of suggestions:
- Some of the new trails runs right through areas that are frequently damp. A more sustainable trail design could use the high ground to allow for more riding days.
- Some of the new trails are on side slopes. These will erode over time. Since there is little maintenance done on these trails  it would be more sustainable to avoid side slopes.
- Significant portions of the new trails run right next to old trails. If the new trails is and improvement over the old let's wipe out the old to avoid a spider web of trails.
- Many sections of the new trails go in a straight line from one obstacle (ex: a dirt pile) to the next. Curves make for fun riding.

No offense, I'm not trying to attack the trail builder. I'm just making suggestions based on my opinion about how to make the trails last with limited maintenance.

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XXX

April 26, 2020, 08:29 AM

A little background about new trails appearing.

I have been working on these trails for the last 3-4 years.  About 3 years ago, several of us mountain bikers, added a small loop on the plateau below the tallest hill/mound. It was intended to be a bit of a skill area so, keeping the natural terrain as it was with off-camber turns was intentional. It sharpens your off-camber skills and is in the spirit of the old-school trails before everyone started building berms and bench cutting trails.  So far, erosion appears to be minimal so I don't think that has been an issue. 

Some new trails were and are being built in the low areas that you refer to.  This is being done by one person who lives in the neighborhood and they are not members of CORP or any mountain bike group. I have spoken to them and they have a motocross background, hence the longer straight sections I think.  Because it is not an official trail, it is difficult to police so called "unofficial trail building" and enforce trail building standards. 

Without official trail management by any organization, these trails are going to be whatever people who do work there want them to be I'm afraid.  So far, I'm ok with it being this way.  In some ways, the place is an interesting trail use experiment.  For example, after fresh rains when everything else is closed, people ride there and despite them making ruts and riding thru puddles, it all seems to smooth out in a matter of a few days like the damage was never done.

If you want stricter compliance to standard trail building practices, it isn't going to happen without the trails becoming official.
Thanks for all your help out there.

P.S. With COVID, there are a lot of people out there lately including families with kids.  Hence, I have been focusing on making it safer by removing low branches, rebar sticking out of the ground etc. I cut down that big tree branch that required one to duck under. I didn't want someone new to the trail to smack their head.  Not speaking from experience or anything.  :o

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XXX

April 27, 2020, 04:43 PM

Thanks for the effigy in the back corner whomever did that. Nice touch!

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XXX

May 17, 2020, 08:09 AM

Thanks to the trail angel(s) that did some weed trimming recently!  There have been times the last few years where I wasn't able to keep up with it.  I will get out there and trim back some more stick weeds before they blossom out with their stickers!  The trails have seen heavy use lately as more people have ventured out and discovered the place during  COVID.  I've never seen the trails so polished! 

On another note: People are adding jumps and in come cases, badly designed bumps and lips here and there.  Also, digging dirt for jumps and leaving big holes near the trail.  Whoever you are, although I find some of these changes good overall,  please ensure what you build is rather safe. There are a lot of inexperienced people riding out there.

Cheers!

 

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XXX

June 19, 2020, 04:49 PM

A little update:
I've done some trimming of brush, weeds, and branches trailside as well as overhead branches over the last couple weeks.  It grows rather fast this time of year.  So far, I am keeping up using non-motorized tools.  The mosquitoes are out in full force, that's for sure.  Some people have added a berm and started a little jump line that is fun.  Still a rather unorganized collection of improvements, which, is kind of awesome in it's own way.

Let me know in replies if anyone wants to work more collaboratively on things, have ideas, etc.

Have fun riding!

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XXX

July 22, 2020, 05:10 AM

After getting my legs scratched up from the overgrowth of thorny Raz. Branches that extend over the newer sections I was motivated to cut those back and trim along some other parts of the trails on Mon. July 20th.
I also managed to move aside a huge branch that had fallen onto the trail blocking it.
After doing a test ride to see what the improvements were like I discovered that I did not trim back as much as I could have with some branches brushing against me as I went past and the socks getting full of burrs.  >:(
(To prevent scratches and burrs I figure I'll just wear my rubber boots when I ride these trails.) 
And no, I did not use power tools since I don't have any although it is tempting to get a weed trimmer for this project if it is just me.
I did what I could though I think a lot more could be trimmed from the trail edges.
I also discovered there is another trail that is currently overgrown. I may try and clear it next time I get up the gumption for working there.
There is also a tree branch that is blocking a thru trail for both bikers and hikers. I believe this one might be too big for a hand saw.
Since using a chainsaw may not be recommended for a volunteer perhaps someone could call Dane Cnty. Parks to remove it?

From the replies and other feedback on these trails it looks like folks are just volunteering on their own when they have the time and energy for it instead of making a formal plan to meet, which I would be open to.
I also gather that there is a reluctance of making these trails official.
It doesn't matter to me. I'm just sharing what I think I see and feel free to correct me on this.
Though frankly I would be interested in looking into making these official so that they can be maintained by paid staff or others than just us if that is what the consensus wants. 

Running along East to West in the Southern area is an old street which is deteriorating. 
Along the newer MTB trials are what looks like old cement foundations or maybe even basements and these cement blocks which the trail runs between in a few spots.
It must be the remains of a few houses that nature is reclaiming... 

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XXX

July 22, 2020, 05:17 AM

A little update:
I've done some trimming of brush, weeds, and branches trailside as well as overhead branches over the last couple weeks.  It grows rather fast this time of year.  So far, I am keeping up using non-motorized tools.  The mosquitoes are out in full force, that's for sure.  Some people have added a berm and started a little jump line that is fun.  Still a rather unorganized collection of improvements, which, is kind of awesome in it's own way.

Let me know in replies if anyone wants to work more collaboratively on things, have ideas, etc.

Have fun riding!
Yes, I would like to coordinate and commit to a work day/time with you and anyone else who would be interested.

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XXX
augs
President
Board Member

July 22, 2020, 09:23 AM

Quick response, will follow up next week. 

Informal coordination of work will help make it more pleasant and productive. Someone just needs to take the lead and set up some times, and stick with it until you gain some momentum.

Formalizing the system is still an idea on the table. My intention was to have a get together to discuss this spring, but Covid has hampered that. If there is enough interest to get a few people but not so much that it would be a crowd, we could try the lawn at the East Side Club or something similar.  Otherwise wait until gatherings are allowed again.

The chance of there being paid staff to do trail maintenance is virtually nil (we don’t get that at any trail systems).  Better organized volunteers, assurance that your work has some  permanence, general administrative help, some funding, and more wheels on the trails will be the main advantages of legitimizing the trails.

Thanks for the time you all are putting in!

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XXX

July 22, 2020, 11:19 AM

Quick response, will follow up next week. 

Informal coordination of work will help make it more pleasant and productive. Someone just needs to take the lead and set up some times, and stick with it until you gain some momentum.

Formalizing the system is still an idea on the table. My intention was to have a get together to discuss this spring, but Covid has hampered that. If there is enough interest to get a few people but not so much that it would be a crowd, we could try the lawn at the East Side Club or something similar.  Otherwise wait until gatherings are allowed again.

The chance of there being paid staff to do trail maintenance is virtually nil (we don’t get that at any trail systems).  Better organized volunteers, assurance that your work has some  permanence, general administrative help, some funding, and more wheels on the trails will be the main advantages of legitimizing the trails.

Thanks for the time you all are putting in!

augs: Perhaps when you respond with a follow up you could say what the pros and cons would be of making these trails official?
Since it looks like it is going to be volunteers who do the upkeep, such as it is for the CORP trails, I don't get it what the difference is between official vs non.
Does making them official mean that CORP would adopt and add them to all the other trails that are listed here?

If not or until then would CORP consider adding a "Other trails that are non-CORP" section to the website?
It was mentioned earlier that there are other hobo trails around.

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XXX
augs
President
Board Member

July 26, 2020, 09:52 PM

Pros of being legit:
  • Money from CORP budget for tools and annual maintenance.
  • Better organization/communication through CORP channels.
  • Some assurance that the trails will be around and continue to be maintained.
  • Potential ability to do larger, funded projects.
  • Trail listed on CORP page with conditions, so more wheels, hopefully more volunteers.  The East Side is definitely a trail desert, and a surprising number of people don't know about the Burdocks; just getting them on the web page would increase awareness quite a bit.

Cons of being legit:
  • It's possible that the land manager/owner doesn't want trails there and doesn't know they are there, and it ends up being a sleeping dog we shouldn't have woken (this is pretty unlikely; it's hard to believe they don't know, and we have a good track record of working with land managers and crafting agreements that work for both parties).
  • Land manager and/or their lawyers may have issues with and/or ideas about what trails should look like.
  • For it to really work better than it does now, someone will have to be in charge; of trail conditions, of interacting with the land manager, of dealing with other users and sometimes telling people what they can and can't do.  That all takes more time and commitment than just showing up when you have some free time.
  • Some of the cool, organic, hobo vibe goes away.  It's actually pretty easy to keep most of this, but for some people, especially who have been using and caring for the trails for a long time, this may be a sticking point.  We will get accused of trying to "take over" the trails if we move ahead.

We went through this a few years ago at Quarry Park, and I think most will agree that it has worked out for the best.  Instead of cycles of a couple years of decent maintenance followed by a couple years of neglect, then a bunch of work to try to bring it back, it's consistently in great shape, a lot more people are riding there, we've got a really good relationship with the City and with the other users of the park, and it still has a pretty unique feel.

As far as an "Other Trails" section of the website, that's a tough call.  Drawing more attention and riders to trails that aren't supposed to be there isn't necessarily in the best interest of the trail.  Whether the land manager doesn't know they are there, or does and is choosing to look the other way, keeping it on the down-low is often the best approach.  On the other hand, we don't get a ton of traffic outside the mountain bike community, so that may not be much of a risk.

Bottom line for me is, it would be good for the trails, good for the riders currently using them, and good for the local community to bring the trails above board, but it will require someone, or hopefully a few people, to put in a little time, first going to meetings and emailing and such, and then organizing work sessions and maintaining the relationship with the landowner.  It's not as glamorous as trimming weeds and digging in the dirt, but it's worth it to see the trails in better shape and more people riding them.

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