Trail Building Archives
How it all began: IMBA/Subaru Trail Care Crew
BMCC-sponsored visit to Wilkes in November 2002 was a big success
Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew helps blaze the trail here
A mountain biking dream began to take shape as about two dozen people designed and built a section of mountain bike trail November 16-17, 2002 at W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir in Wilkesboro.
The project was the culmination of a hands-on mountain bike trail design and construction clinic presented by Scott Linnenburger and Aaryn Kay of the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew. Their visit to Wilkes County was sponsored by the Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club.
IMBA, the International Mountain Bicycling Association, has several full-time trail design and construction consultants, fully funded by Subaru of America.
Linnenburger, 30, and Kay, 28, travel the East Coast for IMBA. They have earned master’s degrees in environmental management from Duke University.
Since 1988, IMBA-affiliated groups have put in more than a million trail work hours worldwide, constructing an estimated 5,000 miles of mountain biking trails.
At Kerr Scott, participants in the trail building school tagged and began construction on a single track offshoot of the Dark Mountain Trail.
The Dark Mountain area is a 140 acre site on a large hillside just north of W. Kerr Scott Dam. The well-drained site sits atop a granite vein, meaning there’s very little mud, even after heavy rains. “The Dark Mountain site is made to order for mountain biking,” said R.G. Absher of the United States Army Corps of Engineers.
The bike trail development project at Dark Mountain is the first in the nation since IMBA and the Corps signed a national memorandum of understanding encouraging such projects, Linnenburger said.
Classroom session teaches trail design and construction techniques
The two-day trail building school began with a two-hour classroom session November 16th, illustrated with slides depicting both exemplary and improper trail designs from around the world.
The Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew emphasizes the design and construction of sustainable trails. Sustainable trails can withstand erosion and safely handle the demands of users.
“The goal is to keep users on the trail and water off the trail,” Linnenburger said.
Water can do more damage than users, Kay added. Trails that run straight up and down slopes are prone to water damage. As the trail loses soil, roots are exposed and the trail gets wider and uglier.
Properly designed trails run in harmony with the land they traverse. Just as Michelangelo worked to release the sculpture within a block of marble, trail planners strive to discover the trail best suited to the site.
Two rules guide contour trail design:
The 10% rule. The average grade on a properly designed trail should be 10% or less, with no grades to exceed 15%. Grades above 15% are quickly eroded by water and users.
The half rule. The grade of the trail should be less than half the grade of the side slope, to keep water from flowing down the trail. Water should always flow over the trail bed in sheets, not run down it.
Proper trail planning takes more than just contour design. “It’s important to get in the head of the user,” Linnenburger said.
For example, if there’s a view near the trail, route the trail to the view or users will blaze their own trail to it. Use trail design elements like narrow passages to slow mountain bike traffic and exclude motorized vehicles. Trail design is more effective than warning signs at keeping users on the trail.
Participants tag trail alternatives atop Dark Mountain
After the classroom clinic, participants in the trail building school took to the slopes of Dark Mountain on Saturday to tag possible trails.
The goal: find a gentler alternative route for a short section of the main trail. The section of the main trail to be bypassed has a grade of approximately 25%, well over the maximum recommended slope. Trails that steep are tough to walk and nearly impossible to bike.
The group separated into several teams. Using small hand-held devices called clinometers to measure slope, the groups bushwhacked through the forest and brush , putting survey tags along several alternative routes around the wall on the main trail. The goal was to keep the grade of the tagged trails at 10% or less.
Despite a steady rainfall, the teams kept at it, but they weren’t all successful. Some of the tagged routes exceeded the desired grade or dead ended due to topographical barriers. Out of four teams, two came up with workable alternatives. One surveyed a route that cut below the steep slope and followed a lower, longer line up the hill. Another group envisioned a path just beyond the slope, following a contour on the far side of the hill.
Volunteers build a section of singletrack trail at Dark Mountain
Sunday, a smaller group of volunteers returned to Dark Mountain to build a narrow, singletrack trail along a route discovered by one of the teams on Saturday.
Under the direction of Linnenburger and Kay, volunteers tagged an environmentally-sound hillside route for the trail and used hand tools to clear the path and construct a bench cut trail.
Bench cut trails have shoulders designed to promote sheet flow of water over, not along, the trail. Tedious hand labor with specialized tools is required to cut these trails into the soil.
The hard work is worth it because once a bench cut trail is built, it’s there to stay.
All told, about a dozen volunteers managed to cut and groom a short section of trail during a three hour work session. A longer section of trail has been tagged, waiting on future work sessions for construction.
BMCC member Jim Horton had a gleam in his eye after walking the hillside trail. “This will be really sweet to ride when it’s completed,” he said.
After the work session, the group took to mountain bikes to ride a section of the Overmountain Victory Trail near Warrior Creek.
Trail Building School draws a diverse and enthusiastic crowd
The trail building school drew participants from as far away as Alaska. Bill Petty, a retired Air Force officer on an extended RV trip along the East Coast, learned of the Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew’s visit to Wilkes and rerouted his itinerary to be in Wilkes for the trail building school. Other participants drove from Boone, Statesville and Charlotte.
A number of teens from the Wilkes Central High School bike club participated in the trail building school on Saturday.
Dennis Huggins, executive director of the Yadkin River Greenway Council, and Jeff Teague, president of the Friends of Rendezvous Mountain Educational State Forest, also participated. Linnenburger and Kay also met with Wilkes Chamber of Commerce and other officials during their four days in Wilkes. Meetings with land managers at W. Kerr Scott took place throughout the Trail Care Crew's visit.
"There were 2 significant elements to this IMBA visit - 1) Land Managers 2) Trail enthusiasts. Both parties left educated on an effective program to build and maintain sustainable trails," said Marc Czarnecki, president of the Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club.
The Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew's visit was conceived and coordinated by Marc. Congratulations, Marc, on a job well done!
A good deed
Brandon Bess of Boy Scout Troop 343 built this bridge on the Overmountain Victory Trail as his Eagle project. The bridge was dedicated in memory of Steve and Eric Higgins. Thanks to Brandon and the Scouts of Troop 343 for your help!
Work's Done...Time for Fun!
Photo courtesy of Richard Fink
BMCC trail crew members and Boy Scouts from local Troop 335 pose after enjoying their handiwork Feb. 12th, 2005. The Scouts helped add about an eighth of a mile to the Overmountain Victory Trail at Kerr Scott Lake. "There is a reason for the big grin on everyone's face," says trail worker Richard Fink. "Overmountain is one awesome trail." Mike Adams, second from the left, is the Scout leader who provided the eager volunteers. Thanks to Mike and all the Scouts!
Dude, you're gettin' a
BMCC lands $10,000 local tourism grant
to speed singletrack trail development
The Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club's efforts to build singletrack mountain bike trails at W. Kerr Scott Reservoir got a big boost as BMCC was granted $10,000 in tourism development funds by the town of Wilkesboro to purchase a Ditch Witch mini-bulldozer.
The grant was the result of lobbying efforts by BMCC president Dwight Levi and Dark Mountain trail coordinator Jim Horton. The pair addressed the Wilkesboro Tourism Development board July 29th, 2003.
The grant won't cover the entire cost of the Ditch Witch SK500 the club has purchased, but donations from local businesses will pick up much of the slack. The Hampton Inn is donating $2,500 toward the cause. Cook's, Empire Automotive Group and Premier Chevrolet have also promised donations.
So what's a Ditch Witch?
The Ditch Witch SK500 is a small, powerful track mounted, walk along mini skid steer. The device has a ton of attachments, including some that will make singletrack traildevelopment a snap. BMCC's Ditch Witch sports a blade designed to cut a 42-inch-wide trail. The 2,200-lb. device is powered by a 24 HP Honda gasoline engine.
Mini-dozer will speed local trail building efforts
The tiny tractor is a big labor saver, trail developers say. Woody Keen, trail coordinator for the Friends of Dupont State Forest, says an hour using a mini-bulldozer is equal to a day's labor using hand tools. The device's role in creating multi-use trails at Dupont Forest was the subject of a thorough article in the Hendersonville Times-News. BMCC's Jim Horton has tested a Ditch Witch demo model at Dark Mountain and is very pleased by the capability of the small, walk-behind 'dozer.
BMCC will use the device to develop a network of mountain biking trails at W. Kerr Scott Reservoir. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and BMCC have signed a memorandum of understanding to encourage such efforts. Jim Horton has mapped a network of interlocking trails along the lakefront and the bluffs above the shoreline. An estimated 30 miles of singletrack trail is possible, Horton says. The club has been developing trails using hand labor, but it's been slow going. "Now that we have the Ditch Witch, we'll be able to build a lot more trail a lot quicker," BMCC president Dwight Levi says. "However, it still leaves work in its wake. We will continue to need volunteers to meet our goals and commitments."
Mountain bike trails expected to become a regional tourism draw
Why ask the tourism board for funds? An extensive network of mountain biking trails will be a regional tourism draw. Just cruise through the parking lot at Tsali or Wilson Creek and you'll see tons of cars with out-of-state plates. Many of the in-state folks have driven several hours. These out-of-towners will need food and lodging, giving the local tourism economy a shot in the arm. The proximity of Kerr Scott to local restaurants, lodging and shopping should accentuate this benefit.
Source Drinks makes big donation to Kerr Scott trail building
Source Drinks, maker of BURN Energy Drink, donated $1075.02 to BMCC in recognition of the club's contribution to the 2005 BURN 24 Hour Challenge. This money is dedicated for use in trail construction, maintenance and related facility improvements at W. Kerr Scott.
"We sincerely appreciate all your efforts, and I speak for everyone who participated when I say you all have created a truly fantastic trail that is sure to become a destination for cyclists all over the East Coast," said Tyler Benedict of Source Drinks.
In addition to its sponsorship of the BURN 24-Hour Challenge, Source Drinks sponsors or supports more than 100 mountain bike races and rides, many of them in the Southeast.
Club receives $1,000 tourism grant to support trail building
The Wilkesboro Tourism Development Authority will provide the Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club a $1,000 grant to support trail building at Kerr Scott Lake, BMCC president Brian Pierce announced April 4th, 2005.
The club will use the grant to add a bucket attachment for the the club's Ditch Witch mini-bulldozer. Club members also authorized the purchase of a professional-quality chain saw for use in trail building.
"Both these pieces of equipment are sorely needed," said former BMCC president Dwight Levi at the April club meeting. Dwight has been one of the faithful few who've labored on the trails week in and week out over the past two years.
Lowe's donates $1,000 to support trail building at Kerr Scott
Lowe's of Wilkesboro has donated $1,000 worth of trail building tools in support of BMCC's efforts to build mountain bike trails, BMCC mountain bike coordinator Matt Adams announced in March 2004. The Lowe's donation was used to purchase wheelbarrows, rakes, tampers, a chain saw and safety gear. The tools have gotten good use and rave reviews during recent work days at Dark Mountain.
"I appreciate Lowe's generosity and Matt Adams' initiative to seek this donation," BMCC president Dwight Levi said.
BMCC lands free IMBA/REI trail building tool kit
BMCC's efforts to blaze mountain biking trails haven't gone unnoticed at the national level. The club has been selected to receive a kit of trail building tools worth more than $500.
"I am happy to report that your club had been chosen to receive one of our IMBA/ REI Trail Stewardship Toolkits! Each kit comes with a McLeod, Pulaski, Clinometer, work gloves, t-shirts, IMBA yield the trail signs, responsible riding tips brochures and an IMBA Singletrack Solutions book. The entire package is valued well over $500," said Brandon Dwight, IMBA's grassroots advocacy coordinator.
"Your hard work and dedication to mountain biking access and trailbuilding are the driving force behind IMBA," Dwight said.
This isn't the first time IMBA has given BMCC a big boost. An IMBA sponsored visit of the Subaru Trail Crew in November 2002 launched BMCC's efforts to build environmentally-sound singletrack trails.
Corps of Engineers lauds BMCC
for "outstanding volunteer service"
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers formally presented a Certificate of Appreciation to BMCC at the ribbon cutting for the Dark Mountain trail system Saturday, May 29th, 2004. Kerr Scott operations manager Terry Ramsey cited the club's "outstanding volunteer service toward the creation of seven miles of multi-purpose trails" at Dark Mountain Park. The certificate cites BMCC's contribution of more than 1,200 volunteer service hours to the project.
"We commend BMCC for its willingness to improve public lands for the benefit of all recreational users," Ramsey said.
BMCC Trail Boss Jim Horton and President Dwight Levi display the Certificate of Appreciaton presented by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at the Dark Mountain Trail dedication ceremony May 29th, 2004.
BMCC, Jim Horton honored
at Public Lands Day ceremonies
Photo courtesy Brian Pierce
Ellen Adams, Brian Pierce, Dwight Levi, Matt Adams, Kevin Bauguess and trail boss Jim Horton represented BMCC at National Public Lands Day ceremonies at Kerr Scott Lake October 8, 2005.
The Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club was honored October 8th, 2005 for its role in trail development at W. Kerr Scott Reservoir.
A certificate from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Wilmington District cites the club's "outstanding support in the development and construction" of multi-use trails at Kerr Scott. It was presented by Rep. Virginia Foxx, representative for the fifth district of North Carolina in the U.S. House.
Kerr Scott facilities manager Terry Ramsey presented a Commanders Coin to BMCC's Jim Horton. Horton coordinates trail building efforts for BMCC. "(Jim) is the driving force that gets things done," Ramsey said.
Col. John E. Pulliam, district commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and Paul Carson of the National Park Service, were also on hand for the ceremonies.
Since November 2002, the club has built about 11 miles of single track trail at the lake near Wilkesboro, with more under development.
"(BMCC's) desire to improve public lands for the use of all is a credit to themselves, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the United States Army," the commendation states.
BMCC's work at Kerr Scott draws rave reviews
"In all my years of government service (25 years) and involvement with volunteer groups - BMCC tops them all in effort and exceptional service," says Terry Ramsey, operations manager at Kerr Scott. "Your efforts on the OVT are to be commended! Thanks for all the hard work and your supervision of other volunteers."
"The partnerships you guys have developed are to be applauded," says Linda Cheek of the Wilkes County Chamber of Commerce. "Thanks for all you do to make Wilkes County a more attractive place to live."
Trail linking dam to greenway completed during Public Lands Day
In a National Public Lands Day observance, BMCC volunteers teamed up with the Yadkin Valley Greenway Council and local Boy Scouts Oct. 8th, 2005 to build a connecting trail from the spillway at Kerr Scott Dam to the Fish Dam Creek Recreation Area. The trail is part of a master plan to link the Dark Mountain and Overmountain Victory trails to the Yadkin River Greenway.
BMCC lands NORBA Trail Tune-Up Grant
BMCC has landed a $500 grant to support mountain bike trail building efforts at Kerr Scott Lake, BMCC mountain biking coordinator Matt Adams announced at the February 2006 club meeting.
The Trail Tune-Up Grant is a partnership between NORBA and IMBA, two national mountain biking organizations.
"We appreciate the work your organization is doing to preserve and improve trail access for mountain biking," said Kelli Lusk, NORBA Eastern Regional Manager.
The grant has been added to BMCC's Trail Fund for use in trail development at Kerr Scott. BMCC has built over a dozen miles of mountain biking trails since November 2002, with more trails currently under construction.
Dark Mountain gains National Recreation Trail status
Wilkesboro's Dark Mountain Trail is among 37 designated in June 2005 as new National Recreation Trails, Gale Norton, the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, announced.
The Dark Mountain Trail was one of three trails in North Carolina to be recognized. The Blue Ridge Parkway's segment of The Mountains-to-Sea Trail, and The Scuppernong River Interpretive Boardwalk near the coast were also named to the list, the Winston-Salem Journal reported.
Dark Mountain will get a certificate of designation and a National Recreation Trail marker.
The Dark Mountain Trail was built over the course of two-and-a-half years by local volunteers coordinated by the Brushy Mountain Cyclists Club. It was dedicated in May 2004 and has become a popular destination for mountain bikers, trail runners and hikers.
A number of groups are working to eventually link this trail with the Yadkin River Greenway and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, with plans that include connecting with facilities at W. Kerr Scott Reservoir, Wilkes Community College, and the towns of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro, the Journal reported.
A Bridge Under Troubled Waters
Photo by Dwight Levi
This deck of this bridge on the Overmountain Victory Trail was temporarily beneath the surface of Kerr Scott Lake, thanks to the remnants of Hurricane Frances. (The photo was taken Sept. 11th, 2004 after flood waters had receded a bit.) We pride ourselves on building trails with good drainage, but some wet spots just can't be helped!
Volunteers complete core section of Overmountain Victory Trail
Our area's latest singletrack trail is now complete, thanks to the efforts of BMCC trail builders.
The Overmountain Victory Trail winds along the south side of the lake from Kerr Scott Dam to Bandits Roost Campground. The 5.5-mile singletrack trail was completed by a BMCC trail crew Jan. 15th, 2006.
The 5.5-mile singletrack trail begins near the Visitor Center at W. Kerr Scott Dam and runs along the south side of the lake. The trail winds along the lake shore for a bit, then passes through a hardwood forest parallel to N.C. 268 before dipping toward the lake again. The trail ends at the Corps of Engineers campground at Bandits Roost. Overall, the trail is less hilly than the Dark Mountain trail system on the north side of the lake.
"The trail flows past great views of the lake, dips deep into the woods through a quiet stream on a rock crossing and traverses steep hillsides with mature hardwoods and boulder outcroppings," says trail work volunteer Dwight Levi. "An impressive bridge was built by Boy Scout Eric Adams as his Eagle Scout project."
The completion of the section of the federally-recognized Overmountain Victory Trail will make Kerr Scott even more of a destination for mountain bikers.
"Now people will be able to visit and spend all weekend riding at Kerr Scott. This will really increase traffic to the area," BMCC trail boss Jim Horton said. "It's fantastic having this much trail in our backyard," added BMCC mountain biking coordinator Matt Adams.
The BMCC-led trail construction at Kerr Scott ranks as one of the biggest volunteer projects in community history, with well over than 5,000 hours logged since November 2002.
Singletrack trails bypass steep jeep road to the top of Dark Mountain
New access trails are ready to ride
It's bye-bye jeep road! Now there are two new singletrack routes to the top of the ridge at Dark Mountain, thanks to the efforts of BMCC trail builders:
A new singletrack trail from the open field at the Dark Mountain parking area winds to the top of the ridge.
The Fish Dam Creek Trail begins near the tailrace of W. Kerr Scott Dam and ends at the top of the ridge.
"We now have a complete loop of singletrack at Dark Mountain," says BMCC mountain biking coordinator Matt Adams. "Of course billy goats can still take the core trail up, but for most of us, these new sections will add to the overall enjoyment."
It took our intrepid trail blazers just four winter work days to knock out the new approach trail from the Dark Mountain parking area to the top. To reach the new trail, head up the jeep road from the large field near the lake. The new trail takes off to the left.
The rugged section of trail from the tailrace at the dam to the top of the ridge offers some great scenery.
"The new trail is incredible," says BMCC trail designer Jim Horton. The route winds through a stand of hemlocks and a dense rhododendron tunnel.
The Fish Dam Creek Trail adds about a mile to the trail system at Kerr Scott Lake.
Kevin Bauguess goes airborne on the Overmountain Victory Trail at Kerr Scott Lake. Kevin is one of BMCC's trustiest trail workers. He was at the lake for a trail building session December 20th, 2003. (Photo by Dwight Levi)