Please check out this short, ten-minute video about what projects we’re trying to raise money for this winter so we can build this spring. You can also find these projects laid on the donate page. Please watch, donate, and share with others so that we can get this done!
Many, many thanks to those that have come to workdays. We have gotten a LOT of work done the past few weeks. As the pandemic subsides this spring and summer, we’ll start doing some group photos at the workdays so everyone can see and thank the people that are helping out.
All grade reversals / drains have been cleaned and the trails have been debermed. We have a current project list that is mainly composed of areas on the section of Lonely Hunter by the river that need to be armored (as seen in the video below), the section of seeps on the new portion of Lonely Hunter, and The Bug (which may require some gravel). The plan is to see how the trails hold up over the long weekend and then finalize the project list for the next 6-8 weeks.
To complete the work that needs to be done to keep the trails in good condition and open frequently, we need your help. Please take the time to watch this video about trail maintenance (i.e., what you’ll be doing if you come to a workday) and keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram for upcoming workdays.
This is the last comprehensive update video we need to post. Promise that future videos will be of the 5-10 minute variety.
First, compliance with trail closures and requests to avoid certain sections of trail has been excellent and that is hugely appreciated.
The reason for this post is that I owe everyone a better explanation of the issues. We also need to set some accurate expectations for the next 8-10 weeks and communicate the degree to which participation in trail workdays will impact how much the trails are open. I’ll get a video with some pictures up soon, but here are the cliff notes.
What We’re Worried About
We’re not worried about your bike getting muddy or your feet getting wet. What we’re worried about is loss of compaction. To have sustainable and fun trails, we must maintain good soil compaction. Using wet trails causes loss of compaction, and mud is the byproduct.
You can see the effect of trail use as the seeps (discussed below) and problematic drains get muddier and muddier even through it’s not raining. What’s happening is that when we open the trails, trail users are causing a loss of compaction on those sections of trail.
- New Trails – Even though the trails are compacted by machine as part of the construction process, it will take the trails a few years to become fully established, especially because . . .
- Soil – In many areas, and without getting into soil science I don’t fully understand, there are some compositional imbalances in the soil that inhibit compaction. Also, there is high mica content in some areas. Neither of these soil characteristics will prevent us from having an outstanding trail system, and I’ll get into how they affect design and build decisions later. However, where these conditions prevail, the trail will lose compaction more quickly, especially in combination with . . .
- Abnormally High Rainfall – We opened the trails in the fall of 2019. That December, we got double our average rainfall for that month. For 2020, we are more than 20” above our average annual rainfall. We normally get just under 47”, so 2020 rainfall represents a more than a 40% increase in normal rainfall. What this means is that the property never had a chance to truly dry out this year, and we rolled into December with an already saturated property. Having a dry property heading into the winter is especially important because . . .
- Seeps Caused by Terracing and Native Grasses – This is the least obvious but, other than abnormal rainfall, biggest issue. It deserves requires more in-depth discussion.
Seeps Caused by Terracing and Native Grasses
I’m using the terms seep to refer to 6 foot and longer sections of the trail that remain wet long after the last rain. When you come across these extended wet sections of trail and look uphill, you’ll almost always see two things: (i) terracing (flat areas) or very gentle side slopes and (ii) lots of native grass. The terracing causes water to soak into the hillside rather than run down it. When the water soaks into the terrace, it then slowly seeps out the side slope below the terrace. Native grasses similarly hold water on the hillside and slowly release it.
When you have the amount of rain we’ve had this year, the “sponge” created by the terracing and native grasses is already pretty soaked. So, when you get 3” of rain like we had right before Christmas and then again on New Years, the hillside gets absolutely saturated and the seeps persist for a prolonged period after the rain. This why after a few days the majority of the trail is quite dry, but some portions are still really wet.
This issue was avoided with trail alignment where possible, but it could not be avoided entirely.
- Time – Over time the trail will harden, and the seeps will create fewer problems with loss of compaction.
- Normal Rainfall – If the property could dry out over the summer and fall, then it would have the capacity to handle winter better.
- Trail Work – This is what we have control over and it can have a huge impact on much the trails are open – not only during winter, but also during other seasons.
The Next 8-10 Weeks
For the foregoing reasons, the trails may be closed frequently the next eight-to-ten weeks. However, if we are disciplined and protect the trails, we will see two benefits: (i) the trail time we get in during this period will be fun, because the trails will be in good shape and (ii) the trails will be in top shape much, much sooner this spring and will be closed much less this spring.
During this time, we are going to try to have trail workdays every weekend. The more participation we get, the more the trails can be open.
Happily, the benefits of armoring workdays are lasting and cumulative. The rock doesn’t go anywhere, and as we armor more and more of the problem areas, the trails will get and stay more and more durable and, as a result, will be closed less frequently in the years to come.
Very Generally, We’ll Be Doing Two Things During Workdays
- Clearing Drains and Deberming – we need to clear leaves, pine straw, and other debris out of the drains (i.e., dips in the trail) and knock off the small berms that naturally develop on the outer edge of the trail from hikers, runners, and bikers using the center of the trail. This is required maintenance akin to changing the oil in a car, and must be done a couple of times each fall and winter. It helps the trail dry quickly and prevents problems areas from occurring.
- Armoring – armoring drains and seeps that turn out to be problematic is the chief volunteer component of professionally built trails. During the construction process, it’s impossible to predict with complete accuracy where the problems will develop. When these problem areas reveal themselves over the course of a trail’s first few winters, they must be addressed by volunteers. I’ll get into the difference between drains and seeps and how we address them in a later post.
Given the factors set forth above and the high-level of trail use, there are a number sections that need to be cleared and debermed before we can reopen the trails. As soon as we can get that done, armor a few of the most problematic spots, and get some extended dry weather, the trails can be reopened. Please come to trail workdays to help this go faster.
What You Can Do to Help
I’ll do a separate post on this, but obviously the biggest two are respect trail closures and come to trail workdays. Workdays are posted on Instagram and Facebook. Beyond that, riders can do the following
- if you are descending, slow down and ease through the wet area, and be especially careful to stay off the backslope, which will be softest area of the trail.
- if you are climbing, please don’t let your rear wheel lose traction and spin out, as this will cause deep ruts that hold water; this may mean you need to walk your bike up some sections
There is no way to know with certainty, but my guess is that in future years with somewhat normal rainfall, the trails will do fairly well through December and a good portion of January. But, the increased rainfall, reduced daylight, and lower temperatures of winter will have a cumulative effect so that the trails may be closed a decent amount in February and early March. Fortunately, we have other trails in the area that handle winter much better.
While we still get a decent amount of rain in March and into the spring, warmer temperatures and longer days help a lot. Additionally (and this is often overlooked but crucially important), when all the trees, grasses, and other plants start growing again in March, they will suck tremendous amounts of moisture from the soil. So, the trails should quickly regain top form in middle-to-late March.
I hope this helps everyone understand what is occurring and be patient with the trail closures. Finally, please come to workdays so the trails can be opened more!
We have created a YouTube Channel for Standing Boy Trails so we can create video updates through the next phases of the trails and facilities. We have also posted an end-of-year update, which is almost 40 minutes, but full of a lot of new plans and information. It is well worth your time! Please check it out and subscribe to our channel for future updates.
It’s been awhile, and part of that is because we have tried to have deference to the pandemic – both to those nonprofits that are providing economic assistance and health-care services directly related to the pandemic as well as those with fixed operating costs that are fighting to stay afloat. However, it’s long past time for an update and we are at a point where we have to reassert ourselves in the nonprofit space by fundraising to address insufficient parking and the amount of traffic on the green trails (both of which are awesome problems to have).
State Parks and Parking Pass – The property is back being managed by State Parks. It was a winding road to get here, but it has already proven to be the right move as State Parks is very comfortable managing trails and working with them has been fantastic. If you are so inclined, it would be great if you emailed Matt Bruner at firstname.lastname@example.org. Pretty sure those folks don’t get enough “thank you’s” for everything they put up with.
New signage and a pay station for daily use is coming, but please go ahead and buy a State Parks pass when your Lands Pass expires.
Also, hunting and fishing licenses as well as Lands Passes will continue to be honored until June 31, 2021. Please leave them (or a copy of them) on the dash of your vehicle.
Happily, State Parks taking back over does not alter the Trail System Master Plan. And, it does not mean there are any plans to build any of the facilities that were part of the State Parks Master Plan from a few years ago.
Trail Use – Even with limited parking and virtually no promotion, the trails are seeing an encouraging amount of use. We have counters on Primary Goods, The Bug, and Lonely Hunter. For example, on Sunday, September 20th, we had 153 hits on Primary Goods, 31 hits on The Bug, and 52 hits on Lonely Hunter. We are also seeing a steady amount of traffic during the week, and on many weekdays are getting close to half of the users we see on a weekend day.
That’s pretty good, but we’ll do a whole, whole lot better once we have sufficient parking so that we can promote the trails via social media and other outlets and the pandemic subsides so we can hold beginner clinics and similar events.
Trail Maintenance – Because the corridors are freshly cut, we were able to make it through the spring and summer on the backs of Keith Wills and few other dedicated volunteers. However, as the weather cools down and the ground gets more moisture in it, we are going to have to start having trail workdays again. We will do everything we can to make them safe, and we benefit greatly from the fact we’ll be outdoors. Please keep an eye on Instagram and Facebook for more information, and don’t count on others to show up and do the work. We need everyone’s help.
Parking – With lots of help from Hughston Homes, we have a quote to construct about 70 more spaces at a cost of $65,000. This new parking area is part of a Trailhead Master Plan (I’ll try to get it up on the website soon) and will be located between the existing parking area and Old River Road, just north of the overgrown, gated road that intersects the road to the parking area from the west.
We have approval from State Parks pending the normal environmental surveys, which unfortunately cannot take place until March because we need to wait for trillium to bloom. We have the environmental survey scheduled, and, pending successful fundraising, will start construction as soon as possible after the survey is completed.
Until then, please center on the wheel stops and remember that the road on the western side of the property is open during hunting season, which runs through February. There are a number of spots to park along that road.
The Trailhead Master Plan has changing stalls, picnic tables, etc. and we’ll get there eventually. But for right now, the emphasis will continue to be on trails and parking.
Road to Parking Area – It appears we are going to be able to get the road widened by six feet on the east side so we have a twenty-foot roadbed, which will hopefully be wide enough to let oncoming traffic by with ease but not so wide that it encourages people to drive too fast.
At the same time this happens (likely sometime in the Summer of 2021), it also appears we are going to be able to get a water pump (the kind they have at the ranges on Fort Benning) in the parking area and at a spot on the southern side of the property on Lonely Hunter.
Fingers crossed and I’ll hopefully be able to share more on this soon.
Gate – In the next few weeks we should get an automated gate installed at Old River Road. Appreciation goes to ACOM for this. The gate will open and close automatically (e.g., 5:00 AM and 9:00 PM). Additionally, we will be able to remotely open and close the gate so that we can close the trails when they become too wet. While this will be helpful as the trails attract more and more new users, we can see from the trail counters that compliance with trail closures by current users is awesome. Thank you!
Trail Construction – Currently under construction are segments 8, 9, and 12. This will turn Lonely Hunter into a full blue loop and help reduce the number of users on the green trails. These segments will be complete by Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, there is not a feasible way to open them incrementally like we did with Lonely Hunter. Please exercise discipline and stay off until they are complete.
In the late winter or early spring, the last little bit of segment 9 and segment 18 will be constructed. Segment 18 is meant to be the flagship gravity-oriented bike trail. Construction was pushed back until early next year so we could open that trail, which will have more sculpted dirt features than multi-use trails, into the drier summer and fall months.
After construction of these trails, our current funds will be depleted to what we need for normal operating expenses.
Fund-Raising Campaign – We will soon be launching a $200,000 fundraising campaign. In addition to the parking area, this sum will allow for the construction of some additional trail. The environmental surveys for these trails will be conducted in conjunction with the survey for the parking area.
First, we are going to turn Primary Goods into a loop, which will then allow us to run Primary Goods and Bimini directionally like Lonely Hunter. This will provide a better, less-congested user experience for everyone.
Second, we will better connect Bimini. Large portions of segment 4 suffered substantial tornado damage. We are not 100% sure how we are going to handle this yet, but we’ll get more of the planned-for mileage and have more single track and less gravel road.
Please be on the lookout for more information. To get this done in the current environment, we are going to have to have grass-roots fundraising efforts and donations.
Final Thoughts – It has been really heartening, especially with the current state of the world, to see how thankful and respectful people have been of the trails and property as a whole. Compliance with trails closures is outstanding, very little trash is showing up in the parking area, I’m not hearing lots of reports of people acting like jerks on the trails, etc. Thank you!
Making sure that continues is crucial, as I’m continuing to pursue some additional possibilities as far as management of the trail system, revenue, and similar matters. I’ll share more as soon it’s productive to do so.
Thanks for everyone’s support!
Things have been and are progressing with the project despite the rain and now, just as things have dried out completely, COVID-19. With regards to COVID-19, we are seeing a lot of new users looking to get out of their homes and get some exercise. We are reminding everyone to follow the latest guidelines on social distancing, and thus far it seems like compliance is good. If you are asked a question or help out what seem to be new users, please remind them to check Instagram or Facebook for trail status before venturing out the trails.
Because of COVID-19, we will be suspending most proactive fundraising until the virus has abated. Right now, charitable giving needs to be focused on those affected by COVID-19 and those nonprofits with fixed overhead who will be fighting for their continued existence in the months to come.
Looking at the Master Plan Map under “Trails”, segments 16, 15, and 14 are mostly complete (close to 3 miles). We had to reroute the first part of 16 because of the tornado, and environmental review is scheduled for the week of March 30th. This will allow the completion of the portion of section 16 closest to the parking lot in the weeks to come.
Segments 16, 15, and 14 are very quietly open as of this news update. These are intermediate trails and should be approached with caution. Until segment 13 is completed so that these segments may be ridden as a loop, we will ask
- cyclists to ride south on the gravel road to Hub P and return to the parking area on the trail, and
- hikers and runners to travel south on the trail and return to the parking area on the gravel road.
This will help abate the congestion associated with an “out-and-back” trail.
Work continues on segment 13 and soil conditions have allowed construction to resume on segment 8 as well. Segments 6 and 7 (about 1.5 miles) and segment 13 (about 4 miles) should all open in the coming months. Until they do, please stay off of them as using soft, newly-constructed trails before they are ready can create a lot of problems.
Once all of these segments are completed, we’ll have close to 15 miles. As of right now, we do not have funding for any additional mileage. Until the world starts to return to normal, our focus will be on maintaining the existing trails and encouraging people to use them responsibly.