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Trail Maintenance and Construction
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Winter and spring are the time to begin planning next year's trail building and maintenance. Kurt Loheit has these words of wisdom to help get things going in the right direction. Here's what the IMBA trail guru has to say:

1) Prioritize trails for maintenance.
Make a list and put your trails into 2 or 3 categories, maybe high, medium or low priorities. Keep in mind that you don't have to look at every trail, just the ones that you're interested in maintaining. Ask the following questions to help decide what goes where. Which trails suffered the most damage? Is the damage a safety concern? Should the trail be closed until repaired? Which trails have the heaviest use? Which trails need major work and which ones need regular maintenance? Can the work be done in one session or will it take several work days? High priority trails are the ones that include any safety related problems, especially if the use of that trail is high. Secondary trails might be trails that suffered damage or see a lot of use, however the damage does not affect the safety of the user. Third priority would be routine maintenance that would normally occur. Many trail systems may only require 1 or 2 priorities. Also make note of any problems that are beyond the scope of volunteers. As users, you will likely know the trail conditions before land managers.

2) Assess trails for the amount of work.
Depending on the amount of damage, you will need to look at what will be necessary in the form of resources and materials needed to repair your trails. Take the time to figure out how many people, what kind of tools, and how many hours it might take to do a particular job. This can be a great benefit when it comes time to organize your volunteers. It also helps to organize your projects through the year.

3) Make a schedule.
With the above mentioned information, plan your projects according to the work. Major maintenance projects may not go as planned if they fall on the same day as a large local race or event. Set your dates so they have minimum conflict that could reduce your volunteer base. Check with other volunteer groups and see if you can combine events, or if you can advertise your projects through them, and that you will return the favor. Smaller projects can be used as filler dates once you know when your larger projects can be done. Provide alternate or rain dates in case of weather related problems.

4) Get permission from Land Managers.
As with any work on public land, get permission first. If you go in with all the above information, you stand a good chance of having several successful projects. The more prepared you are, the easier it is for land managers to help you. Remember, they have a lot more to contend with besides your good intentions. Give them time to review your list. Make sure that there are at least two phone contacts for them if they have questions. Ask them for their thoughts or ideas on any of your suggestions. You may want to suggest a date to sit down with them for a review, or even walk the trail. Include the concerns about trail conditions that you feel are outside the abilities of your volunteers, but ask that they keep you informed on their plans. Offer volunteer assistance as an available resource they can use to help minimize costs associated with non-volunteer trail maintenance concerns. Make your package short, maybe 2 to 4 pages, try to include a map with the highlighted trails, and don't go over board on detail.

For more information on trails or trail projects you can contact the IMBA office, (303) 545-9011


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