Monday, January 21, 2013

A Good Day on the Trails at Bobcat Ridge and Some Talk of Alternate Lines

Today I was able to escape for a few hours to enjoy the trails at Bobcat Ridge Natural Area.  I was excited to head into the hills a bit because I had heard that the trails were dry and in good shape, and they certainly were.  We are having some fantastic weather for late January and there were lots of people taking advantage of the nice weather at Bobcat Ridge today.  I had the opportunity to chat with a fair number of trail users and tell them about Trailcology (nothing like grassroots marketing) .  There was a mountain biker named Trent who has only lived in the area for about 8 months, Dave and Jan who have been in the area for about a year, a trail runner named John, and several other couples who's names I didn't catch.  Everyone was incredibly friendly and obviously enjoying the great weather.  Again, I couldn't help but think what a great area we live in!

I wanted to collect some pictures of the Ginny Trail today to talk about alternate lines on the trail.  Some of these lines are manmade using logs that were left after the Bobcat Gulch fire burned through in 2000.  These alternate lines are mostly for mountain bikers but I suspect that there are other users who get a kick out of the novel bits of trail that have been built on the Ginny Trail.  Of course, there may also be some trail users who do not like the alternative lines because it adds confusion to the trail or to their interactions with mountain bikers coming down the trail, I don't know for sure.  I would love to start a dialogue about how different trail users perceive these alternate lines.

Have a look at some of these alternate lines.

This is one of the first alternate lines that you come across as you are going up the Ginny Trail (photo is taken looking down the trail).  This is an interesting line because it completely bisects this section of trail.  Aside from the issues related to riding (or falling) off of the line and through the vegetation, this segment does a good job of separating the adventurous mountain bikers from any other trail users who happen to be at the section at the same time. 

This is a cool section where a log bridge has been built to bisect the trail.  I could see this line being used by hikers and runners in addition to mountain bikers.  You may notice that this bridge is much wider than the log skinnies that are found on the trail.  While this may not be the favorite of some mountain bikers because it is not as challenging as some of the other features, it is a great alternate line choice for novice mountain bikers to explore.  Additionally, this feature has the added benefit of allowing trail users to get off of the north facing segment of trail that will probably be muddy as the snow melts.  Whether intentional or not, this is a well placed piece of trail.

This is the second log skinny that you come across as you come up the Ginny Trail (photo taken looking down the trail).  This log skinny is in a nice location for beginner mountain bikers because there is little to no consequence for falling off.  However, this feature is immediately adjacent to the trail and may present an issue when mountain bikers interact with other users at this location.  Of course, there may be some folks who enjoy watching the mountain bikers ride (or try to ride) this feature.  But for those who are less than thrilled with the location of the feature, it's easy to understand why.  It would be very easy for there to be some negative interactions if mountain bikers don't let the other users pass first.

Obviously I have presented a few worst case scenarios.  I do not believe that there would be very many mountain bikers who are so brazen as to risk crashing into another trail user.  But again, I don't know for sure.  On the flip side, I have also pointed out some really positive points to these alternate lines.  Allowing users to avoid muddy sections and damaging the trail, providing some passing points for users, and providing fun and challenging technical features.

After spending some time on the trail today I noticed a variety of further opportunities for alternate lines.  Lines that give mountain bikers some of the technical terrain that they crave, while also helping to get them off of the main trail and away from hikers, runners, and equestrians who might not favor a mountain biker hurdling down the trail toward them on rocky sections.  I'm not sure where the City of Fort Collins stands on the issue of these alternate lines but they have, at least, been tolerated up to this point.  This would be a question I would like to ask the Natural Areas crew.

Personally, I feel that there is room for more features like these on our local trails, as long as they are created and placed intelligently.  Alternate lines can be problematic when they send mountain bikers shooting off a feature toward the flow of general trail use, but when built and placed appropriately they can provide a number of key benefits to the trail, with a primary benefit being the reduction of unwanted interaction between agressive mountain bikers and the rest of the trail users.

In addition to a few more pictures, I would like to leave you with these questions:

What are your thoughts on alternate lines like these?
What kind of interactions have you experience around alternate line features?
Would you like to see more alternate lines on more of our local trails?

Happy Trails!


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