Forging new and better trails

Experts will teach volunteers how to beat the best forest path.

Take acres of open space and some community volunteers, add a professionally sponsored workshop, and the result could be miles and miles of new island trails.

The Subaru/International Moun­tain Bike Association’s trail care crew comes to Bainbridge Island to give a free, two-day workshop on building sustainable trails July 10-11, commencing with a slideshow July 8.

“We have this coalescence of open space coming online – either for transportation connections or recreational opportunities, (and) we have a great volunteer base on the island,” said John Grinter, a member of the park district’s trails advisory committee. “What this will do is teach us how to build (trails) properly the first time, and hopefully reduce taxpayer expense.”

The workshop comes at a time when, by Grinter’s estimates, Bainbridge has a backlog of two to three years worth of trail-building – work that could potentially add 20 miles of trails to the estimated 11 miles now in the islandwide system. The city’s open space program has preserved more than 160 acres over the last two years, much of it forested land that could join the trail network.

Trails committee chair Rick Gordon says the goals of the workshop are to “help train a new group of people to act as trail leaders, and generate interest in the construction of new trails...

“We definitely need more volunteers.”

“Sustainably built” trails take erosion into account and need little maintenance besides pruning vegetation, which users can do by bringing clippers along on hikes.

The first part of the workshop will cover trail layout and design; part two covers the basics of construction, based on the IMBA’s “Trail Solutions” book, which includes techniques well-tested since the days of Roman road builders.

New trails that will serve hikers, joggers, equestrian riders and bicyclists are the goal.

“Ninety to 95 percent of trails are intended to be multi-use – that’s an important principal,” said committee member Bart Berg.

Bainbridge was one of 70 community applications accepted out of 150 nationwide, said Aaryn Kay, coordinator for the seven-year-old program.

Submitted by Grinter on behalf of the park district, the application was attractive because “it sounded like so much potential, and they’re already using IMBA trail standards – so we thought it would be perfect timing to come this summer,” Kay said.

The crew of Nat and Rachael Lopes will lead the workshop. Rachael, an archaeologist, has experience that ranges from GIS mapping to soil sampling. Nat is a California Department of Forestry firefighter and state park docent.

“What’s exciting is their coming here is perfect timing, because of the open space and non-motorized push,” Grinter said. “Trails form a vital component. We can’t lay asphalt (to put in road shoulders), but we can build connections for non-motorized opportunities.”

A regular trail-building party now meets the last Saturday of each month. Although Bainbridge has some skilled trail builders already, Grinter hopes the workshop will get more involved and broaden knowledge among the general public, the city’s public works and park district maintenance crew.

“There’s a job for everyone,” Grinter said. “We can probably do 90 percent of trails through volunteer efforts.”

Gordon looks forward to working with the IMBA crews on solutions to common problems seen on Bainbridge: how to deal with “particularly wet areas.”

“I don’t travel around the country (like the IMBA crew does) looking at how people do it, and what other people have used to solve problems,” he said.

Berg also hopes the workshop will raise awareness of the need for build trails across the island’s new public lands; some established trails across private land are at peril.

“I’m still discovering these forested areas I’ve never seen,” said Berg, a Bainbridge native. “Trails open up areas people would never (otherwise) go to.”

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