On Tuesday, September 11th the Trails Foundation and special guests took over the upstairs of Captain’s Anchorage. Dinner, drinks, and the promise of Big Bear trail news brought together a key group of influential local trail users. Our goal: listen to their feedback and get them involved in the challenging trail based projects headed towards the Big Bear Valley. In attendance were the following:
Big Bear Trail Users:
We started out with a summary of all that had taken place over the summer of 2012. Key topics were the Skyline South Shore Project, the Mountaintop Watershed Improvement Program, trails that had recently been brought into the Forest Service system, hard and potential trail closures by the Forest Service. You can see the details here: http://www.trailsfoundation.org/summer2012newsletter/
The International Mountain Bike Association has been in Big Bear for the last week working on the Skyline Trail and the South Shore Trail System. Shane’s final report will be ready in a couple of weeks, but he let us know that they have some great ideas for tying everything together into a trail system that makes sense. Two of the biggest challenges are finding ways to integrate the chairlift into the system and finding appropriate downhill trails for our primarily decomposed granite soil, which only supports grades from 5-7%. IMBA also asked to have several knowledgeable trail users meet with them to verify trail information; thanks to Rob and Derek for jumping in and helping IMBA out.
From here we moved onto several important issues:
Trail Closures: as the Forest Service looks at what trails they might be forced to close down in the South Shore Area, a small group of knowledgeable local users will hopefully be able to act as advisors, helping the government understand what trails are worth keeping and what trails will be worth sacrificing. While this may not make up for the unfortunate fact of trail closures, at least we can hope to participate in the process and make sure our views are heard. Action: Thanks to Derek and Rob for being available to work with the Forest Service on this issue.
Downhillers: as IMBA confirmed, one of the big challenges of our area is that we have a chairlift that takes riders to the top of a mountain without having an organized downhill trail system. As we redesign this area, communicating with mountain bikers who exclusively use the steep downhill trails will be critical. We have to find a way of letting them know which trails are legal, which ones are closed, and explaining the rationale to them so that they stay within the trail system and don’t create new trails. An additional challenge here is that most of the active downhillers do not live in Big Bear, making it harder to establish rapport and relationships with them. While the assembled group was diverse, no one was a focused downhill mountain biker. Action: We came up with several local downhillers to speak with to better understand how best to manage this challenge.
Trail Signs: one of the best ways to manage trail users is to point them in the right direction, using accurate and clear trail signs. Right now we have the funds and permission to sign the entire South Shore Trail System, so several people volunteered to work with Phil Hamilton and get this going right away. Action: Thanks to Tom, Allan, and Michael for helping out with this project.
New Trail Maps: with all of the recent trails added to the system, existing free handout maps of the South Shore Area are outdated. We spoke about producing simple, free maps that will clearly point users to trails and include all of the newly added system trails. Action: Once IMBA has finished their assessment we will be in a better position to design and print new maps.
Snow Summit: spoken of as “the elephant in the room”, our local ski resort does a great job taking bike riders to the top of 2N10. Unfortunately, their responsibility ends here and the rest of the community and the Forest Service must handle and manage the trail traffic as it comes down the mountain. There was a good amount of hope that Snow Summit could come to the table and begin to help us design and fund solid trail systems both on and off their leased forest land.
Beginner Accessibility: Jack was especially supportive of this topic, as his business sees a good amount of beginning mountain bike riders, both individuals and families. Shane from IMBA told us that his plan would include beginning mountain bike rider options. We all agreed, that while we are passionate about advanced trails, the South Shore should have options for all levels.
Skyline Trail Building: How do we get local users out to build the Skyline Trail? This question was met with a resounding call to use existing funds to machine rough cut several miles of the Skyline Trail and then bring in volunteers to fine tune the singletrack. The advisors present felt that building trail from scratch is extremely slow and rough work, and does not lend itself well to a limited volunteer base. By letting people jump in and clean up the machine built trail, the work will still be valuable while providing volunteers more of a sense of accomplishment. An added plus to this method is that every section of trail can be ridden at the end of the work day. Action: The Trails Foundation already has bids from several mechanized trail builders, and will review these bids, take our advisors opinions into account, and hopefully make some decisions at our next board meeting on 9/17.
Trail Maintenance: the advisory group felt that volunteers could be equally valuable in existing trail maintenance. Monthly, scheduled trail maintenance days during the non snow periods should be advertised and organized by the Trails Foundation. Utilize local businesses and groups to lead these days.
Hire Someone: Tom felt that the best way to accomplish most of these objectives was to use existing monies, and then find more, to hire a full time staffer to support the trail mission of Big Bear. While we all agreed with this, right now we don’t have a full time staffer so we must rely on the passion and dedication of volunteers. There was hope that the city of Big Bear Lake, which benefits directly from the tourist dollars generated from our trails, would step up and support this position.
Three hours later, we closed up shop feeling a healthy sense of hope and optimism. Big Bear has a unique opportunity right now in that we have $120,000 in project funds, the blessing of the Forest Service, a partnership with IMBA, and a focused and dedicated group of local trail advisers. Let’s keep making good things happen.
A sincere thanks to all of the folks who showed up to give us their thoughts, opinions and feedback.