Headwaters Trails Alliance recently sponsored a weekend of Trail Building classes and fieldwork taught by the Subaru/IMBA Trail Building School, which was offered to the entire community.
This school teaches IMBA’s philosophies and trains local volunteers and land managers how to build and maintain sustainable, fun singletrack. Some classes were aimed at towns, facilities managers and organizers and some parts were aimed at the volunteers and crew leaders who actually dug in the dirt.
The classes started at the beginning explaining a development process oriented toward the specific community. This involves educating the population about the trails themselves, finding the proper locations and layouts, finding and creating trail advocates and promoting the economic benefits such a trail system can have for the community.
This all creates community support for trails – promoting awareness and creating backing for both development and enhancement of a system. Everyone together creates great experiences for the visitor and local alike. This system creates shops for gear and souvenirs, restaurants to feed visitors, hotels to house visitors, and other related jobs and spending.
Great trails build great communities and great communities build great trails. The Fraser Valley has the natural environment and we have a trail system that needs tweaking but is already on its way to becoming known nationally. We need to build even more community support – people to think about and realize this incredible use of public space leads to a healthier population and revitalized economy.
And we have it all here at our feet – the three most popular recreation activities – biking, hiking, and wildlife viewing. We add skiing to that list of course. Think about the direct benefits of reduced medical costs of healthier people and longevity of the population. We have lower obesity rates, lower stress levels, and higher levels of self confidence by getting people outdoors.
Think about the old saying – if you build it they will come. Just build it right the first time – create it sustainably. That means having a minimum impact on the environment by using correct construction that fits the situation, creating a plan for regular maintenance, and addressing a way to avoid user conflicts.
Trails need to provide for all ability levels and have signage and mapping to show the location of those various levels and amenities. The whole community needs to be drawn in and involved. All available options for additional activities need to be showcased. We all need to know what we have. A good trail system and the benefits derived from it is more than just digging in the dirt, it takes buy-in by everyone – individuals, businesses, promoters, funding sources, and more.
All this applies whether it is a biking singletrack system, a cross country skiing system, or hiking or boating. These principals apply across the board for success. We all need to raise awareness that our livelihood depends on the trails environment and we all need to work together for the good of all to enhance this environment. The Fraser Valley has a great start on this process and needs to focus its efforts on promoting its best assets. Build it right and they will come!