Horse Gulch Blog

Watchdogging for the greater Durango area

12 Jun 2013

City funding approved by Boards for Durango’s first progressive freeride trail, “The Scratch”

Posted by Adam Howell


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Durango’s Natural Lands Board and Parks and Recreation Board approved funding to give to Trails 2000 to hire a crew leader, install signage and purchase a griphoist for moving heavy rocks in Horse Gulch on what will be Durango’s first sanctioned progressive mountain bike trail.

The trail alignment in red coming down off of Raiders Ridge is dubbed The Scratch, which received City funding for a crew leader, signage and a griphoist.

The trail alignment in red coming down off of Raiders Ridge is dubbed The Scratch, which received City funding for a crew leader, signage and a griphoist. Keep clicking on map to enlarge.

A final approval of the Board’s recommendations for funding the work is expected to be made by the City Council at their next meeting.

Specific to the discipline of mountain biking known as freeriding, The Scratch would allow riders to progress their skills and riding style by giving them the options to ride on technical features such as rock outcroppings, jumps or ledges made from preexisting materials found on site.

Currently the alignment traverses and descends one of the lengthier extensions of connected slick rock found in Horse Gulch, with some giant, yet moveable slabs of slick rock and plenty of brush work to be done along the way.

Leading a crew of volunteers on this build, is Tyson Swasey, who helped build Captain Ahab Trail in Moab—a trail known for the multitude of slick rock that was moved into place to make the rugged terrain there more congruent and rideable.

Expecting the project to start some time in June, Trails 2000’s Executive Director Mary Monroe said it should take around 20 to 30 days to build this trail coming off of Raiders Ridge.

An area on the alignment where a progressive freeride trail known as The Scratch is slated for construction this summer.

An area on the alignment where a progressive freeride trail known as The Scratch is slated for construction this summer.

Money that the City gives to Trails 2000 in the amount of $5,434 dollars for the trail will come from the City’s 2005 Open Space, Parks and Trails Fund, according to Kevin Hall, Durango’s Assistant Community Development Director.

The Board’s approval of the funding comes amid increasing popularity of progressive mountain bike trails and the rapid progression of suspension and frame technology found on mountain bikes. It also comes at a time when communities and ski resorts all over the western United States are reaping the economic benefits of tourists seeking out newly constructed progressive freeride trails and bike parks.

This is a slab that could be used on the alignment of the approved progressive freeride trail dubbed The Scratch.

This is a slab that could be used on the alignment of the approved progressive freeride trail dubbed The Scratch.

About 10 freeride advocates attended the Natural Lands Board meeting to listen in and voice their support for The Scratch.

Most of the Natural Lands Board spoke in favor of the project, with unanimous votes in favor of approving the funding, but two raised skepticism about the precedent that it will set for other groups asking for user specific trails.

Natural Lands Board member Mark Smith expressed concerns about the perceived dangers that the community might have with a trail where hikers going up the trail could get hit by somebody going down, and the controversy that could come from that.

On this particular trail, however, riding on specific freeride features would be optional, giving users the freedom to ride around them safely.

Rocks that might get moved with a griphoist for the construction of The Scratch this summer.

Rocks that might get moved with a griphoist for the construction of The Scratch this summer.

Plus, the speed of riders on this trail is expected to be moderated due to the terrain, topography and technical aspects of the new trail, according to Collin Shadell, a volunteer with Trails 2000 who’s been following this project since its conception.

Several Natural Lands Board members addressed Smith’s concerns of the City financially supporting this project, considering that the City is already funding such user-specific areas such as the skate park and the Chapman Hill Ski Area.

Natural Lands Board member Paul Wilbert rallied the Board to approve the funding.

“Our previous City Manager—he had a saying that addresses what we’ve been talking about—he said the City is in the liability business, and to me that’s true, and this trail is probably not any more dangerous than a lot of the other things that the City is helping to fund, too,” said Wilbert.

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These ponderosas were in the vicinity of the alignment flagged out by Trails 2000 and the crew leader for the new progressive freeride trail dubbed The Scratch.

Addressing some of the safety concerns of this new trail, Monroe is encouraging the City to designate The Scratch as a directional, one-way trail, and secondly to designate it as user specific (for mountain bikes).

“I think it can be agreed that a lot of trails here already are directional like Telegraph, Anasazi—even the Meadow Loops,” said Colin Shadell, a volunteer for Trails 2000. “Yeah you can ride them backwards, but do you really want to? Not generally. They’re not enforced, but maybe this one would be.”

Realistically, encouraging directional travel on trails where it makes sense would be done by word of mouth, signage, various websites, or any other form of education, rather than a mandate through a City ordinance.

A final decision on designating The Scratch as directional and user specific, however, will be up to Durango’s Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz, or an entity of the City.

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6 Responses to “City funding approved by Boards for Durango’s first progressive freeride trail, “The Scratch””

  1. Have to say – very cool. Good on all involved! Never believed it would come to fruition.

     

    Jerry Hazard

  2. Sweet…Thanks for making it happen!

     

    Shera

  3. Thank you for supporting freeride bike culture and the progressive trails that help us progress our skills as mountain bikers. Cheers to Shera and Jerry!

     

    Adam Howell

  4. get ready for the collision as hikers and runners come from the power line trail and get creamed by bikers screaming downhill. this is nuts. that section of trail/road above the quarry is heavily used by bikers, runners and hikers heading INTO the gulch. Who thought of that last section? looks like Mercy Medical will win on this one

     

    rob milofsky

  5. Designating the trail as one way would aid in alleviating that possibility.

    Will any more/less incidents of “bikers screaming downhill” in to other trail users? Difficult to say.

    There are several areas were trails intersect already that could be considered dangerous (basically any trail that feeds back in to the drainage), why single out this one?

     

    Jerry Hazard

  6. Both Trails 2000 and Tyson, the crew leader on this project, are familiar with trail construction tactics used to scrub rider’s speeds to a point where their situational awareness is heightened to the presence of their surrounding trail users.

    Just because someone is riding a trail that’s meant to be directional does not mean that those riders are inherently reckless, out of control, or disrespectful to other trail users. These values are all taught through various educational mechanisms.

    Plus, the rocky terrain where this trail alignment sits will naturally scrub riders speed whether the riders want it to or not.

    Rob, why not encourage directional travel on trails such as this one, Medicine Trail, Anasazi Trail, Telegraph Trail and Star Wars Trail in Test Tracks for this very reason? All of these trails have steep sections with blind corners where bikers could potentially scream downhill and cause a collision. Does that mean that we should ban all downhill-oriented trails and only accept cross country trails? I beg to differ.

    Communities all throughout Colorado, New Mexico and Utah have already designated some of their trails as directional to alleviate these types of safety concerns.

    All it would take is putting a few arrows next to trails on the maps that Trails 2000 and the City have to replace in Horse Gulch every few months anyways.

     

    Adam Howell

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