A progressive gravity-trail project similar to one that was proposed to the City in 2010 by a group of Durango freeriders was given a warm reception when offered up again by Trails 2000 at a joint Natural Lands/Parks and Recreation Board meeting last Monday.
Video by Jerry Hazard showing a freeride trail in the vicinity of the one that Trails 2000 wants freeriders to help them build.
It remains unclear as to why or even if the project proposed by the Durango freeriders remained unauthorized over the past two years due to conflicting information between the City and one of the freeriders, but either way, a pre-existing freeride trail in the general vicinity was built illegally.
“There are some trails being built that have not been approved,” said Trails 2000’s Executive Director Mary Monroe. “So we’re trying to address that by building them sustainably and legally, and going through this process so that people know where they can go and how they can do it.”
Monroe highlighted the point that for this proposal and all of the trails that they build, they strive to standardize them with sustainable erosion control features so that they can be maintained on an annual basis instead of on a monthly basis.
“So this is a specific user-built trail,” she said. “We feel we found a good alignment. Again, I did walk this with Alpine Bike Parks several years ago. We flagged an alignment. But we went back and reflagged it.”
Monroe said that Trails 2000 was looking at constructing it this Spring with the help of local freeriders who want to get involved.
Trails 2000 picked up on the planning of this 6/10-of-a-mile trail where the last group left off.
This was a map of the alignment (in red) that Mary Monroe of Trails 2000 presented to the joint Natural Lands/Parks and Recreation Board meeting last Monday.
“We were seeking out areas where there were a lot of boulders and slick rock and coal tailings that are already in existence,” said Trails 2000’s Executive Director Mary Monroe. “We want to utilize what’s already there, so by running the alignment in that area, it reduces the impact on the trail because it’s already rocky.”
Monroe told the Board that the trail alignment she presented would require less maintenance than a cross country trail, mainly because much of it would run across rocky terrain.
To be fair, part of the alignment that Monroe presented was scouted out, GPS’d, mapped out and initially presented to the Board by Walker Thompson, Dusty Bender, Colin Shadell and Lindi Martin of the Gravity Council freeride group at the December 13, 2010 Natural Lands Board meeting, according to Thompson and minutes taken at the meeting.
While the trail that Monroe presented starts at the cement pad on Raider Ridge, the one that Walker and Durango Freeride walked started further down the ridge. They both eventually merged with each other about halfway down.
The trail alignment that they proposed was on the southeastern facing slope of Raider Ridge in Horse Gulch, just before the meadow.
This Google Earth map of the proposed freeride trail coming off of Raider Ridge into Horse Gulch was created by Walker Thompson after him and some buddies scouted it out with an Android GPS back in 2010.
“We called it ‘The Scratch,’” said Thompson last December. “That was going to be the name of this trail.”
“We had multiple people walk it with us. There were thoughts of this progressing. And it kind of got shut down,” said Thompson.
“We got shut down but also these other ideas came about like Log Chutes,” he said.
“We were like, ok we’ll calm down in the hopes of in a year, roughly speaking, we see progress,” said Thompson. “So that’s long past, right. At this point, I’d say the collective group is like ‘who cares,’ because we’re not getting our needs met.”
Natural Lands Board member Cathy Metz, also Durango’s Director of Parks and Recreation, had a conflicting interpretation of the Board’s reception to the initial proposal, saying that the Board was generally receptive to the concept of exploring options. Board minutes from the 2010 meeting also say that “several Board members showed support to explore creating progressive trails for this fast growing sport.”
Minutes from the 2010 meeting also said that “The Board expressed concern about how the City would handle the liability of a facility like this and were informed by Director Metz that it would be similar to the skate park at Schneider Park in Durango.”
While getting authorization from the Board to build progressive freeride trails may be difficult for many people outside of Trails 2000, others are continuing to naturally develop their own lines anyways, said Thompson.
“It’s nothing we’re doing, it’s just like a natural progression,” said Thompson. “I see it on the trails every day. I see people bringing shovels, they’re clipping the inside line. It’s happening, right. And the City or trail builders can’t stop that progression.”
“That’s kind of what’s led to, I guess, our frustration and where we are today,” he said.
Frustration aside, at the Natural Lands Board meeting in December of 2010, Gravity Council communicated that building progressive trails for this sport could create a positive effect on the Durango economy, due to the event potential of this huge spectator sport. They also said that freeriding requires technical rocky features, and that they would like to see such progressive trails for all levels, even beginners, according to the minutes.
While Metz said that the Board invited Walker to the joint Board meeting last Monday, Walker denied that any invitation was given.
Minutes from the 2010 meeting also indicate that Gravity Council had been meeting with Monroe about working together to create progressive trails in Durango. The map of Monroe’s trail alignment roughly puts it in the same alignment that Thompson had GPS’d and imported onto a Google Earth map in 2010, with the exception to differences in the pieces at the top, which Trails 2000 started from the cement pad further up the ridge, and the bottom where it ties into Horse Gulch Road (CR 237).
It is unclear if Gravity Council had presented their GPS’d Google Earth map of the proposed alignment for the trail to the Board at their December 2010 meeting.
The map of Monroe’s proposed alignment was posted on the wall at the Board’s last meeting. Monroe and her partner Travis Brown talked to the Board about what freeriding is and how the terrain in the trail alignment would be suitable.
“There’s already that kind of terrain there and people are using that trail, or the trails that are already there for that use. And there’s a growing demand in this area for those types of trails,” said Monroe. “It’s popular all over the world. It’s called freeriding. It’s different than the Chapman Hill Bike Park area because that’s more of a skills area.”
“This is something where there’s jumps and rocks and specifically built for that use,” said Monroe.
Freeriding, more specifically defined by Wikipedia, is the discipline of mountain biking closely related to downhill cycling and dirt jumping focused on tricks, style, and technical trail features. It is now recognized as one of the most popular disciplines within mountain biking.
Chapman Hill Bike Park is slated to have structures built with man-made materials brought in from outside the area, according to Kevin Hall, the City’s Natural Lands, Trails and Sustainability Director. Whereas this proposed freeride trail would only utilize natural materials found on site similar to how the Lunch Loop freeride trail was built on BLM land in Grand Junction.
Board members at the joint Parks and Recreation Advisory Board and Natural Lands Preservation Advisory Board meeting last Monday acknowledged that plenty of freeriders around Durango have been itching to build sanctioned trails in Horse Gulch.
“The volunteer labor of the guys swinging the pulaskis and the pick axes and maybe some heavy lifting to the extent that the users would be pretty excited about building those things,” said Hall.
Keeping freeriders involved in the progression of their sport was a reason that Travis Brown gave for promoting this latest freeride trail project.
“I’m hopeful that it’s going to accomplish that, and that’ll give that user group ownership and help to make them feel like they’re stewards of the trail network,” said Brown. “And right now it’s little bit of a struggle in not having the things that are challenging enough for people that fancy themselves freeriders.”