Morgan Lommele of the International Mountain Bicycling Association explains bicycle trail designs Saturday to a group of volunteers at Cheehaw before the group began construction of an addition to the trails at the park.
ALBANY — Building a challenging, sustainable and enjoyable trail for bicyclists and hikers requires a lot more than digging in the dirt.
A Subaru/International Mountain Biking Association Trail Crew spent a couple days at Chehaw instructing volunteers on the “not rocket science,” but thoughtful engineering behind trail design and construction.
Wrapping up their visit, the trail crew, Steve and Morgan Lommele, coached more than 30 volunteers to add 1,200 feet Saturday to the seven mile trail. A volunteer construction day to extend the trail another 1,500 feet is in the planning stage.
“A sustainable trail will have minimal impact on the environment. Minimal user conflict. And minimal maintenance and costs,” Morgan Lommele said. “There will be no erosion and it will allow users to anticipate what’s coming around the bend, whether they are walking, running or hiking.”
Talking about the environmental impacts of trails, the crew showed with a Powerpoint presentation how trail design and building could avoid water erosion.
There was math involved, but through the use of a simple viewpoint tool the volunteers could easily understand how to set slopes to avoid water rushing away with a trail. The slopes would also make for safety and at times a challenge.
Different levels of experience in mountain biking were discussed. Beginners through experts should have trails that provide scenery and expanding challenges to their skills.
“Be really thoughtful about how you build your trail,” Steve Lommele said. “A single track is fun, has less impact on the environment, a smaller footprint, and brings you closer to nature.”
Single track trails are about 24-inches wide and allow bicyclists and hikers to travel single file along the length. Trails also serve social functions bringing the different user types together. A single track should also allow room for bikers to yield to hikers.
Although the majority of volunteers were probably members of two host bicycle clubs, the Pecan City Pedalers and the South Georgia Cycling Club, a few were not.
“I use the trails to walk and exercise,” said Alissa Jackson, a volunteer. “It is fun because you get to meet a lot of people along the way. It is really cool.”
The key to using a trail, whether as a bicyclist, a runner or a hiker is courtesy, Steve Lommele said. Trails that are well designed allow for the groups to share the trail.
“The problems arise from trails that are not well designed,” Lommele said. “In any situation, courtesy should prevail.”
If the volunteers taking notes and asking questions to the Trail Crew experts are any indication, the trails at Chehaw will offer lots of challenging, sustainable and courteous fun for many years to come.