2010 DORBA/Lone Star Trail Building School

Posted by Ryan Spates in S&S Trails Blog on Feb. 23, 2010 - 8:27 am

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February 20 and 21 Ryan and Susan returned to Sid Richardson Boy Scout Ranch in Runaway Bay (about 1 hour northwest of Fort Worth) to teach our annual trail building school to Dallas Off Road Bicycling Association (DORBA) trail stewards and regional land managers. On our way there, we stopped at Purtis Creek State Park on Friday the 19th to do a trail assessment and provide some consultation services at the park manager’s request.

The DORBA school is organized by Rick Buckley, a dedicated member of DORBA and organizer of the local IMBA National Mountain Bike Patrol program. Through his relationship with the Boy Scouts of America organization, he facilitates access to the scout ranch property which provides an excellent training environment for beginner and advanced trail builders alike.

Over the past several years, Ryan and Susan have taught a beginner-focused class that served the needs of new trail stewards who came into the group each year. However several of the more-experienced folks who have been around for a while requested an advanced level class, so that’s what we decided to do. Fortunately, not one but two of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) Trail Care Crews were in town, so they were available to teach the basic class to new recruits while Ryan and Susan worked with the “old hands”.

This year’s school was the largest ever with approximately 50 students, an inspiring turnout. Most of them took the basic class, while about 10 folks enrolled in the advanced class with us. It’s a good thing our class was small because we taught a course and then led an outdoor project on rock work, where it’s critical to have small groups to keep the process smooth and safe.

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Our in-class lecture on Saturday morning focused on the different types of equipment and safety measures needed to complete rock armoring projects. Armoring is a way to harden the surface of a dirt trail with rock to ensure the sustainability of the tread, and there are several methods one can use to achieve this goal. Our project wound up using a combination of flagstone paving and boulder causeway techniques, and it was a great learning experience for all involved. Rick taught us a great knot technique to create a rock sling out of climbing webbing, and we taught the group how to use a come-along and rock bars to move a 700 pound rock with just 3 people. The main focus during the whole process was safety, and teaching the class how to communicate with each other so that rocks were moved in a controlled manner and no one got hurt due to moving too quickly or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Doing rock work properly and safely requires a lot of time, and in spite of that the class managed to accomplish quite a lot during the Saturday afternoon project. Unfortunately the rain on Saturday night and Sunday morning prevented any further work on the project, since it became too muddy to work effectively. Therefore we were unable to complete the entire section of armoring, but Rick and the crew now know what they need to do to finish it, and we’re confident that it will be a great job when it’s done.

In addition to the work and training aspects of the weekend, the social components of the program are always fun as well. The traditional Saturday night hike and climb in the Devil’s Den rock formation was a blast, and hanging out around the camp fire with class participants was quite enjoyable too. We also finally got the opportunity to meet George Wible from www.MountainBikeTX.com. George has created a great website to organize trail information and reviews from all over the state, and he’s been very kind to funnel potential trail building jobs our way so we were pleased to be able to say thanks to him in person.

We enjoy the opportunity every February to return to Sid Richardson to offer training to DORBA folks and land managers in the surrounding communities. It appears that the demand for those services continues, so we look forward to continuing that relationship as long as we can all make it work out. Hopefully the 2011 school will be even better!