GHORBA Double Lake Project May 17-June 18

Posted by Ryan Spates in S&S Project Gallery on Jul. 1, 2010 - 10:46 am

After wrapping up some Spring season work projects, the intrepid Texas trail builders of S&S Trail Services kicked off the pre-Summer season by starting work on the Double Lake trail expansion. We were very excited to begin this project as it had been in the works for quite some time. Kevin Highfield with the Greater Houston Off-Road Bicycle Association (GHORBA) was instrumental in writing the RTPgrant to get the project funded, and Nick Gonzalez partnered with Kevin to oversee the project.

Because the expansion was estimated to be 11 miles in length and needed to be completed by October of 2010, S&S Trail Services decided to partner with Progressive Trail Design (PTD) from Arkansas to complete the project. We were familiar with company owner Nathan (Woody) Woodruff’s work because his team built the trail we had designed for the city of Sugarland a couple years ago, and we liked the type of work they did. PTD also joined the Professional Trail Builders Association the year after we were inducted, so we knew they were a reputable company and one we would feel comfortable sharing the Double Lake job with.

Site prep work began on Monday May 17 and mainly included procuring equipment, getting it placed on site, getting keys to the Forest Service road gates, and setting up our free lodging arrangements with Craig the vendor who operates the campground. Construction started the next day with the assistance of our seasoned crew member Chuck and a new member of the team, Brian. Both guys worked hard pulling brush for Susan while she ran the chainsaw, and Ryan followed close behind building the trail tread with our trusty dozer Sam. (Sam is short for Samantha, since she’s made by Ditch Witch, and we needed a shorter name than calling her ‘Samantha the good witch’.)

The first week of work was very productive and went fairly well, with an average of over 1000 feet of new trail constructed every day. To encourage the crew to work efficiently on the finish work details and keep pace with the dozer, Ryan instigated a bonus policy that paid the guys extra money for every linear foot they cleaned over a minimum amount. The incentive was well-received, and the guys were very appreciative of the bonus and worked hard to be productive every day. Of course they were already conscientious and hard workers without the bonus and didn’t need the extra encouragement, but we wanted to reward them for their work since we couldn’t have completed the project on time without them.

As the weeks progressed the working conditions got harder and harder due to extreme heat, humidity, rainstorms, and run-ins with stinging ground bees, ticks, and poison ivy. During week 4 of the project our crew member and occasional team leader Bruce returned to work with us and added some of his own equipment to the mix to help with controlling the dense vegetation on the project. We were also fortunate to have a few volunteers from GHORBA come out to work with us on some Saturdays during the month. Most of them had never worked with us before, and were surprised at how hard the work was, especially in the extreme heat. They seemed to gain a greater understanding of the process and how difficult it is, and they were thankful for the work that we do on their behalf to create more trails for them to ride.

Week 5 of the project was when we had planned to wrap up before taking off for the summer to complete some other projects in a more forgiving location. Because of the severe heat and humidity that had arrived in East Texas by mid-June, we chose to put the project on hold and return in the early Fall to complete it. We had already negotiated this decision with GHORBA and they were agreeable with it. (We think they understood the need for it more clearly after several of them had worked with us back in May, and they were almost unable to function for very long in the heat.)

We learned from Woody at PTD that his company had another project in Colorado through May and June and that they would not be able to start work at Double Lake until the Fall. Therefore S&S Trails completed the first 4.1 miles of trail by ourselves, and enjoyed getting to ride it and wear it in during that time. We also looked forward to returning in September to work alongside PTD, and enjoy a little respite from the blazing Summer temperatures.