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On Sunday, April 7th, land managers, hikers, and mountain bikers converged on the North Madison Volunteer Firehouse for a full day seminar on sustainable trail design and construction. The event was offered by the Connecticut chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association (CT NEMBA). Financial support for the event was provided by Trailblazer, lunch was offered by Grow Home Organics, and Pedal Power along with the International Mountain Bicycling Association offered free gifts to participants. The day consisted of a classroom discussion, trailwork at Rockland Preserve, and an optional ride.
The group discussed singletrack, which is multi-use trail between 10 and 24" wide as the ideal trail for bikers, runners, cross country skiiers, and nature exploration. Purpose-built singletrack, meaning trail designed to enhance the experience for the range of users is often flowy and indirect, making use of natural features such as sloping terrain, rock outcroppings, and vistas.
Speaker Paula Burton of CT NEMBA and AMC discussed sustainable trail building techniques. Burton stated "good trail starts way before shovel meets dirt," coordination with land management and seeking appropriate permission to create trails are always the first step. During the planning stages, trail developers should do their best to create maintenance free trails by staying away from negative control points like wet areas, fall lines, and consider following the contour of the land to create the best possible layout. It is also important to consider user friendly controls, like avoiding conflict between bikers and equestrians, hikers, and others.
Adam Coppola, Northeast Regional Director of the International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA), discussed the benefits of multi-use trail systems. He stated:
o More than 1 in 5 Americans 16 and over mountain bike (over 50 million people total) (Outdoor Industry Association - OIA)
o By number of outings, biking is the favorite outdoor activity of American kids aged 6-17 (OIA)
o Trails reduce medical costs: every $1 invested in trails leads to almost $4 in direct medical benefit.
o Trails get kids outside, by providing healthy and safe access to the outdoors.(Rails to Trails Conservancy and Bikes Belong Coalition)
o Overweight adolescents who bike are 85% more likely to become normal weight adults.
(Rails to Trails Conservancy and Bikes Belong Coalition)
o Contact with nature can reduce hyperactivity and attention deficit disorder.(Rails to Trails Conservancy and Bikes Belong Coalition)
o a 2008 study from the National Association of Realtors claims that homebuyers look for access to trails and open space now, whereas it used to be pools, golf and clubhouses. Direct access to trails increases property values by 10% to 15%.
Jason Engelhardt, Madison resident and project coordinator for Singletracks of Rockland spoke about his experiences building a local community of trail support. He began this project through conversations with Madison town land management in October 2011. Engelhardt gained approval from the Rockland Preserve Board as well as Wetlands and Conservation Commissions. So far, volunteers have given over 1600 hours to build 8 miles of singletrack in rarely visited portions of the 649 acre Preserve. In 2013, the group plans to improve current singletrack, build several boardwalks, and then expand to create more trail. They also plan to hold events to bring the public to the preserve, whether on bike, foot, or carrying a shovel.
Rockland Preserve is open to the public and maintained by the town of Madison. The Singletracks of Rockland network is accessibly from the Route 79 entrance in North Madison, just south of the intersection with Route 148. Maps and more information are available at the Town of Madison website http://www.madisonct.org/i3/rockland/.