Jul 13

Blue Blossom Trail Report – Part One

The trail work season is just beginning in El Corte de Madera Creek Open Space Preserve, also known as Skegg’s Point, and we have started with the Blue Blossom Trail. The Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District just hosted two workdays, kicking off the volunteer portion of their three-year resource protection plan. The District will spend the next three seasons realigning trails and roads within the preserve in the interest of increasing water quality for Steelhead Trout that make the lower sections of El Corte de Madera and San Gregorio Creeks their spawning grounds. Many miles of trail in the preserve have long runs without grade interruptions, and are often too close to creeks and other drainages, such that trail users and rain water are contributing to sediment in the watercourses. Much of the three-year plan involves moving trails away from creeks, hardening places where trails cross drainages, and building grade reversals into current trails, as well as realigning some sections of trail that are irreparable, and narrowing others from road width to singletrack to reduce the surface area of dirt exposed to rain. These changes should help reduce sedimentation of the creeks.
These first two workdays, June 19 and 26, had 25 and 24 volunteers pitch in, respectively. Responsible Organized Mountain Pedalers, or ROMP, sent Paul Nam, Dave Oare, Charles Jalgunas, Bern Smith, Paule Bates, Patty Ciesla, Greg Lydon, Shane Reed, Marty Peckins, and Berry Stevens to serve as Trail Bosses and keep the crew on the right track. The Trail Bosses all have many hours of experience working on trails and working with volunteer crews. Their trail workers for the first day consisted of Max Zinsman, Chris Spencer, Isaias Job, Lauren Lockwood, Tom Sharp, Otto von Stroheim, Ed Feinberg, Adrienne Harber, Loren Thomas, Jon Abernethy, Becky Grey, John Finch, Brian Warkentine, Matt Watson, and John Jones.

These volunteer workers were replaced a week later by Ross Finlayson, Richard Andrews, Derek Lindsey, Janet Wagner, Jon Raynor, John Wetzel, Nancy Thomas, Giovanni Rey, Carrie Presnall, Bill Schmelzer, and Karen Brunton. The crew was broken up into small groups led by the Trail Bosses, some to continue forging ahead with the new Blue Blossom alignment, and others to put the finishing touches on what had been done the week before. John Bilderbeck, Brian Lucido, Chris Voci Nam, Julie Brown, and Tom Oshima all win the Two-Timers award for showing up for both days. Blue Blossom has a few hundred feet of trail running straight down the fall-line, and over the 10 years of public use it has seen, it has gotten wider, deeper, and channelized to the point where water can no longer be diverted off the trail to prevent further erosion. The volunteer effort on this trail is replacing the fall line section with a meandering, narrow trail with lots of rises and falls. It will need little maintenance in the future and won’t add sediment to the creek below.

We started working on some really steep side slope, following a flag line laid in by the District’s planners, along with consultation from ROMP and various ecologists and biologists. The ideal was to find a descending trail that would be sustainable and fun to ride in both directions, with minimal disruption to plant and animal habitat. The crew lined up on the hillside, and began scraping away leaves, twigs, branches and other organic debris, called duff, to get to pure mineral soil, working around and sometimes through natural obstructions.

Mineral soil has little organic matter in it, and is necessary for a durable trail surface, or tread. Once the mineral soil is reached, the dirt is dug into and down, until, in the case of this trail, a 2-foot wide trail surface is sculpted out of the hillside. The duff that was cast down the hill is brought up later to “repaint” the margin of the trail and cover the exposed dirt so only the 2-foot wide tread is left bare.

The Open Space District sent several experts, including Matt Freeman, their planner, and Construction and Maintenance Supervisor Craig Beckman. Craig’s own professional crew was out in advance of the volunteer work day. They opened up a portion of the trail corridor by removing some vegetation, and built a short sample section of trail that served as a template for the volunteers. Here Charles and Matt listen in while Craig delivers instruction on tool safety, history of the open space, and the day’s objectives.

At the end of day two, we had several hundred yards of high-quality, completed trail, and had cleared brush and duff from the entire length of the 2000 foot realignment. Some unfinished sections still need to be dug deeper and wider, the tread will need to be leveled, and finally, organic material will need to be brought up to finish the trail edges. Patty and Berry are shown here hiking out after a long day on a section that is completed and ready for use.

This trail will be opened for all users as soon as we are done, and that is where you can help. I am collecting names and email addresses from interested volunteers, and will soon be posting dates for future workdays for Blue Blossom as well as other trails within El Corte de Madera that will see similar treatment this year. IMBA recommends that each year you give $20.00 to each your local and national trails advocacy group, and 20 volunteer hours keeping trails open for all. How’s your 20/20/20 ?

Charles Jalgunas
ROMP Volunteer Crew Leader