Feb 20

Protect the trail from sanitization

Technically challenging trails give mountain bikers a lot of funs and that’s what mountain biking is all about. So, it’s shocking to find a trail once so challenging gets smoothed out. That’s what happened to Stiles Ranch Trail at Santa Teresa Park.
When Shane posted a warning sign of trail sanitization, it triggered a series of online discussions among ROMPers. Here are some excerpts from the thread. To protect the fun trails from sanitization, mountain bikers need to come out, speak out and get involved in trail projects with other trail users and organizations. At the same time, we need to think of all types of trail users in mind to share the trails in harmony. What do you think?

There’s a thread on mtbr about a group called the Trail Center. They are apparantly getting a little overzealous with their “trail work” and in the process making the stiles ranch trail too smooth for many peoples liking. I normally do a lot of trailwork in demo this time of year so I don’t have a lot of availability. If some other people could step forward and make an effort to get out to the next trailwork day that this group is putting on so we can have some mtn biker input on the type of work that goes down that would be great.

P.S. I just sent an email to info at trailcenter.org stating that I liked rugged trails with uneven surfaces and that I was not pleased with their techniques.


I just checked the MTBR thread. It sounds like the trail may have suffered some dumbing down from the comments made. Last year we really really tried to keep the trail’s technical aspect alive. The last time I was there on Stile was Jan. 21 and the trail was pretty much as we left it after the ROMP/IMBA event there at the end January 2005, last year.

Just to make things clear, I am all for keeping trails technical and making tame ones more challenging. When we did the Stile Ranch trail project a year ago retaining the technical character of the trail was foremost among the goals. This was understood by the IMBA TCC and the Santa Clara Co park staff involved, and we were all on board.

I’m sure some folks out there have made negative comments about the quality of the trailwork that gets done, by me, and others. If there are criticisms they should be contributed. If mistakes are being made they can stop if someone communicates. Folks should not be worried about offending me or Charles or Berry or any other trail workers. We need to know this stuff. Chances are there is a simple explanation or remedy as long as it is in accordance with the land manager’s policy.

Personally I love trailwork. All of the work I do is held to standards which I do not neccessarily agree with. However I believe it is worth toeing the line and working within the system to make changes. It takes a lot of patience and persistence. One of my goals is to increase our liberty in trail design.

The opinions on MTBR may be correct or misinformed. I can’t tell without looking at the trail myself of hearing it from someone first hand. One thing for sure, I have seen a number of instances where trailwork performed by others has disappointed another user group or a group from another area. (From the first day I started riding trails I started complaining about trails.) The Stile Ranch Trail problem is another one of these conflicts. More communication would help; Communication within and between user groups and other trail advocacy groups and the land managers, especially before a trail work event.

This is a really important topic, trail conditions. We don’t address this much but we should. After all, trails is what ROMP is all about.

One thing I wanted to get done in ROMP, but still hasn’t happened, was to make as complete an inventory of trails according to the mountain bike community, to be kept by the mountain bike community, to include trails we cannot legally ride on but would like legal access on for all sorts of reasons, and to rate them or their sections in qualitative terms, and to prescribe maintenance standards we would support. One problem with our land management agencies is that they maintain uniform trail standards. Luckily, as everyone knows, the landscape itself has more of a say about what a trail will ultimately be than a set of standards written in a policy.

I could go on and on. Let the land speak.


When I visited Santa Teresa a few weeks ago it was without my bike and my trip consisted of a speed hike in boots up Stiles. I was planning the Coe TCC visit and was on my way back home from a meeting at Specialized in Morgan Hill. I was racing to catch the sunset from the top. I used to trail run in the 80’s a lot before I got a mountain bike, and as a trail runner type experience I thought the tread on Stile’s was great. I’d be surprised if there was complaint.

The other thing I want to add while I can is that when ROMP does trail work on a multi-use trail we have to consider all trail users. Mountain bikers sometimes forget, let’s say for example when we are brushing, that someone on a horse needs a higher corridor than a cyclist. Experience shows that you can’t brush back the trail too much. After a good brushing the trail will lose that nice closed in feeling we like; but the flip side is that the shin and arm scratching stuff will return later rather than sooner.

Multi-use trails may never be able to provide the technical experience many of us crave, unless they happen to be that way by poor location and design as many of our legacy trails are (especially in Coe). Hence we may have to consider advocating for single use trails eventually. The main problem I have with the latter course is that by the time any materialize I may be too old to try them!


I had a chance to explain is detail, in person, to Shane, but the rest of you might have some interest.

Paul’s right about the varied interests & concerns about trail quality issues, and the various conficts those difference can create.

The Trail Center has been around a long time & pride themselves on being the most knowledgeable and professional trail building/maintenance group around. In my experience they do have higher standards and their finished product is more highly polished than that of any other group I know of, INCLUDING MROSD! They are total perfectionists. Back in the day their trail building was their main source of income, building to contract for MROSD & others. That work has gone away of late and many people haven’t heard boo about them for nearly 10 years.

The issue is: Is that what SC CO Parks wanted? Quite possible they like the work IMBA & ROMP did a year ago, but got complaints from hikers or runners that the surface was too rough and moderately hazardous.

If we want to be able to continue working with them, we don’t want to get into a sniping war w/ the TC over trail tread quality.
My .02,


I encourage everyone to write to the trailcenter about how you would like your trails maintained. Be prepared to back your words with action however. I did not find an obvious phone number or email for Dave Croker, the project coordinator, and member of the trailcenter board. However, writing to info at trailcenter.org or volunteer at trailcenter.org should reach somebody, as these addresses are listed on their web sites. Their web site suggests that Greg Bringleson, the park maintenance leader, is involved or cognizant of the trail work the trail center has done.

In addition, I encourage you to volunteer for their next trail work day on April 22. They are starting at 8:30 AM. I reckon being there on the ground, in the trenches, will be the best way to influence how this trail work pans out.


Saturday, April 22, 2006 – Stiles Ranch Trail – Earth Day Event!

Activities: Celebrate Earth Day with the Trail Center as we repair the Stiles Ranch Trail in Santa Teresa County Park. Required are enthusiasm, flexibility, and the ability to use implements for digging and dirt moving. Technical skills for trail creation and maintenance will be taught by qualified experienced trail builders. A BBQ will follow the trail build for those interested in attending.