Trail Repair Trashed

The black line shows the contour of trail. The green line shows the contour of an ideal rolling dip. The purple line shows how we try to construct them. Click the image to view a larger one.

Many or most of the drainage dips that volunteers constructed during trailwork on the Wood Canyon Vista (Backbone) Trail in Point Mugu State Park last month have been vandalized, de-constructed, and otherwise left ineffective. Downhill ramps were dragged into the uphill dip, greatly reducing their ability to prevent rainwater carving ruts down the middle of the trail. Hopefully we will get little rain this season so that the drainage dips are not overwhelmed. Extensive rain rutting will likely require the State Parks to run a Sweco bulldozer up the trail, as they did this spring, which will result in a loose, unstable trail surface that angered so many people at the time.

As we explained in a blog article on water damage to the trails, these kinds of dips prevent water from running down the trail without obstructing bikers, hikers and equestrians.

The photograph shows one of the drainage dips after being vandalized, with lines overlaid to represent contours. The features of the dip are exaggerated when first constructed built, especially the downhill ramp. This is to accommodate compaction, wear and deposition of silt, with the hope that the feature will last for several years before having to be rebuilt. Expectations of these constructs are about 80% of the ideal structure within two to three weeks as the downhill ramp gets packed down.

Based on comments we heard shortly after the trail work, some people thought these features were built to slow bicycles on the trails. One or more individual(s) seem to have taken it upon themselves to undo our work. The unfortunate result is not only that the trail will probably experience needless erosion this winter, but mountain bikers in general will also suffer in the view of State Parks staff and park visitors because the assumption may be that mountain bikers were responsible for the damage, whether they were or not.

We also heard that some people believe that State Parks staff partially obliterated the structures the day after they were built. We have received confirmation that State Parks had no involvement with the de-construction. Volunteers, which included experienced members of CORBA’s Trail Crew and the Santa Monica Mountains Trails Council, used prescribed trail maintenance guidelines and methods to install the drains and therefore there would be no need for State Parks to go in and “fix” any work that was done. (We’d love it if the State Parks had the staff for this as it would mean that they have the staff to properly maintain and repair the trails themselves. Volunteer trailworkers would much rather spend the weekends enjoying the trails with everyone else and leave the trailwork to paid employees.)

In summary, it appears that some thoughtless and selfish individual(s) have damaged the trail to the detriment of all trail users. As always, CORBA’s main goal is to maintain and create additional mountain biking opportunities in the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area and surrounding areas. CORBA does trail work as a good faith partner in the trail user community. It would be most disappointing if ignorant, renegade mountain bikers were undermining the positive efforts of CORBA and responsible mountain bikers. Also keep in mind that unauthorized work on trails carries significant penalties including but not limited to fines and court appearances.

4 Responses to “Trail Repair Trashed”

  1. Fred Ansaldi says:

    Queue the “Twilight Zone” theme music…..
    Honestly do all of you really believe that “someone” is schlepping tools into the park just to “undo” the rolling dips? Yes I have heard the same bull talk, but after the SWECO had done its thing, the tread was dry, very dry. No one added water to solidify the dips. I have ridden that trail week after week, and watched as the soil that created the dips was being pushed away by bikers and hikers “using” the trail. After the trail was repaired it has become the “go to” for beginners to blast downhill, hence hastening the flattening of the rolling dips. I personally don’t like to do tread work when the trail it is dry; it just gets thrown away by usage. So no little green men, no crop circles, no cloud seeding and no rolling dip vandals! It’s just a great trail being loved to death. Maybe CORBA should schedule a trail work soon to take advantage of this nice moist ground, just a thought.

    • Steve Clark says:

      There is no question that the drainage dips that were installed by 13 hard-working volunteers on November 13 were destroyed by vandals whose identities we don’t know.

      What is the evidence for this?

      1. We had a first-hand report that the dips were removed the following day.
      2. When we returned to the trail, we found that the downhill ramps had been packed down in the middle as expected and for which we designed the construction of the dips. However, we also found the dips had been partly filled in and there was loose dirt blocking the drain.

      It is virtually impossible that normal wear and tear resulted in the damage and destruction of the drains, especially in just one day. It doesn’t matter whether someone packed a shovel in to destroy the drains or just used their feet and hands, the drains were almost certainly tampered with.

      We don’t like to do tread work when the trail is dry either but we can’t control the conditions when the work days are planned weeks or months in advance. However, we were fortunate that there had been rain a few days before so the dirt was still quite moist. It packed so well that it could not have been scattered as we found it by normal use.

  2. Steve Clark says:

    I rode up the trail yesterday to see how it survived the recent heavy rains we’ve been having. The lower drainages are still moving the water off the trail, but some of them are pretty full of silt. Unfortunately, the topmost portion where we worked, the wetest part of the trail, isn’t doing as well. The drainage dips there are mostly completely clogged with silt or otherwise blocked. Runoff water is running down the middle of the trail, forming a rut and leaving it very muddy.

    We had more heavy rain this morning and that certainly hasn’t helped at all.

  3. Mike says:

    Why would a mountain biker take out a rolling dip? It makes no sense at all as the dips are one of the few features on the trail that can add fun to the ride. Isn’t it more likely that hikers saw the newly constructed dips and assumed that mountain bikers had built jumps and took it upon themselves to remove them? I have never met a biker who wanted to deconstruct a trail feature, quite the oppisite in fact as most cyclists are getting in trouble for building features. Maybe CORBA could think about that before assuming mountain bikers are to blaim.

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