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Posts Tagged ‘Mountain biking trails’

(The following article and photographs were produced by Sitka Conservation Society winter fellow Amy Li and a version originally appeared on the Sitka Trail Works website. It is reprinted here with permission.)

Bikes have been making a comeback. From the drastic increase in bike purchases to a newfound dependence on biking as a means of transportation, the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new age for bicycles and Sitka has been no different.

Sitkans have been rediscovering the power of the pedal, both as a cost-effective means for getting around town and for exercise. By the end of June, Sitka’s bicycle shop Yellow Jersey Cycling Shop had sold out of its inventory and has had difficulty restocking ever since. The skyrocketing interest has also led to more creative approaches to biking. This summer, the Sitka Cycling Club spearheaded an innovative effort within the community: mountain bike trails. With the socially-distanced dedication of volunteers from all ages and backgrounds, four new mountain bike trails were brought to life along the Sitka Cross Trail.

Mountain biking offers a different way of engaging with the sport for the new wave of Sitka cyclists. “Sitka has been deficient in mountain bike trails over the years. We’ve had dirt roads that you could ride on, but as far as mountain biking, there weren’t any significant trails in town,” Yellow Jersey Cycling Shop owner Bill Hughes said. “But now with the new trails, I think it’s going to open up a lot of new recreational opportunities for people.”

Mountain biker and Sitka Cycling Club volunteer KK Prussian concurs. “I think the diversity of recreation that mountain bike trails bring is a whole new thing for Sitka. I’m really hoping it will give the youth something they’re really excited about and build stewardship with them,” she said.

Although Sitka might seem like the perfect place for mountain biking enthusiasts, with its lush forested scenery and steep inclines, mountain bike trails, and trails in general, but building trails is a large undertaking.

Despite these challenges, and the COVID-19 pandemic, community members came out in force to build new MTB trails along the Cross Trail this summer. Hauling five-gallon buckets of gravel by hand, the trails — named 907, Ewok, Little Machete, and Middle Machete Loop — were brought to life by volunteers with the Sitka Cycling Club. These four trails, however, are rated for more advanced mountain bikers.

Both Hughes and Prussian advocated for easier routes for those new to the sport, as well as adding length to the newly built trails.

Prussian explained that the amount of “easy” trail that was feasible to build was minimal “because of the terrain we have, the limited scope we have with volunteers, and the lack of heavy equipment.”

Indeed, building mountain bike trails requires planning, labor, gravel and fill, and, ideally, heavy machinery. Fortunately, Sitka Conservation Society (SCS) Community Conservation Corps (CCC) program lead Ben Hughey, project lead Blain Anderson, and the hard-working Corps have pulled together all of those prerequisites. In partnership with Sitka Trail Works, Sitka Cycling Club, Southeast Alaska Independent Living (SAIL), and others, the Community Conservation Corps has constructed an additional trail in the recently built mountain bike trail network.

The new spur, which comes in on the Cross Trail connector behind Sitka High School, connects with two existing MTB trails, Ewok and 907. It is roughly 600 feet in length and, with smaller grades and elevation changes, is well-suited for beginning mountain bikers. Thanks to a mini excavator and motorized gravel dump, the newly built section of single-track trail has a wider and smoother tread compared to the existing MTB trails. This beginner trail will allow community members a safe and approachable entry point for the sport.

Prussian hopes that the MTB community in Sitka will expand, thanking the City for supporting recreation projects like this.

“I’d love to see a year-round program of young adults adding to the length and maintaining the trails on an annual basis,” she said, citing benefits of healthy lifestyles and land stewardship. “I think that would be outstanding.”

For now, the Corps will continue to clear hazard trees, lay logs, and pile gravel in the hopes that this new trail will get more people outside, on their bikes, exploring their public lands.

A slideshow of images showing trail construction follows below.

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