Have McLeod - Will Travel

IMBA Trailbuilding School in the Santa Fe National Forest

I've been a trail user for years, hiking, biking and skiing trails across the nation. Over the years I've seen many good and bad examples of trail design and building. Now thanks to the International Mountain Bicycling Association, I have some formal training in how trails should be built and maintained. The IMBA Trailbuilding School rolled through Santa Fe and provided a day of indoor education and outdoor application of trail maintenance techniques.

A varied group of Northern New Mexico trail hikers, bikers and riders met on a Saturday morning in the Santa Fe National Forest. We met Steve and Morgan Lommele, a Subaru/IMBA Trail Care Crew, who travel the western half of the US. They are on a 2.5 year 'tour of duty' educating and inspiring mountain bikers to care for the trails they use. Steve and Morgan led a thorough, if fast-paced, course on trail-building history, theory, design elements and construction techniques. The end goal is to design and build sustainable trails that have minimal environmental impact, minimal user conflict and minimal maintenance.

After lunch our group geared up and hiked over to the Winsor Trail. We had a quick safety lesson, distributed tools (including those handy McLeods) and broke into smaller groups to work on a segment of the trail. The Winsor Trail is a very popular trail in the Santa Fe National Forest that stretches from Tesuque up through the Pecos Wilderness and down to Cowles, NM. The Winsor sees a lot of use and abuse. Our group focused on a well-worn section near the Ski Santa Fe trailhead.

Good trail design focuses on (among other things) moving water gently off the trail tread. The several hundred yard section we worked on benefited from the water-shedding knicks and dips we added to the trail. We also removed a few broken and rotted waterbars. It turns out that those ubiquitous water bars are a poor idea that tend to aggravate erosion problems and create stair steps on the trail.

If you are looking for more information on good trailbuilding start with the IMBA Trailbuilding and Maintenance Resources. If that only whets your appetite you'll want to attend an IMBA Trailbuilding School. For dedicated trail builders the Continental Divide Trail Alliance has upcoming trail building events in August that are open to enthusiastic volunteers.

Thanks to Morgan and Steve Lommele with IMBA, Jennifer Sublett with the Forest Service, Ski Santa Fe for hosting the class and the Trails Alliance of Santa Fe who provided lunch for hungry trail builders. If you happen to see a Subaru wagon with brightly-colored IMBA graphics and mountain bikes on the roof, wave and say hello. It might be Steve and Morgan coming to help fix up the trails near your town.

More Info:


On the Trail with the IMBA Trail Care Crew

Santa Fe, NM Trailbuilding School photos

IMBA Trailbuilding and Maintenance Resources

Continental Divide Trail Alliance

Carson National Forest Continental Divide Trail Map (4 Mb .pdf)

Santa Fe National Forest

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