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Giving Back

I love where my bike takes me, from the red rocks of Moab to mountain tops in Canada, it is a way for me to see the world, meet new people, and explore places I would not otherwise get to. But, there is a piece, without which these experiences would not be possible, a piece that we sometimes overlook, often inadvertently, and that is the trail builders.

The McLeod is a popular tool for building trails.

We have a lot of trails where I live and by in large they are volunteer maintained. Each week, the local Dirt Bosses put out the all call, asking for volunteers to come help build and maintain the trails. Over the years, I’ve gone to an event here and there, but never on a regular basis. So this year, I decided to make a more conscious effort to give back to my home trail; the trail where I gather with friends, teach new riders, and unwind at the end of the day.

Not quite knowing what to expect I went to my first trail work session of the year in June with my husband. I met a couple of the trail builders in the past on group rides, and saw a few familiar faces, but only knew one guys name. Armed with work gloves and bug spray, we introduced ourselves and eagerly asked what to do (I’m not one to stay idle). There were seven of us that night, which surprisingly was a big group, the guys were welcoming as we cut in stretches of new trail by removing trees and tamping down the dirt. It was a rewarding experience to not only help build trail, but to also be part of the discussion of how the trail would evolve over time. The trail workers discuss new features, trail reroutes, and erosion issues and work with land managers to determine what will happen to the trail; by going to trail work, my voice was now part of that discussion.

Over the new few months, I tried to make it to as many sessions as I could, but between working full-time and coaching, it was less than I would have liked. I was able to get out a few times though, helping build a fence, put in erosion control pavers, and other projects. The work is not glamorous, it’s hard, physical labor, but that’s also part of the reward, knowing that you built something with your own hands. Through giving back, I got to know a few people, that I otherwise would not have, over shared beers at the end of each work night.

Now, each time I ride my home trail, I look at it from a different lens. I think about how it is built, if it is shedding water, where a new feature could be built. In a way, it has made me respect the trail and the trail workers even more. Each week, I know there is a handful of workers out there digging in the dirt making the trail better and more sustainable; there is little glory for what they do, they don’t get paid and don’t ask for anything, but greatly appreciate a Thank You, or a six-pack.

So, I encourage you to consider giving back to your local trail, by going to a work night, dropping off a cold 6-pack for the trail workers, or by making a financial donation to your local chapter or club. Support the trails you love and those who make them possible.

- Tara

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