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So You're A North Shore Trail Builder?

2023 is my 15th year of giving back to the North Shore Mountain Bike Community by way of trail building and maintenance. So I figured I'd celebrate by looking back over the years with a brief bibliography of my North Shore Trail Building (the sanctioned bits anyway). Some people like to give lip service to how they contribute but when you dig in you find empty platitudes so here are 15 years of photos and the story that goes along with them. I've never tried to calculate the number of hours I've spend digging in the woods but I'd guess it's up there!

My First Trail Day - May 2nd 2009

I first discovered trail building the same year that I discovered the Muddbunnies. A few of the local NSMBA trail builders had partners who were Bunnies so a trail day was organised to create a safe and fun environment for women in the sport to come to try their hands at trail maintenance and what a day it was! We worked on Slash, a small connector trail at the bottom of Pangor. Keep in mind, there was no Trail Adoption Program (TAP) in 2009, and the NSMBA trail days where generally giant chaotic affairs where everyone went and did their own thing!

NSMBA Trail Builder - 2011

By 2011 I'd put in a fair number of hours helping out my trial-building friends and attending every NSMBA trail day I could. Then in April of that year, I finally got to be a trail lead at one of those large NSMBA trail days I mentioned. The plan was to re-routed the entire top section of Middle Griffin, We split into about 8 different groups and I was in charge of my first crew of eager volunteers. I think I learnt as much as I taught that day and it was a huge sucess! Over a decade later that section of trail still runs pretty good in my opinion so I guess we did alright!

Trail Adoption Program - NSMBA TAP

2011 was also the year the Trail Adoption Program came into being. It was based off the concept and success of the trail days Muddbunnies had been running with NSMBA builders. It was also a way for the NSMBA to raise awareness for trail advocacy and raise funds to promote that advocacy. I will take a moment to mention the fact that the program was originally overseen by a misogynistic narcissistic individual. Why even mention it? because a. I think it's important to not brush these things under the rug and hope everyone forgets about them and b. It plays a big part in the rest of the story to some degree.

The Trail Adoption Program is still an important part of the NSMBA and the majority of the Trails on Mt Fromme and Seymour are now maintained under this program. Sponsors spend either $3000 or $6000 to sponsor a trail for the year and have the ability to work with an experienced trail builder who will coordinate up to six trail days for the year for them. A number of other trail associations have adopted similar programs over the years to better finance their trail networks. The Trail Adoption Program is rad and it's awesome to see so many support it.

2012- 2014 Pangor and the Muddbunnies

After being told I wasn't experienced enough to lead a TAP trail I was teamed up with Sven as his second builder for Team Pangor on Mt Seymour, and together we would work with Muddbunnies and Ryders Eyewear to maintain the trail. To this day I still feel a strong connection and personal sense of ownership for that trail because of the number of hours and amount of work we did. I am happy to see Sven still continues to work on and maintain the trail! Personally my favorite project was the dirt top bridge we installed near the top of the trail, you can see the photos of that project in the slide deck below.

Upper and Lower Crippler and Independent Trail Maintenance

Around this time my partner approached the District of North Vancouver to take on the permit for the Crippler trails on Mt Fromme which he is still very much dedicated to and cares for to this day. I have spent countless hours over the past decade helping him with his various projects on the trail. He in turn has spent countless more hours up there building some of the most impressive wooden features you can find on the Shore and mixed them in with some pretty incredible rockwork that gives his building a unique and impressive look. bias not bias at all.

2013-2014 TAP Leader - Richard Juryn and Dale's Trail

Meanwhile back to TAP, I was finally given the ability to lead my own trail days but was told I still had to "prove myself" (remember that misogynistic male persona, yeah) So was sent off to work on Richard Juryn with a small crew from John Henrys (before they were taken over by Norco.) By the time I was done on this trail we had revitalised the majority of the trail bed.

Interestingly I was set up to fail on several occasions but my favorite was the time our piece of PVC piping was "disappeared" from NSMBA storage and I was told, "guess you're just gonna have to leave the trail closed, this is not acceptable, I'll have to go fix it" Anyone who know me knows that was not how this was gonna end, Not one to easily give up, after calling around and discovering a replacement piece of pipe was way out of budget we got creative, and cut the bottoms out of a whole bunch of buckets and created our own drainage that is still in place to this day.

The following year after much resistance I was reunited with the Muddbunnies and we were given Dale's trail to maintain. Side note, it always made sense to the Muddbunnies and to me that we work together because why wouldn't you want the only female trail lead at the time leading the women's mountain bike club?! We did a lot of good work on the trail, really working on the low-laying wet areas and breathing life back into the trail. But it was also a year of frustration, on a couple of fronts and after spending much of our time working on the top section of the trail Metro Vancouver came in and replaced it with a random piece of flow trail.

2015-2016 There's something to be said for being independent

Eventually everyone get's tired of jumping though hoops and I bid farewell dealing with an every increasingly antagonistic and toxic environment with the NSMBA TAP coordinator. So working direct with Metro Vancouver myself and the Muddbunnies began maintaining Ridgerunner Trail. A good section of the trail is basically flat, and turned into a soupy mess every time it got wet. We spent the next two years revitalising and rejuvinating this fun little trail to no where, but then were ready for a new exciting project.

2017 North Shore Mountain Bike Association Youth Academy

I was finally ready to step back into a k. within our local trail organisation and ran for, and got the position as the Director of Youth for the NSMBA. During my tenure I managed to achieve two really cool things, firstly with the help of Tammy from Escape Adventures I organised the first Youth Fivers, which we named 2 Point Fivers. I also worked with the Director of the NSMBA Trail Academy (who is also an amazing trail builder and gives countless hours to the Shore); Penny, to help create a youth version of the academy and trail days to help get youth into the forest and understand the importance of trail advocac.

Onwards to the Executioner

I had already been helping my friend Chris on Executioner Trail on Mt Fromme so it was a natural evolution, I guess, that myself and the Muddbunnies would move to Fromme and take on maintenance of the trail. We built a whole new section on Lower Executioner with the assistance of the DNV and put in some mucmuch-neededck work (including the new entrance) and drainage work Then Covid happened and the trail days got smaller and more focused on friends of Essential Cycles. I've always tried to keep the trail more natural and rugged and 2023 has a couple of big projects lined up to make sure it stays rugged and doesn't move into eroded.

Tempus fugit

All things change, and yet all come full circle! There's now a different regime within the NSMBA, the particularly toxic element was removed in 2017 but still left lasting ripples that have only settled over the last couple of years. With an influx of new people to the sport and then on the board it's nice to see the trail organisation find it's stride again and grow into a more welcoming more inclusive environment. in 2022 with the Land Managers no longer able to support independent builders (gotta love insurance and liability ) I once again take up the title of NSMBA Trail Builder.

So as Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr once said "The more things change, the more they stay the same…"

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