Monday, October 27, 2008

The first trail repair session of 2008 was a resounding success: Mike Vitti, president of C.L.I.M.B. (Concerned Long Island Mountain Bikers) graciously hooked up with us through our local nature guru Mike Bottini, Tom Dees of EH town parks, and a crew of volunteers from the mountain biking and trails preservation communities. We met at the Hither Hills Visitor Center, and then re-convened at the overlook in Hither Hills, with the wonderful vista of the Atlantic Ocean on one shoulder and the sandy stretches of Napeague on the other. Our goal was to create a new sustainable section of trail to replace the trail adjacent to the overlook parking lot. The existing trail was suffering from severe erosion, creating gouges, spilling sand, exposing roots and generally becoming a headache for all. We were given a briefing with plan outline, tool demonstrations, safety considerations, then started at it: Initially we, the 15 attendees, cleared the trail brush by removing fallen trees, protruding limbs and beer bottles. The previous week, Tom and the two Mikes had laid out, marked and run the proposed contour trail, the last step confirming optimal trail flow, and grade reversals . Next was trail raking, pulling leaf cover to the uphill side of the trail, followed by the heavier cutting work using our new friends McCloud and Pulaski: long-handled tools and axe- like implements that did a wonderful job of creating a bench-cut in the side slope. We then leveled across the width of the trail, leaving a small downhill gradient across the trail to ensure run-off in a sheet pattern, then tamped it down. Returning the previously raked natural cover to the trail completed this portion of the task, and it was onto the next section in question. Here, closer to the parking lot, the trail had also eroded badly and was considered non-redeemable, so the objective was to re-route it: we brought the loppers into action, clearing dense brush, chopping and removing thick vines, then returning with a power trimmer to strip the thick vegetation to the base. Out with the heavy tools again, to break the surface, create a 2 foot wide trail, then tamp and cover: this time with mulch that had been delivered by the NYS Parks crew. This trail, closer to the parking lot, was routed to connect with the main trail, but was non-technical, gently sloped and wound through the beautiful native plants on top of the overlook, creating a short teaser walk for anyone so inclined to venture from their cars. Having walked the trail and admired our handiwork, we retired to Hither Hills Visitor Center, a wonderful NYS Parks facility: the spacious room, overlooks dunes and ocean and is filled with kids’ books, toys etc: full sized seal-lion models, jellyfish toys hanging from the ceiling, many educational tools, all relevant to the local environment... beautiful! Mike Vitti then gave a well-detailed and organized presentation on trail building, with a slideshow from around the state and nation to illustrate the engineering concepts behind sustainable trail construction. He also filled us in on grant application workshops, state / federal financing and volunteer recruitment. PHEW!! Full brain! We chatted on the way home, excited about the day, the turnout, the instant gratification, the information...I fielded calls from more local mountain bikers and trails enthusiasts and resolved to get our biking advocacy group, (Spokespeople) going asap: many friends, local cyclists and non-cyclists have expressed interest, as have the local community organizations. With a bit of effort, I know that we can make the biking here better and more inclusive, as well as strengthen our liaisons with the local trails preservation groups. Well done to everyone who attended, we all who look forward to the next event: with consistent effort, we will make a huge contribution to improvement of the trail management and cycling scenes on eastern long island. Keep your eyes out in November for the first general meeting of Spokespeople, and please contact me at if you are interested in helping out in any way.

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