by Mark Elliott

It’s 8:00AM on a beautiful sunny Sunday morning. I wake up and pull on my dirtiest pair of pants, find an equally dirty shirt, and head to the kitchen to fix my lunch and snacks for the day.  I go through my list in my head to make sure I have everything.  Nail bag, hammer, saw, cross cut chain, rip chain, gas, oil, bar wrench, file, guide, gloves, water, beer, rake, shovel, hoe, pulaski... I think that’s everything. I load up my builders pack and tools in my trusty ole Vantasy (a 99 Chevy Venture van with a skid plate) and head out down some nasty 4x4 roads to my canvas in the woods. I get out of my van and before I begin to unload it I look around and smile. I know today is going to be a good day. I’m out in the woods and the sound of nature is all around. Down the cliff side I can hear the water bouncing off the rocks and rushing through the canyon. In front of me squirrels are running and jumping, it reminds me of two little kids playing tag.

I take a deep breath of that fresh mountain air, grab the straps of my pack and throw them over my shoulders, then start my hike in. I arrive to my easel, which is about a 100 foot section of trail that I’ll be working on. Today I’ll be building a landing for a massive bridge me and some friends built over the winter. I’ll also be building a small gap jump and a berm. After a good hour I have found all the rocks I will need for the landings and berm. Now it’s time to dig. I don’t know what it is about dirt work, I used to hate it but now I love it. I figured it was mostly because in my first year of building my body was not conditioned enough to dig for 4-5 hours without painful repercussions. The nice thing about dirt (as long as it’s easy to get) is you can change a trail so much in such a short amount of time. Wood structures on the other hand are costly and time consuming. Depending on the size they can take anywhere from a day to weeks (especially if you mill all your own wood), and can cost anywhere from about $20 to $100 or more. It is definitely worth it because done right they are the things people will always remember and the things that they will want to ride the most.

As I pack down the last pile of dirt that I threw on my beautiful new berm I step back and once again I smile. I envision the smile on people’s faces when they get to put tracks on a piece of trail they have never ridden before. I pack up my tools and start to hike out. I pause again turn around and soak it all in because I know tomorrow morning it will be concrete and cars again. The sounds of the urban jungles just don’t have the same calming effects as that of nature. That is one of my typical build days… oops, I mean was.

Three months ago things changed. Fun time was over. I got the unfortunate call from another builder saying that some of our stunts had trespassing notices on them from the BC ministry of forest. The notices stated that we had roughly a month to remove and dispose of our works of art. My heart sank about 5 feet, I couldn’t believe it. I mean I’m not a naïve person who thinks that you can build unsanctioned trails and never have to worry about repercussions. I just never thought it would happen to us. These trails have been there for 15-20 years. They’ve been through a firestorm and a horrible wind storm and somehow, miraculously are still around because of a couple really dedicated builders. There is so much history on these trails. They’ve appeared in Drop In, NWD, Rise, Roam, Kranked and many more. We were now faced with one of the harsh realities of illegal building. We might lose our trails.

One of the unfortunate situations with this particular trail system is that the area is also a massive redneck playground. This works negatively against mountain bikers. To “the man” we are all one user group. When they act destructively, we are viewed as being destructive as well. It is not hard to see all the redneck artifacts. 12 gauge casings scattered like they are sunflower seed shells. Any and all road signs, trail signs, and lost tv’s have the distinct redneck hieroglyphics, about 100 tiny pellet holes. As you wander down the trails or around any of the of the many fire spots you will discover another redneck activity, live tree falling. The thing that bugs me the most about it is that they don’t even do anything with the tree. Just kill it and leave it. I know you’re thinking “Hey, wait a minute, you build stunts out of wood. You’re no different. You kill trees.” The nice thing about a forest is you don’t need live trees to build with, you can usually find enough dead or pine beetle killed trees. I love and appreciate trees and hate seeing them destroyed for no reason but for fun. It’s kind of like catch and release fishing, just utterly pointless. One of the main reasons I shifted to building more was to get the chance to spend hours upon hours in the beauty of nature at a slower pace, rather than whizzing past it.

When you take rednecks, disrespectful dirt bikers, I’ll even throw in disrespectful shuttlers and mix in logging trucks you have a recipe for problems. When the logging companies are fed up with dealing with these hooligans ripping up and down the forest roads at break neck speeds, they call BC Ministry of Forests and put in a complaint. The Ministry of Forests then sends out one of their compliance officers to address the complaints. This is where we got unlucky because this is when the compliance officer happened to also notice our freshly built stunts. So now instead of dealing with the redneck and dirt bike issue, he has now put all his energy into the real destroyers of the land… mountain bikers!

You might now wonder what happened. Did we end up winning? Did we lose our trails? We still don’t know. We are still in the middle of negotiations with the compliance officer and we have also started a petition. We are getting the community on board so when we have to fight we have numbers. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about the trails I love. As I think about all the hours and energy I have put in to build a certain, stunt, line or section. I now think of all the hours I have and will put into trying to save these trails. I find there a lot of people that will pick up a shovel and help throw dirt, swing a hammer or mill some wood. A trail builder true and true is a rare breed. They’re the ones that can’t sleep at night because they are so excited to get out and make something new to play bikes on. They’re the ones that sacrifice riding their bikes, skin on their palms, money from their wallets and hours each week, so everyone can have fun riding something new. They’re the maintainers and the clearers. They’re the ones on the front lines when the fun police step in to ruin our fun.  So next time you ride your bike on a local piece of single track, just stop get off your bike and look around. Appreciate what you see because there was a lot of time, effort and love that went into that and unless they are protected it might be last time you ride it.

Click here to support and sign our petition. Please help us save our local trails.

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