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Trail Policing at Established Spots

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9/7/2015 9:33 AM
Edited Date/Time: 9/8/2015 12:12 PM

Curious what you guys think about this.

If you're from SoCal you've likely heard of a popular DH/FR area in north county San Diego. The spot has been around for years, like decades. About a year or two ago, someone starting building a new jump line through the main Freeride area. The jumps ranged from 20ft to well over 45ft, I think there's a 60 footer? Anyways, these jumps stood out, they were constructed using sand bags, for one, they were obviously big, they were all doubles (not tables), and they were visible from the road.

The incident reports from this spot went up substantially after the jumps were installed. Eventually, bulldozers made their way to area and not only were the new jumps leveled, but everything else in the area was also leveled. The DH trails remain, thankfully.

The builder of these jumps was warned by other riders that they will attract a lot of unwanted attention and possibly put the spot in jeopardy, but since this area has been around so long and there is no ownership of the spot (it's somewhat of a free for all), no one could, or would tell this guy what he can and can't build. Nor would anyone tear them down. They were well built jumps, and the riders who could actually hit them, enjoyed them. But that wasn't the problem.

So, what's your take? Do trails, illegal or not, need "policing" from the riding community when common sense eludes your fellow rider? Or, do should we take the full hands-off approach and let people do whatever they want since no one can truly take ownership of trails // features built on property they don't own?

Note: This isn't meant to be specifically about this particular area, just using it as an example.


I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

9/7/2015 10:58 AM

I would say even unofficial trails need to be ' policed ' in some fashion regardless of the fact that no one has any official ownership of them , just because there is no real , legal owner does not mean that people can do as they please especially if whats being built could put what is established in jeopardy.

It's some thing that I take on my self at our local area , some people seem to think it's fine to leave gaping holes every where , jumps built with logs ( badly ) and fireroad crossings at any point.


9/8/2015 10:57 AM

A trail boss will always be necessary. There has to be some guidance as to the character of the trail, as one rider's technical, is another rider's easy and each will have their own interpretation of how the trail should be if they put a shovel in the ground - from "sanitizing" to going huge. A trail boss can bring consensus of the riding community to maintain the character of the trail.


9/8/2015 12:05 PM

I actually try few years ago not to police the area but to build some communication channel with some of the owners (city of SD, DFG) and we made some progress towards establishing legal DH trails in this area and to establish some rules ( define areas OK to ride and some off limits). We even were able to host a trail day to close some unused trails and maintain the others. Everything collapsed when some people decided they didn't have to play by the rules and could build whatever they wanted. Other organisation (SDMBA, GP) tried similar approach but they failed as well because they just don't receive enough respect and support for the MTB community.
It just illustrates it will be difficult to build anything in So Cal that will hold for a long time because the MTB scene is not mature/educated or involved in any organisation and don't see the big picture. INMHO, you can get away by building anything for few years because the different agencies don't have the manpower to enforce their rules but in the long run it doesn't matter if you keep it on the DL or not but in the long term in will go down. If you want to invest some energy in a long term legal you have to make it legal and work with the agencies. It's actually common sense. As much as I enjoyed the jumps you are talking about, they had already an expiration date written on it when they were build.
I feel really sorry but I don't see too much hope for trail access in So-cal! Each region has some challenges but it sounds like other are more successful (Pacific NW,Oregon, Colorado)


9/8/2015 2:01 PM

"As much as I enjoyed the jumps you are talking about, they had already an expiration date written on it when there were build." - Jerome

This is exactly the point of the thread, well, one of them. As stated in the OP, the spot in the example has been well established for decades. When something was being built that pretty much every rider knew would spell city // county action, be it bulldozer or complete closure, no one stepped up.

New groups coming in and stepping up will obviously upset the guys who've been building and riding an established place. From this example, that's clear. The "trail boss" idea brought up by Mr. P sometimes works, but often doesn't as newer riders often feel entitled to build on existing trails regardless if there's a "trail boss" or not and really, there's much a "trail boss" can due within the law, anyways.


I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

9/8/2015 3:01 PM

the bottom of that place was going to get bulldozed anyway, its the way it goes when there isnt a place to build legally


9/8/2015 3:42 PM

people need to take responsibility for their trails


9/8/2015 6:49 PM

There is not really a black and white answer to this, really, since every situation is different. It is a consequence of people having different skill levels and intentions for what they want to do on "no man's land". I've built jumps as optional lines , in similar places, ones that did not disturb the existing XC trails, only to come back in a week or two to find out someone smoothed over the tops, and basically is rolling over them now like they were big hills on a pump track. Was it their fault for being unskilled enough to to do the line properly or my fault for not being the trail watchdog/nanny? And the last thing you want is some a-hole who assumes charge of the land as a way to enact his own agenda for building.


9/8/2015 6:54 PM

In my opinion, a trail boss or bosses are a very important part of any trial situation whether it's the one guy who found the spot and started digging on his own before bringing in friends to enjoy and help, or a close knit group of riders who found the spot or earned their way in through hard work. When anarchy reins, so comes the shitstorm and the bulldozers. I've happily been witness to many trail situations where proper respect has been paid and the trails have been enjoyed for years. And I've also been witness to many spots that just got too popular and lawless and been plowed in weeks. I'd like to point out THE JUNGLE trails as a positive example of teamwork and a sufficient level of secrecy to last through the years. Respect. Oh, and who can forget the miracle of the Aptos Post Office, where a positive collective spirit and the local community came together to create something unforgettable.


9/8/2015 7:44 PM

Most people would agree the nature of authority and justice at these spots revolves around dedication and respect. Those who put in the time and effort should be respected for providing quality resources. Those eager to chomp at the bit should respect, and hopefully climb the established structure.

From my perspective, the biggest application of this policing would be mitigation of bad attention. This can be attained in a variety of manners. A lot of the time it is us the bikers wreaking havoc although we can provide safe facilities independently if rules can be agreed on.

Mt. Fromme in Vancouver is probably the most notable example. Here, you have tremendous potential for downhill mountain bike trails and destruction of local habitats without proper knowledge. Some of these informal trails were built without consideration to sustainable trail concepts. The result of this was intervention from the city.

This intervention included a scientific study, called the (ARSS) Alpine Recreation strategic study, along with the formation of way too many partnerships I could list. (List some if you're interested).

The answer to evading the man in building is to exert a degree of professionalism. Risk can be managed both by mitigation and transfer. While success is never guaranteed, implementing safety standards for the park helps. This could be demonstrated by building lines for all skill levels, rounding out landings of doubles, and building pumptracks to learn core abilities. You could also bring in non-profits to help manage the situation or hire a bike park development company.

Hopefully, both interested citizens and municipal entities could reach a civilized consensus at this point. The authority we seek is demonstrating our ability to provide safe facilities for all users. Not everywhere can build a Valmont, but builders anywhere can take power with these points in consideration Hopefully.


9/8/2015 8:45 PM
Edited Date/Time: 9/8/2015 8:47 PM

The two problems you'll always get is:
1. Is it designated as offical - or - poached
2. Is it a Big place or Little place

In situations like the Post office jumps, it was a small managable place, semi official and people were there everyday - to keep an eye on it.

Unofficial/ poach building in Big places like national forest, BLM, abandoned land, or timber land, etc- with miles of trails is always going to be hard for any unofficial trail boss or bosses to manage., esp if he is there one day a week

And people tend to respect official places way more, for what ever reason. Unofficial big places are always gonna be Thunderdome - and don't be surprised when motocross dudes show up to build their jumps there too......Xtra Big


9/8/2015 8:59 PM
Edited Date/Time: 9/8/2015 9:00 PM

There has been a lot of "illegal" trail building in San Diego over the past couple of years. The jump line at this spot was insane and sure to draw unwanted attention. I'm not sure what the person/group was thinking when he/they had this built, but obviously they didn't think or care about the consequences of their actions. As a result a lot of the existing jumps were also bulldozed and the area is under closer observation. We lost one the oldest and in my opinion best jump lines around because of this person/these people.

There has also been a substantial increase in the building of additional jumps/trails in the hill above this area. I can see most of this riding area from my house and each year I see more and more trails cut into it. If I notice it, everyone else in my neighborhood can notice it too. Trust me, we are very close to losing this area. Part of it is private land, another part belongs to a local municipality, and another is protected land.

So, the question is how do we keep areas like this open and still make the trails fun to ride. I can tell you the answer isn't to build trail after trail and it isn't building 20+ foot sandbag gap jumps or wooden ramps. In SoCal we need be more careful. We need take advantage of the terrain. We need to be aware most of our trails are multi use. We need to realize our trails are not covered my trees. We need to maintain our trails so the "hits and berms" compliment the terrain not draw attention away from it.


9/8/2015 11:43 PM

When it comes to trails, it's not all black and white. There's a lot of grey, and trail bosses are the only thing that keep grey areas running. Any trail boss worth their weight in salt would have torn those jumps out the next day. A trail boss would be out there throwing shit and having a full insane asylum conniption meltdown if he saw someone filling up sandbags to build jumps.

It's about drawing a line in the sand, dude. Across this line, you shall not pass.


9/8/2015 11:46 PM

Also I love grey.


9/9/2015 7:44 AM
Edited Date/Time: 9/9/2015 7:45 AM

Its a sticky situation because on one hand, every trail was illegal at one point, so to say to someone they can't build is iffy. Also the no ownership throws a pretty solid wrench in the authoritative aspect of trying to keep everyone on the same page as the "boss". Its definitely needed in some areas as the original post shows so maybe its better to have a "club" of sorts that unofficially sponsors the trail/area.

A group will be much more effective since there will be a better chance at running into the builder and explaining things out. With more people involved in the process, a group decision can be made that will be more respected and followed than say a couple people or single person being the "boss". Overall it will make it easier to patrol things and with some sort of "official" sign/posts set up here and there saying "trails sponsored/maintained by etc." or whatever, it will deter people from just going out and building. Hell you could even have a way for aspiring builders to contact the group and to present an idea.

Oh god that sounds like an HOA... well, the way I did it until all my tools were stolen was to build in an area where no one else was around and the exit/entrance to the trail was hidden. That's how we used to and still sometimes do build trails in New England because chances are, you're on someone's property anyways. Its strange to see the big influx of rogue builders now that biking has become very popular.

BTW those jumps mentioned, are they the ones some dude filmed for the GoPro contest? The dirt is kinda red and the jumps progressively get bigger? If so, holy shit those were some properly built jumps. I'm not surprised they brought a lot of attention to that area.


9/9/2015 8:29 AM

I was at a set of dirt jumps that had chains across the run-ins. Only the trail boss had the key to unlock everything. While it seems to work really well at keeping order, I would hate to be the guy with the key if someone ever gets seriously injured and looks to sue.


9/9/2015 4:05 PM

Hi guys, I'm a long time lurker here and a medium-time poster from over at the Vital MX side. (Let's get the "STFU Noob" stuff out of the way now... OK, we're done? Great! Haha.)

We've faced this kind of problem on the motorcycle side for decades. All the really cool riding areas get encroached by development, then the new homeowners complain about all the dust and noise.... pretty soon, poof! There goes your riding spot.
Bicycles have a better starting point, since the noise factor isn't an issue unless you carry a boombox in your hydration pack. And it's a really good one.
I think your best option is to keep the trails as invisible as possible in every way, shape and form, and ride until they get bulldozed for the next WalMart. If Johnny Newhomeowner doesn't even know you're there, there's less chance of him getting his nose out of joint and campaigning for all bicycles to be banned.

BTW, I'm really enjoying the MTB stuff lately. I found some new riding friends and I haven't pedaled this much since the late 1980s. Where's this DH/freeride spot, or is it "in-the-know" only? (I'm familiar with Hodges, Penasquitos, etc... mostly North County stuff.)


9/9/2015 7:15 PM

I have stopped building and digging because of this type of stuff. People finding and moving into your spot and changing it (not always for the better) or the town finds it and plows it or turns the established bike trail into some paved path monstrosity.

When I was digging, if someone started to dig or build in my area and I didn't like what they were doing or wasn't comfortable with it, I simply tossed in the towel and moved to a new spot. It seems like a lame thing to do, to just toss out all of the work, but I really think it is the best way to go. There is always a new spot, people will eventually steal or break your tools and "unfriendlies" will eventually be led to the spot because of garbage, noise, wood burning etc etc.