Marty’s Trail in Ashland, Oregon, has been a popular downhill trail for a number of years with local riders. In recent months, there have been some modifications to the trail. A popular section of trail was reworked with the addition of machine built jumps.
Unfortunately, the jumps were constructed and reworked without the permission of the land managers. We reported on the new features in a post published in January, when we did a shuttle up to session the new hits. While the height of the lips and landings were fairly diminutive, the gaps made them technical, and weren’t meant for beginner or even many intermediate level freeriders. That said, we thought they were fun jumps, and added to the experience of riding the trail.
While we officially don’t encourage unauthorized trail building, we recognize that it happens, (and until there are enough trails for all, will continue to happen) and appreciate good design and construction, regardless of the legalities. The reality is that getting the trail approved and sanctioned has been a slow one, despite the fact that the trail has been in use for years. Many local riders have a lot of pent up frustration with the system, and from their point of view, it is hard to blame them for wanting to take actions into their own hands. I know for a fact that many members of the Southern Oregon Freeride Association off the record, may have enjoyed riding the features, but officially have to condemn the construction in order to pursue the bigger picture: making Marty’s Trail an official and sanctioned freeride trail. It has been a long and hard battle.
According to Mike Bronze of SOFA:
It’s not from a lack of trying. The USFS is just not ready to move forward. They have sited a lack of funding in order to perform the EIS required. They are underfunded and understaffed. The good news is that in October they were able to secure some stimulus funds for this purpose.
Things have also been complicated do to the Ashland Forest Resiliency Plan and lawsuits against this plan. See link below.
There is more going on behind the scenes in Ashland than you may be aware of.
Things get a bit more complicated.
Recently the trail builders returned to the scene, and using motorized equipment, added more and bigger features. The new features are considerably larger, and have made a number of individuals rather unhappy.
As opposed to the previous underground building session in which the initial jumps were built, the builders made no effort in hiding their construction methods this time around. Evidence of tracks are still on the ground, a major no-no in the water shed area.
Clifford Josey (also of SOFA) writes:
“The recent unauthorized jump building in the Ashland watershed has put the mountain bike community on a slippery slope. The Spring Thaw XC course had to be re-routed because of the newly built jumps, and certain potential permissions regarding the upcoming 12 Mile Super D were denied.
Currently, the Forest Service has an open investigation into the matter. Whoever built the jump line saw the potential for something great, but now they’re facing huge fines and jail time if they’re caught. It’s a felony to alter or build on Forest service land. The builders have painted a poor picture of what the mountain bike community wants. Hopefully we can move forward, but it’s has slowed an already lengthy process for more legal trails.
In the meantime, the trail is being enjoyed, but the USFS has explained that they plan on removing what has been built there.”
SOFA has asked its members to reach out to the community, as the illegal trail building on Marty’s Trail endangers the process of getting the trail officially sanctioned.
Latest update via SOFA from the powers that be:
This is to inform you that we have given limited authorization to Trails Unlimited, a Forest Service Enterprise Team, to operate small “trail bike” motorcycles on roads and trails within the Ashland Watershed between May 24 and June 4, excluding weekends. The reason for this authorization is to speed up a trails assessment and get a “bigger bang for the buck.” Limited motorcycle use will eliminate the need for shuttles so that these folks can spend more time on the trail. They will also be on mountain bikes and on foot. There will be 4 individuals, but most likely, only 2 on motorcycles. Motorcycle use will not be allowed on White Rabbit, Caterpillar, and Alice in Wonderland trails or on private or city lands without authorization by the respective entities.
Trails Unlimited is a nationally recognized team of trail specialists who perform assessments, trail maintenance, and trail construction throughout the country on both motorized and non-motorized trails. The forthcoming two-week period marks the beginning of a process to analyze the current situation in the Watershed. We intend to inventory all trails (authorized and unauthorized). This will be followed by development of a trails management plan and the associated environmental studies required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). There will be full public involvement prior to and during the NEPA stages. Stay tuned for further information.
We did a shuttle to check out the jumps, as my brother and our friend Bill wanted to hit everything before it was decommissioned. When my chain popped off my ring due to a lack of a chain guide, I declined to hit the section. The gaps are pretty big, and pushing the pedals less than top speed appeared to be hazardous for one’s health. This was more than apparent when Bill cased the landing on his first attempt. (he landed cleanly on his consecutive attempt)
I’m not a fan of the features. A number of riders have made a point to ride them, as they are new, and they wished to hit them before they were removed. However, even if the construction methods and the legality of the work wasn’t an issue, I don’t think the jumps enhance the trail, but rather detract from it. They simply don’t flow whatsoever. Even a skilled rider that previously knew the trail (and I do fall in this group, having lived in Ashland) would need to stop and look before leaping, as it doesn’t fit anything else there. When it comes to this kind of riding, building things right, especially on public land that is shared by everyone. Just one seriously hurt rider could end access for everyone else.
Personally I’m not a fan of long and low jumps, and prefer larger jumps found in contemporary slope style courses. The bottom line though, is that big doesn’t necessarily equal difficult, and small doesn’t necessarily equal safe. In my professional opinion, the newest features don’t belong on this trail, legal or not.
Enough of what I think. What do you guys think? Sound off in the comments below.