Saturday’s Big Dig Day at Gateway Green had 140 volunteers showing up to give their time to help create single track trails in Portland, Oregon. While a significant amount of labor was performed, the focus of the event was about providing the opportunity to invest sweat equity into what will become for many of us, a second home, or at the very least a regular place to spend our free time in the city.
Sign up for the event was capped at 125 spots and filled up quickly. To ensure there were enough tools on hand, Northwest Trail Alliance volunteers borrowed from various tool caches at a number of trail projects.
The event also included breakfast snacks, drinks and lunch for the volunteers.
Crew leaders and key volunteers gathered on site at 7:30 to go over trail assignments, get caffeinated and ready.
After Tom Archer, the coordinator of the Big Dig gathered the group together, we split up into a number of teams that dispersed throughout the park. Tasks and duties consisted of gathering trash, pulling ivy and other invasive species in addition to the actual tread work.
The bulk of the build process is performed with a mini-excavator. However, cutting and removing roots and other organic material is generally performed by hand.
Cutting tools like Mcleods and Rogue hoes are useful for cutting backslope, so we set our teams up fireline-style, with shovelers and rakers following to disperse the grass before compacting the tread surface.
Since we’re in an area well known for precipitation, all trail surfaces have to be prepared. Sand and aggregate is added to the tread in order to harden and weatherize it.
To transport these materials, we had two motorized wheelbarrows on site, strategically placed on opposing ends of the park. We also had quite a few buckets, so volunteers rolled up their sleeves and got to it.
Since our last build report, Trail Builder/ Contractor Jason Wells and his team have kept busy. The rain and snow kept things from progressing for a while, but we’re extremely pleased to see the new flowy line on the grassy hill that adds much needed trail to the overall milage.
Volunteers working in the wooded areas kept busy removing ivy and garbage. A number of tires were discovered throughout the area, as well as quite a few discarded needles, which were picked up by designated personnel.
Other teams were spread out throughout the new “Cliff Line” single track, which is designated as the more technical section of trail. Rocks and other elements were placed into the tread to provide challenge and technical trail features, also known as “TTFs”.
After breaking for lunch, Chris Bernhardt, the primary trail contractor pulled me aside and provided a fun creative assignment: find a creative way to implement the found tires into the north section of the Cliff Line.
Gathering a team of hearty individuals, we headed over to the tires and did a quick walk of the trail to brainstorm some possible uses for the discarded treads.
Our plan: embed them along the side of the trail in order to create fun opportunities for trail side jibbing!
We began by finding a section of trail with good sight lines and a bit of a rolling grade. Finding a decent size mount of dirt that already acted as a roller, we excavated a trench in order to place a tire, and did the same in order to place the other three tires. The first would serve as a feature to “bonk” off of, while the second would be a ride-over feature.
Along the way we discovered one more tire, hidden in the under brush for a total of five. We managed to place the tires and anchor them for the most part when the call came through announcing the end of the work day. No one in the group wanted to to leave with the task unfinished so we kept at it a bit longer.
I’ve been calling the area the “Five Found Tires of Fun(k)”.
If you missed out on this opportunity to come out, there will be more chances before the official opening in June. We’ll also be putting on regular build parties to keeping everything running great.
Most importantly, we’re on the verge of seeing the Portland cycling community grow exponentially – having a place to safely play, recreate and develop handling skills necessary to negotiate what are often unsafe street as well as challenging trails can mean all the difference to riders that don’t have the time and or resources to travel upwards of two hours to ride mountain bikes.
We saw a bit of what things will be like for the Portland cycling community on Saturday, and it’s an exciting prospect.