Our next stop on the traveling road tour was El Paso, Texas. At this point the IMBA crews split off and headed their separate ways. Kelly and Collins headed back east, while Inga and myself were to make our way towards the Pacific, through the southwest.
When we got to El Paso, we met with Shamori, our host and liaison to the city parks. A hike to view the site for our trail building session on Saturday followed. The city was interested in building a beginner level multi-use natural surface trail behind the rec center that would serve mountain biking as well as hiking. A green level contour trail around the three peaks by the rec center would be a great addition to the established trail systems in the area.
The city and area around El Paso has over 100 miles of established trail, as well as 50 miles of unsigned trail. However, the “beginner” level trails in the rocky desert environment are so harsh to ride that there really is no green level trail for novice off road cyclists.
Having an entry level trail in the local community with connectivity with the other trail system would be ideal- especially when combined with a skills park that would help the novice riders gain the necessary skills required to navigate the more challenging trails. This really got the attention of the local freeriders as well, for obvious reasons.
El Paso is a challenging environment to build trail though. In addition to the loose rocky soil, wood structures rot and break down quickly. To make matters worse, the area is flooded almost annually.
Our first mission was to educate and inform as much as possible. The city had actually defined a “trail” as a natural surface road with an 8ft tread. Most mountain bikers would call that a double track or a road. Not even close to the experience most of us as off road cyclists are looking for on an weekend ride. After realizing this, we defined what a single track multi-use trail is and got the local cycling club involved as well, so they can get input in on the master plan. A master plan for the implementation of multi-use trails is now underway.
While we were in town, we also hiked out and looked at a few problems the club was having in getting a new trail approved and helped brainstorm on some possible solutions.
On Saturday, the trail building school was attended by members of the club and city employees. We did a design class in the field, and focused on using a inclinometers to lay out trail at sustainable grades. We picked a beginning and stopping point, and the crew first flagged the corridor, then pin flagged their route.