They don’t shed water by themselves, they can’t shake off debris after a storm, and they can’t tell people not to ride if it’s raining.
The main way a trail system is managed is through impassioned volunteers. In Pisgah National Forest and DuPont State Recreational Forest, land managers rely on a number of user groups who work together to maintain trail standards during a time when the trail maintenance budget is slim.
The two cycling groups that maintain our biking trails are Pisgah Area Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) and Upstate SORBA. The Pisgah chapter members are largely Brevard and Asheville residents, while the Upstate chapter members live just down the mountain in the Greenville area.
Many of the area trails are multi-use and require not only routine maintenance, but land managers also rely on volunteer organizations to educate the public about responsible use of the forest.
Sometimes education is as simple as letting people know that they aren’t the only ones in the woods, but education can also come in the form of skills clinics for new riders, trail maintenance seminars and trail etiquette.
In 2016, Pisgah Area SORBA (PAS), recorded 3,000+ volunteer hours with 30+ workdays in Pisgah, Bent Creek & DuPont (7 “Big Dig” days which included participating in Pisgah Pride), worked with USFS to change the use status for mountain bikes to year-round on Bennett Gap trail, started the Adopt-a-Trail program with The Hub as our first participant taking responsibility for maintaining Bennett Gap. PAS also procured a $55K RTP grant awarded for additional work in Pisgah and a $5K REI grant for Hendersonville Bike Park.
In 2015, PAS recorded 60,000 hours of volunteer trail work worth about $1.3 million in man-hours.
In 2014, PAS and the mountain bike community teamed up to reinvent Lower Black Mountain trail, which some riders had started to call the “longest dual slalom run in the south.” With the help and guidance of local trail contractors Woody Keen and Shrimper Khare, the famed lower black slalom run matured and became sustainable, while still being a ton of fun. Members from both SORBA chapters got dirty to bring some much-needed love to a classic Pisgah descent.
Both groups do a significant amount of trail work and need public support. Without these groups, trail access in western North Carolina and the Upstate of South Carolina would dwindle.
Visit www.pisgahareasorba.org and www.upstatesorba.com to learn more about how you can join others in giving back to the trails.
The Pisgah Conservancy
Pisgah National Forest went for many years without any kind of volunteer organization, but thanks to one spirited former camp counselor, that has changed. John Cottingham grew up attending camp here, and eventually came back in his formative years to work as a camp counselor at Camp Summit in DuPont. Over the years he watched the deteriorating trails wear away from so much use, and dwindling maintenance budgets.
Pisgah National Forest is the most visited national forest in the national inventory, with the most visited national park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, being accessed at many points through Pisgah. While those numbers are overwhelming for everyone from the rangers to local emergency services, the annual funding in recent years for trail maintenance has been around $90,000, which, according to Cottingham’s estimates, equates to approximately $235 per mile of trail.
Contracted trail maintenance can cost as much $15,000 per mile of trail, while construction of new trails or relocations can cost much more. To Cottingham’s eyes, those numbers don’t add up, and he believes the funding available is far less than needed to maintain the trails to National Quality Standards.
“There are some things in the forest where I don’t believe we are taking the right pride in maintaining it,” he said. “Some of the trails up in the Graveyard Fields area are in really bad shape. I was on a suspension bridge over the South Mills River and planks are missing. Last summer at Looking Glass Falls part of the view from the viewing platform was blocked by poplar growth. In many places, signage is good but we could do better. We can improve kiosks at trailheads and install them where they’re missing.”
On just the Pisgah Ranger district, things like trail heads, campsites, picnic sites, interpretive sites and swimming sites have a total deferred maintenance cost of $377,000.
The first annual Pisgah Pride Day took place last fall, with volunteers tackling that backlog of maintenance. They worked to clear ditches and drainages, remove invasive species and giving a little love to the forest that we all use.
To help raise funds, this year the Conservancy partnered with Cane Creek Cycling Components, Industry Nine, REEB Cycles, Thomson Bike, Maxxis tires, and Oskar Blues Brewery to create The Pisgah Project, a raffle for a one-off bike build with each component selected by the partnering companies. Tickets for the raffle may be purchased online for $20 through 2 p.m. on April 9, 2017 at the Pisgah Conservancy website. The drawing will be held at 4 p.m. the same day. Proceeds will go to support the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest and the many trails that are cyclists have grown to love.
The 2017 Pisgah Pride Day is schedule for April 29, and the organization is looking for passionate volunteers. To learn more and to become a volunteer, or to learn more about The Pisgah Project raffle, visit www.pisgahconservancy.org.
Friends Of DuPont Forest
The Friends of DuPont Forest (FODF) is a volunteer service organization working to enhance the public use and enjoyment of DuPont State Recreational Forest while protecting its natural resources. Its support is vital to the forest, which sees a significant increase in visitors every year. Forest supervisor Jason Guidry expects over one million visitors in 2017.
The FODF engages in a variety of activities, including trail building and maintenance workdays, building projects and upgrades, fundraising projects and visitor information. To support FODF, you can become a member at www.dupontforest.com. Your money will go directly toward improving and maintaining the 80-plus miles of trails in the forest, assisting the N.C. Forest Service with special projects, research projects and making improvements at the visitor center.