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Trail Maintenance is Fun!

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By Rob - Posted on 18 September 2006

So it's 8:30 on a sunny, spring, Sunday morning and you'd usually be about to hit your favourite trail with a few mates. But what if the weather the last few weeks has been nothing but abismal? And what if your favourite trail is just a soggy bog and closed? Sure you could ride an alternate but, as I found out last weekend, there's options available to help maintain our friends the trails on days like this.

Read on to find out what happened when I joined the rangers from Warringah Council at an organised maintenance day...

It's pretty obvious what the problem is here... the trail runs on a poorly draining path. This area will be mulched over and the trail re-directed over a boardwalk to be laid to the right of this shot.

Yes, it's true - of course we'd all rather be riding, but once in a while you have to stop and ask yourself, who actually looks after the trails, and what would happen if they suddenly closed down or banned riders from these haunts? After all, being able to share National Parks, and council reserves is a privilege, not a right. Well, as it turns out Manly Dam is looked after by Warringah Council who have the whole community to consider, not just us MTB types, and after the outcry this change caused it was time to sit up and take note, then buckle down and help out - otherwise there will be no-one but ourselves to blame when the trails all end up as smooth bitumen!


So having been sparked into action, what goes on during such a day? The good news is it's all pretty laid back, cruisy work if you can get it Eye-wink See below about how you can volunteer (yes, you read right - no dollars in this, it's for the love of the trails you'll be slaving!).

A small group had began to gather as I rocked up on the allotted date at the Ranger's office on King St. All looking pretty like minded types with the obligatory hydration pack, sunnies and cap, and all were soon signing on the OH&S register before stomping round to the proposed site of upgrades (just across the dam wall this day - and even closer for some who managed to score a ride in the Ranger's ute). Then followed a little more safety talk and briefing on the objective for the next few hours (work was scheduled from 8:30am to 1pm and it was already 9 by this time).

An area familiar to all of course, today's action would be two fold: Firstly, to re-direct the trail from it's current course (through a sea of mud after recent heavy rain) to a boardwalk to be built over higher, better draining ground and mulch the bog over to help plant regrowth. Just round the corner we would also lay mulch over the old trail which has been moved to prevent riders passing too close to house fencing.

Get Going!

During the laying of boardwalk (or corduroy) over the area to the left of shot.

So, first up there'll be that path for the boardwalk to clear... the Rangers provided all the tools of course, and also some very decent gloves to keep our dainty office worker (well, many of us were) hands blister free. Grabbing an implement of choice seemed the go and with some instruction on the general idea, we managed to clear a pretty straight and even path across the area to lay the boards. Of course any plants in the way were transplanted, and then augmented at the path sides by new seedlings that had been brought along.

Once prepared only a few folk are needed to lay the boards themselves - the method of working being quiet interesting to see. You might spot from the photo that they had been pre-linked into small sections of four boards apiece beforehand. These are then loaded onto a small platform, motorised with two tank tracks as a drive. Each section is placed on the platform and bolted (using a single, previously loose connecting board) to the section just laid (the last board of which would just be resting on the platform). Once connected the engine was engaged and the whole thing driven back along the cleared path, dropping the prepared and linked boards into place before being stopped with that last piece just on-board and ready for linking with the next section. And so on, and so on... load, bolt, drive, stop, load, bolt...

Fixing the End
Hammering stakes into the ground to secure the ends of boardwalk to. These will later have chains attached and be covered in concrete.

Of course this wouldn't be quiet so effective if the end sections were not securely fixed into the ground. Bring on the stakes, sledge hammer and concrete for this job!

Meantime there was that second section of older trail just round the corner needing to be covered with mulch. Nothing quiet so technical went on here - a couple of wheelbarrows, forks and rakes were in play and a couple of hundred metres of trail quickly disappeared under the chips.

We also carried more mulch round to the area by the boardwalk in progress and spread that over the boggy mess by it's side. Other details here were the cutting of a drainage ditch (and building of a water bar with the spoil), and the collecting and piling of rocks at the start of the boards to make things easier on the first one.

The Results

Three hours work later... the trail has been re-directed over boardwalk (or corduroy) to the left of shot (yeah - where everyone is standing to admire it), and the area on the right mulched.

As you can see from the few shots here, things went pretty well. In fact, happy to report we had an awesome team this weekend. Most of the job was done by midday and our organisers were quickly making the call to bring in refreshments ahead of time!

For more shots of this day (and who knows, perhaps others to come) check the Manly Dam Trail Maintenance Gallery.

A Social Occasion!

A water bar and drainage ditch has been cut just off frame to the right. Mulch has been laid to help plant regrowth and hopefully prevent the bog seen here previously.

As well as helping out, I found it very nice to meet keen riders and have a chat - guys you might otherwise just give a passing nod or a just a few pleasantries to on the trail. Of course throughout the day there was the usual banter, and trail talk, and would you believe it, an odd comment or two about web sites and other nerdy like topics (ahem! :">).

Sadly, very bad planning on my part meant having to shoot off not long after the work was done. This was a real shame as not only would chatting more to the crew about their biking escapades have been good, but apparently a very nice BBQ was laid on later by those friendly folk from CBD. Doh! I'll get to sample Hugh's feast next time, or perhaps I'll just have to collect my snags and beers later from the store Eye-wink

I Want to Help!

Good on ya! And why not? I'm no expert in this of course, but given the days experience will definitely help out again. A few hours of your time once in a while is a small price to pay for the satisfying feeling that will no doubt come every time that section of trail is passed - knowing what went into it's upkeep and how you were part of it

For those reading this with a big enough gang of friends (15+ people I'm guessing) I'm told you might even get your own special arrangements if you so desire.

If you'd like to get involved in trail maintenance at Manly Dam please contact the Rangers directly:

Office: 112 King Street, Manly Vale
Phone: (02) 9949 3235


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