I was browsing the socials one day and came across a post from IMBA about their Dig In Campaign. If you're not familiar, the International Mountain Bicycling Association is an advocacy group dedicated to supporting and growing responsible mountain biking trails and programs all over. The Dig In Campaign raises and distributes funds nationally via IMBA's local chapters.
One of this year's Dig In projects was at Johnson City's Winged Deer Park. Organized by the Southern Off Road Bicycling Association's Tri-Cities chapter, the MTB trails at Winged Deer Park are still in their infancy. However, SORBA Tri-Cities has several irons in the fire with a lot of trails and trail areas currently under development. Johnson City is on its way to being quite the hub for mountain biking in east Tennessee.
I decided I wanted to see how an organization like SORBA (in conjunction with the IMBA) organizes and carries out a volunteer build day such as this. I hopped in the truck and made the 2 hour drive to grab a shovel and get my hands dirty. I knew no one and didn't contact anyone prior to showing up. With a couple handshakes and name exchanges, we were off to begin digging.
The trails at Winged Deer have been under construction for a little while now but new trails are still being cut. Most of the group spent the day hand-tuning a few berms and rollers as well as benching the tread behind the mini excavator.
It was a cool experience to see so many folks turn out to get their hands dirty and work toward a common goal. Being in construction management, I see a lot of dirt moving in my day-to-day but it was nice to just grab a shovel and be involved in a build like this. It's easy to think that trails are just push down by a big dozer but that couldn't be any further from the truth. Even with two mini excavators cutting trails, it's eye-opening to see how much work is really done by hand. One of the gentlemen running the show said that as a chapter, SORBA Tri-Cities can put out 2 miles of trail per year. I'm not sure what all of the particulars of that statement are but that's still pretty mind boggling.
It takes a lot of folks to make a trail system happen and just as many to keep it maintained. This doesn't only pertain to mountain biking but it's universal for all trails. Trail clubs, advocacy groups, county officials and a host of other folks put a lot of thought and sweat into the trails that we all enjoy. If this is something you're passionate about I highly recommend pitching in when you get the chance, it's well worth your time.
Find a club, find a trail and pitch in.