Training session will give beginners a look at maintaining NM's beaten paths - Albuquerque Journal

Training session will give beginners a look at maintaining NM’s beaten paths

It is not much of a secret that some of the best hiking and mountain biking trails can be found right here in New Mexico.

From grueling climbs up its towering peaks to casual jaunts across rolling, arid high steppe, the trails here are indeed enchanted.

To help keep them that way, and perhaps add more trails to the state’s extensive system, the Santa Fe National Forest along with partners New Mexico Volunteers for the Outdoors, Santa Fe Fat Tire Society and the SFNF Termites will converge on Hyde Memorial State Park outside of Santa Fe for a trail work basic training session.

“The Santa Fe National Forest and partner organizations receive lots of interest from the public in participating in trail-related volunteer work each year,” wrote Sarah Smith in an email interview. Smith is a social science analyst for the Santa Fe National Forest Pecos/Las Vegas Ranger District.

“Lots of trail users are looking to give back and help maintain trails and many people recognize that the Forest Service and other land management agencies don’t always have the resources to sufficiently maintain all the trails that need work due to financial and capacity limitations,” she said in explaining the importance of the session. “We rely a lot on volunteers to help us maintain trails and we have a great volunteer base with individuals who have lots of trail maintenance and construction experience.”

However, not everyone who wants to help has that experience, thus the introductory session that will give rookie volunteers a primer on what to expect and what to do to help.

“We recognize that some folks who are interested in helping work on local trails haven’t done it before,” Smith wrote. “And we want to provide a way for folks who are new to this type of volunteer work to feel comfortable in being able to do some basic trail maintenance techniques.”

The past couple of years have been hard on the state’s public places, she added, so many of the trails can use some refurbishment.

“Since COVID hit, public lands have seen an increase in usage on trails and it takes a lot of maintenance to keep trails open, accessible, and safe,” she wrote. “Additionally, natural events such as wind storms, wildfire and bark beetle infestations have resulted in more downed trees across our trails, further hindering access.”

In addition to forest service personnel, the partners will participate in the day-long session.

“The Santa Fe Fat Tire Society has partnered with the Santa Fe National Forest for long time and has been doing trail maintenance work, clearing trails that have fallen trees on trails,” said Carl Gable, one of the society’s board members who will be conducting some of the training. “We’ve cleared well over 100 trees off Santa Fe National Forest trails because the forest service really doesn’t have the resources to do it themselves.”

Education of trail use also is a big part of the session, he said, as different groups tend to blame others for trail degradation.

“It’s been my experience that the hikers think the mountain bikers ruin the trials and the mountain bikes think it’s the horsemen that ruin the trails,” Gable said.

In reality, though, it’s water that causes the majority of the damage.

“It’s poor water management,” he said. “Water gets on the trail, stays on the trail and runs down the trails. That causes gullies and runnels and ruins things. So we’ll look at ways to build a sustainable trail and we’ll look at what will water do when it runs on the trail.”

The training will (include) hands-on work with hand saws and cross cut saws, as well as how to restore the tread of trails that have been eroded, Smith wrote.

“We hope that the trail training will bring in new volunteers who haven’t done this type of work before as well as provide a solid skill foundation for those looking to broaden their understanding of how trails are built and maintained,” she wrote. “We also have a goal of connecting community members to organizations that do trail-related volunteer work so they can learn about opportunities to get involved. We hope to make this training an annual opportunity.”

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