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Mountain biking: Be mindful of trail closures

  • As the area’s mountain biking trails thaw out and dry out from winter, please heed the signs indicating trail closures — such as this one at the Nature Walk trailhead in Lebanon — for the benefit of all users.



Special to the Valley News
Saturday, April 06, 2019

Did you spot some particularly fat bikes hanging off the back of cars and trucks this winter and wondered, “What’s up with that?”

It turns out that a segment of the local biking community doesn’t hang things up for the winter to ride trainers in the basement. Instead, they’ve been riding trails in the snowy woods between Old Pine Tree Cemetery Road and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

Often known as Boston Lot, the officially named Landmark plot is a Dartmouth-owned land over which the Upper Valley Mountain Bike Association has been asked to be stewards. It’s a multi-use trail, managed and maintained year-round by the UVMBA. (To distinguish, the Boston Lot is a city park just around Boston Lot Lake in West Lebanon.)

On most weekend mornings, it’s not uncommon to see the Nature Walk trailhead parking lot filled with dozens of vehicles, as fat bikers, hikers, runners and skiers enjoy the groomed trails. It’s been a wonderfully long and snowy winter with miles of smiles for everyone.

There is a period after winter ends and spring thawing begins, however, that we close down the trail system. Yes, we could probably keep biking and running — modern technology makes so much more possible now — but that isn’t good for the trails themselves.

The melting of snow and thawing of the ground causes a lot of upheaval and mud. Left to itself, all of this will slowly settle back down and dry out, and smooth trails will return. The addition of tires and shoes on the thawing surface causes ruts and postholes, which catch and collect the water, which leads to more erosion.

And not just during the thaw: Water from spring and summer rainstorms will more readily be soaked up by these torn-up surfaces, causing more tires and shoes to tear up the soil, and eventually the trails end up with perpetual wet, washed-out spots. People start avoiding those, widening the trail and widening the damage.

This is why the UVMBA closes the trails during this fragile period. You might see some of us out putting in drainage and attempting to repair existing problem areas, but otherwise we ask everyone, no matter what activity, to stay off.

In the next month we’ll organize and announce our spring trail work day. This is a great opportunity for everyone in the area to help maintain this multi-activity resource. Up to 70 people of all ages and skill levels usually show up to pitch in with fixing and maintaining the trails, bridges and other features.

We ask that everyone be mindful of the trails and stay off until we open them again.

Jerry Halstead is the vice chairman of the UVMBA and also handles the group’s website and social media accounts. Visit www.uvmba.org for more information.