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Column: Riders, stay off the muddy trails

  • Hitting the trails too early in mud season with your bike can leave grooves, as shown hear on the Landmark tract near Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, that could lead to longer-term damage.

Special to the Valley News
Published: 4/7/2020 7:03:45 PM
Modified: 4/7/2020 7:04:30 PM

Steam from sugaring, the sport of rut avoidance, the very first green shoots and a foot of snow here and there — yup, we’ve got a good old New England spring on order.

Everything has changed with the COVID-19 pandemic gripping our area just as tightly as any other. Businesses have been whittled to the essentials. So many people are completely out of work, while the lucky work from home. The job stress of those on the front lines has grown exponentially.

One of the silver linings is people out exercising everywhere — roads and trails, yards and fields. Biking, walking, running, pushing strollers, walking dogs — it has been widely reported that minor and major trailheads are receiving unprecedented traffic, despite unfavorable weather and mud season.

The Upper Valley Mountain Bike Association recognizes the potential of welcoming a large number of new users to its trail networks, in addition to its regulars. With that in mind, we have created guidelines specific to COVID-19, which are posted at some trailheads and available online at https://uvmba.org/covid-19.

The UVMBA’s pride and joy is the Landmark Tract, often known colloquially as the Boston Lot. Unfortunately, those trails are closed for mud season and will remain so for several more weeks. We close the trails for this extended period each year to preserve them. Mud season is the only time we close the trails for a significant period; mountain bikers and other trail users are welcomed through all other seasons.

If the trails are left alone during this sensitive period, the water will eventually be absorbed and the trails will be ready for use, needing only minor maintenance. If the trails are walked or ridden on during this time, the footprints and ruts created are semi-permanent. They can last all season — if not much longer — as they deepen, collect water and stay muddy. These muddy areas then become magnets for wetness and continue to expand throughout all seasons. It is a negative spiral into cruddy trails for everyone.

UVMBA has been granted stewardship of this area via Dartmouth College, and it is responsible decisions like these that are the foundation of that agreement. Please respect trail closures, ours and all others.

Note that bike shops are considered an essential business. If your bike needs a spring tune-up, and it probably does, the local shops are here for you and will continue to be. I ask you to be here for them during this crazy time. They are all adapting to the pandemic in their own ways, but all are open for service, and in many cases sales as well. See the UVMBA website for details, or check with the individual shops.

Like everyone else, we can’t wait for this pandemic to recede. Regardless of that, we will be out on the trails once mud season has passed. We are looking forward to opening the trails and getting everyone out on them, appropriately far apart.

Gretchen Stokes is a member of the UVMBA’s board of directors. Visit www.uvmba.org or the group’s Instagram or Facebook pages to learn more.

Valley News

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