Fish and bikes – An educational insight

April 26, 2017 at 2:59 pm

TORCA is filing an application with Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC) to undertake the stewardship of Eagle Mountain mountain biking trails. This project includes upgrading and maintaining the trails which are currently being used and eventually constructing new trails to better tie together the network. Our goal is a well-maintained sustainable network that provides public recreational mountain biking spaces.

To better understand how the activities on Eagle Mountain affect fish and wildlife, TORCA received a tour of both the Noons Creek and Mossom Creek hatcheries. Salmon stock drastically decreased in past years, in part caused by loss of habitat and increased urbanized developments [1]. This affects other species in our area too, including harbour seals, birds, and bears.

The hatcheries have been working for more than 20 years to restore salmon counts as well as protect riparian areas. Through their efforts, there are now once again salmon in Noons Creek and Mossom Creek. Their work has been substantial and is on-going.

 

Eagle Mountain is part of the watershed that includes Noons Creek and Mossom Creek. A riparian zone is land within 30 m from an aquatic body and is usually protected from development by provincial and federal laws (i.e., Water Act and Fisheries Act) [2]. As part of the stewardship application, TORCA has reviewed the potential impact of the Eagle Mountain trails on the water bodies. Our priorities include:

  • Protect creeks through proper and designated creek crossings
  • Prevent sedimentation in the creeks by minimizing trail erosion
  • Aim to preserve soil and plant life in riparian zones near trails
  • Increase understanding of potentially endangered wildlife and plant species

While the fish head downstream, the creeks themselves are affected by what happens upstream on Eagle Mountain, including our mountain biking trails. As part of TORCA’s application with RSTBC to steward the Eagle Mountain trails, we are committed to ensuring the longevity of the creek and riparian habitats.

How can you help?

  • Choose trails wisely in wet conditions! Questions about which trails are appropriate? Contact us at inf@torca.ca
  • Add trails reports on Trailforks! Fallen trees? Erosion and wear-and-tear on the trails? Broken ladder bridges? Disturbed creek crossing? All reports are reviewed by TORCA and concerns addressed as soon as possible
  • Volunteer with us! Come to our trail days and learn about proper trail building techniques.
  • Volunteer with the hatcheries! Both are completely run by volunteers. Sign up on their websites, help out, and learn more about our local environment and wildlife.
  • Support us! Can’t volunteer? Consider donating to fund our tools, signage on the mountains, and materials to build and maintain a sustainable network. All donations receive a tax-receipt at year’s end. Donate to TORCA
  • Be stream aware! Check out this article about restoration projects around Noons Creek.

Also, plan on attending the Fingerling Festival on May 6th from 11 am to 3 pm, where Noons Creek Hatchery will release 40,000 young salmon into the creek, where they’ll start swimming to the Pacific Ocean and eventually return for spawning in four years. The event is family-friendly, with lots of activities for kids of all ages.

References

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[1] Noons Creek website

[2] TEST document and website 

 

Riding in the wet – a guide to responsible trail selection and usage

February 17, 2017 at 10:23 am

We are fortunate living where we do; mild winters and a lot of different riding destinations to choose from, which means riding is a round the year possibility. This benefit does come with a couple of drawbacks, firstly, and most prominently, it rains here… A lot! Recently, we’ve seen record rainfalls, and the heavy rain events have been frequent enough that adequate drainage has not occurred, leaving the ground totally saturated, the lack of snow also means that trails don’t get a rest period, so they are seeing heavier than normal traffic for this time of year because people aren’t able to ski, two events that can be problematic.

With modern trail building practices that follow the IMBA and Whistler trail standards, the trails are able to withstand bad weather and heavy traffic better than ever, but building to these standards is incredibly labour intensive, not always the most ideal solution for a particular area, in turn, this means that the trail will not necessarily be able to handle high traffic or wet weather, so it’s good to know how to identify trails that will handle the rain, and also to understand what trails are best left for drier days. It’s really difficult to tell someone not to do something, and the aim of this article is to educate so that you can make an informed decision on when and what to ride.

Before You Ride:
Think about what trails you are going to ride:
-Soil Type: Are they typically muddy?
-Trail Grade: How steep are they?
-Special Restrictions: Are there any special restrictions put on by the builder or trail group?
-Plan Your Ride: Do you have a backup plan in case conditions are worse than anticipated?

Soil Type:

The type of soil on the trail bed contributes to how well the trail will drain. In it’s natural state, the forest floor is made up of sticks, pine needles, leaves and other organic debris that is in various stages of decomposition. This material is known as duff, and if you pick it up, it’s loose, doesn’t pack, can hold a lot of water like a sponge, and when worked will break down into a black, sloppy muck that takes a long time to dry out. It’s the trail surface that is typical for ‘loamers’, the primitive trails that when dry are the dirt equivalent to skiing on a powder day, but in the wet, they are greasy, fragile and waterlogged. If you finish a ride and are covered in mud, then that mud has come from the trail, and it’s not going to be replaced without intervention, it’s a good marker for erosion!

The gold soil that has become ubiquitous with modern trail building is the local mineral soil. It’s a mixture of fine gravel, sand, silt and a small amount of clay with minimal organic matter. It is technically called loam (which is often confused with duff as mentioned above). When it’s worked, it will compact down, and the clay and silt will bond everything together forming a hardened layer that can shed water and is very resistant to wear from foot and wheel traffic. Building trail with this is labour intensive, generally consisting of removing the duff, back filling with rock, and crowning with soil to form the trail surface.

Rock is fantastic, it doesn’t really wear (although it can get polished), it doesn’t change, it can handle any amount of weather, but it can also channel water onto the rock-trail boundary, and the end of rock sections will often be rutted because of braking and water erosion.

After a heavy rainfall, it takes time for the trails to dry out to a rideable level. With armoured mineral soil trails, they can sometimes be good through the rain event or up to two or three days after. Organic surfaced trails can take weeks to dry out properly depending on the slope of the hill, sunlight and other factors.

Trail Grade:
Water on a trail is generally bad, but it becomes an erosive force when it’s moving, and as it’s speed picks up, so does it’s potential for damage. A well built, well maintained trail will have out-slopes on the trail bed to sheet water off to the side without it picking up much momentum, as a backup, there will also be grade reversals, small speed bumps or changes in grade from downhill to uphill that force the water off the trail before it can turn into a creek.

Standing water is generally not an issue unless the ground is totally saturated, at which point it will soften and riding through will create channels that could either promote water flow/channeling, or more common, people will choose to ride around the puddle because they don’t want to get wet, which turns that lovely narrow single track into a wide swamp.

If a trail is very steep, the water will pick up momentum quickly, meaning that it’s more likely to channel and erode if the water isn’t managed properly. Not a problem if the trail is down to hardpan, but also, not the most desirable trail surface to ride on. Channeled water is also unpredictable, so the trail surface, when eroded, could be hazardous.

Special Restrictions:
Sometimes, because of conditions, fresh work that needs to bed in and set, or a variety of other reasons, a trail may be temporarily closed. Check with the local builder or organisation to find out if there is any current issues before starting your ride. If you come across something like this mid-ride, please respect the closure, even if it does mean you don’t get the ride you like. Letting trails rest now means that they will be better in the future!

Plan Your Ride:

Before you start your ride, know where you are going, plan some contingencies in case conditions turn bad and your destination is now not suitable for the conditions. If it is wet, tread lightly, don’t ride full speed and skid everywhere, as conditions will be a bit more fragile as well as unpredictable.

Have Fun!
Every day of riding this time of year is a bonus day, since we haven’t really had a traditional winter. If you treat every ride like this following the guide above, then you will be able to have a fantastic ride and save the trails for prime spring conditions!

If it’s really wet, consider going for a hike (although the same problems still exist), or contact your local organisation or builders to see if they need help, digging in the rain is really satisfying.

More Info:
IMBA Trail Standards
Whistler Trail Standards
Here’s a write up from a different area with very different ground, but the message is the same.
Trail Forks has up to date trail info

TORCA: Tri Cities
NSMBA: North Shore
SORCA: Squamish
FVMBA: Fraser Valley
WORCA: Whistler

SORCE: Surrey
PVTA: Pemberton Valley

Steve Sheldon, TORCA Director of Trails