Adoptive builders

Trailbuilders operate on an unspoken rule when constructing a path: You build it. You’re responsible for it. For Jim Mudry and Dave Bisset, it’s now official.

October 1, 2005

Hood River County Forester Brent Gleason signed on Tuesday the first trails adoption agreement between the county and two mountain bikers, Jim Mudry and Dave Bisset.

“They’ll be the first adoptees of any county trail,” Gleason said at the Sept. 27 meeting. “Since they are the first I don’t know how it’s going to go.”

In doing so, Mudry and Bisset agreed to maintain the Post Canyon classic trails “Eight Track” and “Family Man” to International Mountain Bike Assocation standards, and, at the same time minimize the erosion which the trail and trail-users tend to cause.

A contract with 14 provisions outlined Mudry’s and Bisset’s obligation to the trails they adopted.

For Mudry, however, the agreement is just a new way of doing the same thing.

He and Bisset built Eight Track four years ago and Family Man two years ago under an unspoken rule:

“Prior to the formation of this committee, the expectation was in the mountain bike community: if you build it, you took it upon yourself to maintain it,” Mudry said after the meeting. “If somebody wanted to do something with it, they’d have to contact you, the builder of it before they did. That is the etiquette.”

Now, if Mudry and Bisset want to add a man-made technical feature, a corner or remove them, they must first seek the approval of the Forest Recreation Trails Committee.

“In the past we just took care of it ourselves,” Mudry said. “If there was an erosion issue, we took care of it.”

By working with the county, trail users might lose some of the freedom on which they once relied to build one of Oregon’s best destination downhill mountain bike areas.

But they also earn a layer of protection for the county’s most popular trail system from the threat of timber harvests, which generate between $4 and $5 million a year for the county.

Under this agreement, forestry officials will minimize and mitigate the impact harvests have on trails.

“They (the county) are the reason everything is going to continue up there,” Mudry said. “Before, if there was a broken-down stunt in disrepair, it was up to the builder to maintain it. But now with this organized system … people can report (on trail conditions) and they have the ability to contact the trail builders to fix them.”

Most of Post Canyon’s estimated 100-plus miles of trail was built by 10 to 15 people, Mudry said.

And a lot of that was built by Douglas Johnson.

Johnson, a filmmaker and journeyman carpenter by trade, built some of Post Canyon’s most technically difficult downhill trails, such as Egg Hunt, Chorus and Two Chair 2.

He built these with fellow Gorge Freeride Association founding members Jake Felt and Kevin Tank. Both are also carpenters.

In the process of constructing these trails, Johnson estimates he invested about $4,000 into trail construction.

“I had to buy saws,” he said. Last year Tum-A-Lum donated some lumber for the cause, but usually, he gleans scrap from construction sites.

Johnson is living in Vancouver, B.C. to study film at Vancouver Film School. But he’s splitting his time between there and here to, in part, adopt many of the trails he helped build.

“I’ve already maintained them for five years,” he said. “In the real world, if you build a trail, it’s your baby.”

He’ll likely be the second person in the county’s history to adopt a trail.

Weeks before Mudry and Bisset signed their names on the trail adoption contract, county forestry technician Henry Buckalew finished exploring what he had thought was the last of the county’s trails.

It was a project he began in early June.

On some days, he’d walk eight hours. On others, he’d walk for two hours.

“It was a nice assignment,” he said. “The nice thing about forestry is that you get a lot of different things to do.”

His purpose was to identify, photograph and GPS every man-made trail and every man-made feature on that respective trail.

He met Mudry and Bisset with these documents in July and together, the three of them conducted a “walk-through” of both Family Man and Eight Track, a ritual, Buckalew says will precede every trail adoption.

“We wanted to document what exists on the trails when they accepted them so they know what they have and we know what they have.”

The adoption of vast amounts of trails in the famous “Seven Streams” section of Post Canyon depends largely upon a handful of landowners, over whose property several sections of trail run.

Trails committee member Jennifer Bisset and forester Gleason began in July a campaign for landowners’ permissions to manage those sections of trail.

“Our pitch to landowners here is it’s a way to make it a positive thing,” Bisset said. “We could do maintenance, like erosion control and fire control on their land.”

Landowners, Bisset said, could sign a licensing agreement between them and the county, which the landowner could revoke at any time.

“Some of the most ridden trails down low are on private property,” Bisset said. “So we need to deal with that before we start handing out maps.”

Bisset and Gleason have, so far, talked with one landowner. That agreement is pending.

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