As I mentioned previously, Friday was the day for a meeting between a few of us from the Syllamo Trail Cleaners group (Wes, Denny, Frank, and myself), the regional rep from IMBA (Steve Schneider), and the Natural Resources Specialist from the USFS (Jay Swafford). (Essentially, the Syllamo Trails are in such a state of overgrowth and disrepair that they’re in danger of having their IMBA “Epic” status revoked.) My original plan was to have everything packed and ready to leave super early on Friday morning and arrive in Mountain View by 10am, but I ended up going over Thursday night instead.
I took Indy with me, and he found the drive over to be pretty exhausting…
The last 25 miles of Hwy 14 into Mountain View are nerve-wrecking at night, but my efforts were rewarded with a gorgeous river-fog sunrise
Friday morning, I laid around drinking coffee and playing Battle Friends at Sea (a mildly entertaining iPhone version of Battleship) until it was time to go to the USFS office in town (with a quick stop at WalMart along the way). Once the meeting started, things got a little tense pretty quickly. I learned a lot, and, if you’re wondering, here’s a quick summary and take-away from the 2 hours we spent talking about funding, logging, and preservation..
-The trails were built with government funding, but at the time of their construction, no funds were earmarked for continued care.
-Jay, the USFS guy, is doing his job as best he can, as well as the jobs of one or two other people who were fired with downsizing. As a result, he’s not able to put much time in to trying to preserve the trail (though he actually does care about it, unlike the person who had his position previously)
– When an area is set up for logging, there’s a public meeting about it. No one at the USFS had ever mentioned that to any trail advocates, so there has never been anyone around at the meetings to say, “Hey, how about you NOT destroy this mile of trail in the process of logging the rest of the area?”
-Because the government will not fund any sort of paid effort to work on the trails, the group of us that’s been working on the trail are going to set up a 501c3 non-profit organization (comprised of all trail users- not just cyclists) so that we can receive grants, funds from donors, and donors can deduct 100% of their donation amount from their taxes.
-Steve is one of the most dedicated trail advocates I’ve ever met. He’s planning on going to an upcoming Mountain View Chamber of Commerce meeting and giving a presentation about trail tourism. Also, while we cleaned trail/rode on Saturday morning, his wife Margie spent the whole time Downtown talking to local business owners. All of them want to see the growth of trail tourism and understand that the trail needs help for that to happen.
Afterward, we gathered back at the cabin and hit the trail for a quick look at the orange loop. Steve got to see firsthand the difference between the sections of trail that’d been subjected to logging versus the sections that are still untouched. We also got a look at a new “experimental” cedar glade project that the USFS is trying- they cut down a cedar grove and use a machine to grind/partially grind the logs with the intent that the cedar oils will choke out the invasive grasses. The stupid thing is, where the tree canopy is left in place, THERE ARE NO INVASIVE GRASSES.
This is what it looks like where they’ve ground up cedar groves- the trail is totally gone, and partially ground cedars are everywhere…
It makes you feel sick to see.
Fortunately, that sort of thing gets Steve (and all of us) more riled up than depressed. That night, Margie cooked a great dinner (and fed Indy lots of vegetables), and, while watching an “epic” sky-on-fire sunset, we all came up with the beginnings of our plans to get the trails back in to “epic” shape.
Saturday morning, we started with clearing most of the orange trail. I went up Cedar Scrappy with a Silky Katanaboy and cut probably close to 20 low-hanging and fallen branches/trees. In the meantime, Steve did the same on another part of the trail while Wes and Denny were line trimming the open, grown-over area around Old Hwy 5.
This one took about 20 minutes worth of sawing and burro-style hauling:
Then I got a little distracted and hiked a bit to look for a cave. I didn’t find one, but the rocks were cool:
We wrapped up the trail work and drove up to the Scrappy Mountain trailhead to ride out to one of the best overlooks of the trail system (Sylamore Creek on the yellow trail). Steve agreed that it was spots like that one that make Syllamo worthy of keeping its “Epic” designation.
We’re all optimistic. It seems as though there are too many people who care about the trail to let it keep going the way it’s going. We just needed to reach the tipping point where all of us got together and started organizing the supporters who want to see change. IMBA has some great resources, and the community in the Mountain View area doesn’t want to see the loss of a group of tourists & others who come to the area for the trail. We’ve got a long row to hoe, but I’m uncharacteristically hopeful that there will be a big turnaround in the years to come.