We get questions, some more than others. See if your question is below; hopefully an answer is too.
I have an idea for a trail. Can you build and maintain it?
We’re always eager to hear new trail ideas, but please do some due diligence before you contact us. Is your proposed trail on private land (and if so, do you have permission to build a new trail there)? Is your proposed trail on Forest Service land? If so, understand that if it is in the watershed, it is likely to take time and money for a NEPA study (see below). Is your proposed trail on City of Ashland land? This too requires a process (see below). Don’t know whose jurisdiction the land falls under? Use Jackson County Property Online (formerly called Front Counter) to identify ownership.
Why don’t you have a trail in such and such place?
Building legal trails in desirable places in the Ashland area is full of challenges:
- private land
- the 1400-acre Research Natural Area (RNA)
- the off-limit area around Reeder reservoir and Ashland Creek
- the habitat of endangered species like the Spotted Owl and the Pacific Fisher (and various rare plants)
- certain highly erosive areas
- the Ashland watershed is in a Late Successional Reserve; technically no new facilities (including trails) can be built, per Forest Service rules.
Chances are there is not a legal trail in the place you’re thinking because of one of the above constraints.
Location, design, construction and maintenance practices all figure into erosion prevention and water flow mitigation.
- We try not to run our trails up/down the fall-line (the route water would choose to flow if unobstructed).
- We try to stay off super steep side slopes.
- We use the “Half Rule,” which basically states that the steepness of a trail—the grade—shouldn’t exceed half the steepness or grade of the hillside it’s on. For example, if the hillside slope is 16%, the trail steepness should be less than 8%. The reason for this is water flowing down a hillside will likely seek the path of least resistance and a steep trail on a shallow hillside is often less resistant than continuing down the hillside. Observing the half rule ensures that water will continue to flow down the hillside. Most of our side slopes are very steep (20-100%) and our trail grades tend to average 10% or less, so this is not usually a problem
- Virtually all of our trails are built with or soon acquire a slight out-slope. (Some acquire a large out-slope, something we have to address periodically with our trail maintenance.)
- We also incorporate “grade reversals” to redirect water, so there are very few long stretches of trail where water could run down the trail. Curves and turns tend to help in this as well.
- We try to limit lengthy climbs to 10% grade on average.
- We try to stay away from large drainage areas.
- We also try to limit the steepness of a slope we will cross, where possible.
- Seasonal drainages sometimes get special attention with a crushed rock layer underlaying the trail tread. There aren’t many of these in our trail system. We have used perforated pipe in some locations.
Why don’t you pursue trails around Emigrant Lake?
RVMBA has done some work out at Emigrant Lake. We’re not sure what the legal status of the trail is. This is a multi-juristictional area with many challenges for legitimate trail construction. Private land areas, grazing animals, rocky terrain, varying water levels and maintenance are all large issues.
Don’t we have enough trails?
Whether or not we do or don’t, AWTA is close to finishing its planned trail building. On Forest Service lands, there are only a few relatively short trails left to build per the 2015 Ashland Trails plan. Trails on FS lands here require a NEPA study which is very time-consuming and expensive (about 5 years and ~$60k for the 2015 Ashland Trails Plan) (Have we mentioned that a few times yet?).
This is not to say that there won’t be some compelling need for a new trail in the future.
It may seem that we are only building new trails with no thought to the number of trails, density, rogue trails, etc. Certainly we have focused on building new trails to achieve some of our goals of a safer, more distributed trail system and to provide less incentive to build rogue trails. And, certainly new trails garner much more excitement, press and social media coverage. However, the FS trails plan calls for a net neutral effect: decommissioning many trails in exchange for better trails. Example: we got new Jabberwocky and we decommissioned old Jabberwocky. This gets very little attention and we tend not to crow about this too much because it seldom helps our cause. So, while it may look like our trail system is growing uncontrollably, there is probably more balance than you might notice at first glance.
How do new trails come about?
On Forest Service lands within the watershed, a proposed trail must go through a NEPA process. For the 2015 Ashland trails plan, this process took nearly 5 years and close to $60,000. This is enough of a hurdle that we’re not likely to propose anything soon in the Ashland watershed on FS lands.
In the Ashland city lands, a trail is proposed through the Forest Lands Commission. Before that however, there are many steps.
- Ascertain the purpose and need for a trail. We want to offer compelling reasons to hike, run and ride different parts of the trail system. A new trail needs to help us along in our mission to encourage users to explore the west side of the watershed as well as the east, and higher elevation trails as well as those close to town. This helps with both safety and trail impact. Another goal is to provide separate pedestrian/equestrian and bike options, again both for safety and enjoyment of users. A paramount consideration for all of our trails is to how they connect with other trails; good connectivity affords loops and permutations and expands the trail use opportunities with less mileage of trail actually created. Finally, water drainage, soil and wildlife considerations, views, exceptional granite rock outcroppings, interesting trees and plants, and sunlight are some of the many other factors we consider.
- Walk the route repeatedly. GPS the route, and map the route and fill out a trails application. Present to the Forest Lands Commission. Often address concerns and repeat steps 1 and 2.
Why aren’t there more flat trails in the Ashland Watershed?
The topography of the Ashland Watershed is basically a large tilted bowl that rises over 5,500 feet from Ashland to Mt Ashland (just 10 miles as the crow flies). Few places on public lands exist where the topography doesn’t tilt up.
Why aren’t there more steep trails in the Ashland Watershed?
Trail construction standards call for an average grade of 10% or less. Steeper trails tend to be more erosive than less steep trails, particularly if the trail is the “fall line” or the path of least resistance for water. Several of the illegal steep trails in our watershed are former fire lines that have subsequently been used by really fit runners and hikers.
How do you know if you are on an official, sanctioned trail?
Basically, all official trails have a trail sign–from the Forest Service or City of Ashland. If a trail does not have an official Forest Service or City of Ashland sign and/or does not appear on an official map with a name, it is probably not a sanctioned trail.
Why aren’t there trail signs on all trails?
Some trails are not sanctioned. Many of these are on private property and we don’t put trail signs on private property as a general rule.
Why is Split Rock pedestrian-only?
This trail was originally proposed by AWTA to be multi-use. However, the trail passes through the McDonald Peak Botanical Area with rare plant species: Horkelia hendersonii and Tauschia howellii. To avoid these, the trail was re-routed through a steeper area (per the trails master plan). This particular terrain–and the Split Rock terrain in general–features a lot of loose granitic soil so that even a single bike can add erosive ruts. Also, at the Wagner Glade end of the Split Rock trail, there is no legal mountain bike trail. Few people want to ride back up the Split Rock trail, so they feel compelled to descend one of the pedestrian trails. Wagner Glade is particularly duffy and susceptible to erosion. While AWTA did not make the decision to limit use of Split Rock to pedestrians, it is a sensible decision.
Why didn’t you route Lewis Loop trail from Lamb Saddle to Caterpillar Crossing?
That would have made a nice flat trail. Unfortunately that route would pass through the Research Natural Area (RNA), so we cannot build a trail there. Lewis Loops (Gyre, in particular) skirts the northern edge of the RNA.
What cross-country mt bike trails exist?
Caterpillar, Alice in Wonderland, White Rabbit, Bull Gap (Upper and Lower), Missing Links, Ricketty, Wonder (uphill only), Horn Gap Road, Horn Gap Trail, Potlicker, Fell on Knee, and Hitt Rd are some.
Why isn’t there a good uphill, reasonable grade mt bike trail?
Partially this is due to the topography; right now it is easier to ride up roads than it is many of the trails. We hope to build a gentle grade trail for uphill bike use (no downhill traffic) in the near future.
Why don’t you let children help with trail work?
We work with heavy and sharp trail implements and our insurance suggests we limit trail work to those 15 or older.
Do you have trail counters?
We did and they were not reliable, so we abandoned them. We may try this again in the future.
Where should I look for trail conditions?
We are experimenting with using hikingproject.com for pedestrian/equestrian trails; however don’t expect up to the minute reports. Some folks have used alltrails.com and trailforks.com and certainly many other sites exist.
Last updated: June 20, 2021