February 3, 2013 (San Diego)--On Sunday, 1-20-2013, 27 volunteer members of SDMBA met at the Par Four trail head of the San Diego National Wildlife Refuge (SDNWR) to construct sustainable shared-use single-track trail. The San Diego National Wildlife Refuge includes areas east and west of the Steele Canyon Bridge in Rancho San Diego, as well as Mt. Miguel, Mama Miguel Mountain, and land overlooking the Sweetwater Reservoir in the Otay area. This event is the first time mountain bikers earned the privilege to construct shared-use trails within a National Wildlife Refuge which is administered by the US Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).
SDMBA Master Trail Boss Gardner Grady lead crews of seasoned trail builders along with first timers and some very enthusiastic children. This very skilled all volunteer trail crew completed nearly 1000’ of bench cut sustainable shared-use trail in less than four hours!
Jill Terp, Refuge Manager, had this to say about this historic event: “We are very grateful to San Diego Mountain Biking Association and their supporters who volunteered their time to create sustainable trails. We were awed by SDMBA's organized approach with tools and checklists, their commitment to safety, and the sweat and energy of young and old alike. What an amazing group! I commend SDMBA board member Jason Showalter for his tireless work from the beginning to ensure that this project is done right – from protection of sensitive species and habitat to identifying sustainable routes. Kudos also to board member Gardner Grady for his field help in laying out the route and working with Jason to remove the vegetation - a huge effort they put in to prepare for Sunday’s volunteers.”
District 2 County Supervisor Dianne Jacob, long time and very effective trail advocate, had this to say about this volunteer effort: “This event was a wonderful breakthrough for the region -- the mountain biking community, federal officials and others teamed up to expand public access to our wildlife refuge. Thank you to everyone who took part. By creating a sustainable path, it also increases access in a way that best preserves habitat. In the past 20 years, about 200 miles of trail have been added to the East County backcountry – and I’d like to see even more added in coming years.”
SDMBA Board member and the USF&WS Liaison Jason L. Showalter explained why this event took place: “The majorities of trails within SDNWR is not sustainable and contribute to habitat loss. Erosion, whether from natural elements or trail user behavior, encroaches and destroys habitat on the fringe of trails. Fall line trails channel runoff away from plants and create pools that trail users avoid, trampling plants on the edge of trails and widening the trail.”
The Refugee is set aside to protect endangered species and habitat. Recreation is not the priority. “This is a huge privilege and evidence those four years of work has paid off for San Diego County mountain bikers and also hikers and equestrians,” said Jason Showalter, San Diego County Mountain Biking Association. The original official trail plan only included one "out-and-back trail in the Par Four area. This new trail creates a "loop trail" that all trail users will enjoy for generations to come.
“Properly designed and constructed trails along with educating the trail users about the importance of staying off trails when the trails are very wet will help eliminate habitat destruction, provide better trail user experiences, and will ensure the endangered species and habitat within SDNWR will be protected and enjoyed by future generations.”
Mike MacGregor, President of SDMBA, had this to say about last Sunday’s event:
“While the efforts that took place cannot be overlooked, this event began over four years ago. SDMBA has worked with USFWS since 2009, conducting multiple trail assessments, providing input dealing with biological and cultural assessments, and earning the trust of USFWS to be able to deliver exactly what SDMBA said they would deliver. The proof is on the ground at Par Four. SDMBA looks forward to working with USFWS and assisting in every way to ensure the SDNWR continues to successfully protect the valuable and endangered species and habitat for generations to come.” USFWS respectfully requests that trail users stay off these new trails until we officially open them for public use. The trails, once properly seasoned, should require minimal maintenance.