Wednesday, May 01, 2013

My Take On The Freeride/DH History In Durango

For the last four years, the Freeride mountain biking community - commonly referred to as the Gravity Council - has worked passionately to push the development of Freeriding/Slopestyle/Downhill trails in Durango. However, there were MANY before us that for over 10 years tried to develop DH lines in Durango. This post is a reflection of all that I've learned, witnessed and realized over my time working to develop FR/DH trails in this area.

For me, I really got involved when I stood up at a city council meeting and gave them a mouthful about our lack of these types of trails:

Me and my friends were frustrated! Grand Junction, Moab, Los Alamos, Albuquerque, Telluride, and the front range were all building new sick lines. I begged the Durango City Council to consider our take on the matter, and that perhaps Trails2000 could work more aggressively to help out here. Luckily, my timing was perfect. Mayor Doug Lyon, councilor at the time, remarked about the quality of the trails in Durango and perhaps we should look at developing "flow" trails! Success! A group was formed, lead by Trails2000, to start looking at ideas. Our first idea we called the Scratch trail. The trail alignment was sweet. It started on top of the half-ridge trail and eventually made it down into Horse Gulch road. And so we began another journey, a journey that brings us to where we are today...

After numerous meetings with the Natural Lands Advisory Board, Trail2000 and the City of Durango, I left with the feeling that Durango really wasn't interested in building a trail in Horse Gulch (my how things have changed). To me, I felt as if there was some kind of power play at hand. 1: us passionate Freeriders trying to steamroll our way into the conversation, and 2: the established hierarchy making us "go through the process". It felt awkward, slow and political. Many of us, fed up with the process ended up leaving the discussion table. However, there was one hope. Trails2000 contracted with one of us to help guide some of the trail development projects - he could teach them, a cross-country trail building org, to develop more flow trail. It seemed to work, but the trails that emerged were not exactly what we wanted, but hey, a start!

Needless to say the natives got restless... I started, along with a friend of mine, the Durango Freeride Facebook page - It was our attempt to unite the passion of all of the FR/DH community. And passionately drive us it has. If you've had the opportunity to read the posts here, you'll see what I'm talking about.

Others have joined in the push to develop trails, but now I feel we are at a crossroads. For starters, I am positive that Trails2000 and the City are ACTUALLY serious about building a trail THIS YEAR! I see momentum building, I feel it. However, the newcomers to this game are in the same boat we were four years ago - lack of information and slow progress. They feel, and I agree with them, that progress isn't highlighted and so people don't know what's going on. Now, I've had time to reflect on this, and after talking with Trails2000 I realize there is good reason for this.

The land owners really don't give a shit about FR/DH trails, and the more their property (government owned or private) is put into the controversial spotlight, the more they pull into the shadows. It takes a patient mind and steadfastness to convince a land owner to give easement rights to shredders - thank you Mary! I've had to learn this, but did it have to take four years?!?!?!? I'm critical of myself here too, because I think I've taken on a sense of entitlement about these trails. I've heard and made arguments on both sides like:

  • No more secret meetings - did you ask your Mom and Dad to tell you about every conversation they had? No... Every meeting shouldn't be in the daylight - that's how these things work - people meet over coffee. It isn't that it is secret, just that you're not invited. Why? Because the land owners don't care about you and your needs, they just want to talk ideas! 
  • We will build our own trails - someone asked me if I'd be OK if someone built trails on my land without asking? Um, no! OK, but when you look at ALL of the trails in Durango 80% of them are illegal and now they are adopted - serious behavior modification needs to be considered here on both sides. 
  • These things take time - yes, they do... So does pouring syrup out of a bottle. You heat up the syrup so it flows smoothly, but heat it up too much and it'll ruin your pancakes - I guess that makes sense. My point here is that I don't believe the City and Trails2000 has done the best job uniting our common interests. I feel like we've been treated like little children (refer to the earlier bullets, and maybe we deserve it), but now things are so heated that no one may get what they want. 
  • The City and Trails2000 doesn't care - WRONG! This is an accusation, and I do not buy it. We did our job convincing them, and they get it now. And this leads me to my final point on all this rant........
What concerns me at this point, is we are SO CLOSE to realizing our reality, our trails are coming! Yet, we are now fractured, we are talking over each other, there is frustration because of lack of progress. I think this is what happens when people get to the last mile of a project. Perhaps it is normal. But I make my plea to everyone out there - stay strong! WE WILL SEE FREERIDE! Believe that things are working out, and if we can all unite, we will shred this! 

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