Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Feast or Famine an end of the year report.

It's been one crazy year around the park. After navigating through the barrage of flak sent up by the City of SD this year in regards to SDRP funding and the longevity of the park in general it seems (fingers crossed) that we may actually be coming to some sort of an agreement. This is important because of it keeps the dream of someday having a continuous trail from Volcan Mountain in Julian all the way to Dog Beach in Del Mar alive. This also preserves one of the last major wildlife corridors left in the entire county.

Up until this month it has been pretty much "Famine" as far as the trails are concerned. The trails and the environment have really been struggling to compete with the constant usage. The park has been doing it's part to try and manage this appropriately. With that has come some new closures of certain trails within the Bernardo Bay area (South side of Lake Hodges) of the park. The trails add up to about 1/4mi worth of "fall line" trail as well as an illegally built trail that was causing a hazard for users on the designated trail. Some will and have argued in favor of keeping the trail but at this time it will not become a designated trail. We have also posted signs that read "No nighttime use" this too has garnered some criticism from users. Simple story is that there never was nighttime use to begin with it was just never posted. There are NO open space preserves within San Diego county that are open for nighttime use.

On to the "Feast", it is currently and has been raining pretty good on and off since the beginning of this month. That means that we have been working non stop on trail maintenance issues, like drainage and ruts and we have put a couple thousand plants in the ground to beef up a lot of our existing habitat management projects. The ground as we speak is currently very saturated and any rain we receive in the near future will either just pool up or immediately sheet off the trails into the low spots. While we try to get to these ares quickly we can't get to all of them. Be aware when out on the trails that these conditions exist and ride appropriately. Ruts caused by bikes will last and be seen for months and in some cases cause additional erosion. Best case scenario after an substantial rain is to give the area at least 24hrs to dry out and if on horseback you should wait at least 48hrs. While the park does not officially close it's trails down, I would still ask you to be a responsible user.

The SDRP mountain bike patrol is currently at 27 volunteers that patrol the park on a regular basis providing help and assistance to anyone who needs it. This year they have averaged about 50hrs per month and on track for another banner year. The patrols presence has gone along way in bridging the gap between users and land managers but there is a lot left to be done. For me personally they have been invaluable, I have been able to stay on top of issues better than ever before. Thanks to all volunteers, supporters and sponsors for keeping it going.

I am optimistic for next year at this time. I am hoping that after the park hammers out this agreement with the city that we will be set to start some new trail work. The Pauma Valley connector of the Coast to Crest trail is being planned and is currently under review. Hopefully before to long I will get to start building some new trail in a great location.

If you found all of this dry and boring I apologize. My next blog will be all about desert lunatics, debauchery and how not to taco your wheel when in the middle of the desert.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hero Kit- Save the Day!

I was recently asked by the International Police Mountain Bike Association to do a review of the "Hero Kit" to put in their upcoming newsletter. The SDRP Mountain Bike Patrol have been using the kit for the last year with good results so it was an easy write up. This is by far one of the simplest fix-it kits you carry with you. Check it out.

I first saw an ad for the Hero Kit in the back of the September 2013 edition of Mountain Bike Action last year. Since I run a mountain bike patrol for the park that I work at I am always looking for ways to condense the tools we use on the trails to a more manageable package. There's nothing worse than hitting the trails and experiencing a mechanical only to find you don't have the right tools or know how to fix it. That's where the Hero Kit really shines, not only does it give you tools to fix the most common problems on the trail but it also gives you a 24 page field- repair instruction manual to explain how to use all those tools properly.

The Hero Kit comes in a resealable water proof bag that perfectly slips into the back of your jersey pocket or bike pack. The full model comes with a 12-Function Multi-Tool, chain tool, tire levers, master link, cleat & frame bolts, zipties, duct tape, gear cable, water purification tablet, patch kit, toilet paper and easy to follow instruction all for $40. You can also get the same kit minus the multi-tool and tire levers for $20. This is a nice option for some of us that already have some tools and tire levers. They also sell a convenient refill kit for $15 once items get used and they will.

In the year since I have had this kit I have gone through most of the items in the kit. The zipties where used to reattach a light back onto a bike after a crash on a night ride. The cleat bolt was used to replace one that was lost on the trail during a race. All the tire patches were used in one sitting too repair a rear tire that had multiple punctures. The handy toilet wipes were used to clean up a friend's leg after an accident and the master link repaired a chain. All of these situations would have resulted in someone (typically me) being stranded or forced to walk back to the nearest trail head. This kit has given me more confidence when riding, period.

The kit has been a great help to myself and my volunteer patrollers and one that I would highly recommend to others. I have a greater sense of security while on the trails and I know that if any of my patrollers come across any users having difficulties that they too will have the right tools and guidance at their fingertips. This is a must for every rider from expert to novice. Like they say "Be the Hero on your ride!" For more information or to order visit their website at

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Thank you for your support!

Ok so now it looks like this blog has gone from once a month to quarterly, it happens, enough said. I want to start of by saying Thank You to every one that supports the San Dieguito River Park and the job that we do out here. Without the support of volunteers, trail users and all who come out to the park in one way or another we couldn't do half of what we do.  Thank You! 

Last time I talked about some of the realities of working with different city entities and the importance of trying to stay with in that structure when it comes to building trails and the consequences of illegal trail building. Unfortunately not to long after I got a quick reminder of what it was like to work with the City of San Diego in particular. As most of you know the City of San Diego, Mayor Kevin Falconer, and council people Sherri Lightner and Mark Kersey decided they were going to hold the River Park funding hostage while they conducted a cost analysis study, (presumably at tax payers expense) of the River Park operations. While I never saw the study itself I did see the key bullet points that the City of San Diego wanted the River Park and the JPA board to comply with. Complying with those points bought us another year and kept the dream of the Coast to Crest trail alive. Again thanks for your support! What will next year bring, I honestly haven't the faintest idea. While I still think it is important to play by the rules it sure does suck when someone feels the need to consistently change those rules.

Alas we push on and continue to do what we do in order to bring you quality trails and events and we have had some good ones so far. The Quick n Dirty mountain bike race series continues to be a great success. We averaged over 160 participants over a four race series and continued to further grass roots racing in San Diego. The QnD crew lead by Victor "Slasher" Sheldon have always acted in a professional manner and were always willing to comply with my outrageous demands at a minutes notice. The Belgium Waffle Ride hosted by Spy has also been a big hit, bringing of all rider groups "roadies" onto the dirt trails of the park. The SDMBA Archipelago ride also continues to be a main stay, joining multiple park systems together like no other event. Thank you!

The SDRP mountain bike patrol continues to impress me as well as others within the bike community. At the Trails ans Greenways conference this year we were awarded the Merit Award for the patrols outstanding performance and benefit to the community.
We are currently up to 26 patrollers as of now and more are on the way. We have also been able to partner with a lot of great companies again this year that fully support the mission of the parks mountain bike patrol. Your probably getting the gist of this blog post right now buttttt. Thank you North of the Border bike shop, Quick n Dirty Mtb race series, Sock Guy, Hero Kits, WD-40 Bike, San Diego Mountain Bike Association, Spy Optics and the Ranchos Cycling club for your continued support. Without it we could not provide the service to trail users in the professional manner in which we currently do.

Onto some trail stuff. If you hadn't noticed we are currently in one of the worst droughts San Diego has seen in along time and the effects are apparent when out on the trails. A lot of the natural buffer(native grasses and such) between the trails and habitat are completely dried up or non existent. This gives the illusion that the trail is wider than it seems and people tend to deviate from the beaten path into those buffer areas. Short term effect is that it widens the trail in areas it shouldn't and looks like crap. Long term effect is that it compacts those areas to a point were nothing will grow in the future thereby permanently widening the trail.
Another area of concern is people cutting trail, at this point once the damage is done it's done. It's very hard for us to rehab those type of ares during drought conditions. If you see someone engaging in this type of behavior please ask them to stop. With any luck and the prediction of a coming El Nino the habitat and trails will return to normal. Until then please stay on the trail and please keep the single track single and of course those of you who do.Thank you!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Fear and Loathing on the trails of San Diego County

I run into a lot of people on the trail while out on patrol and I have been hearing a lot of concern regarding what is happening in San Diego/North County with the trail systems. Their main concern is that as of late the parks are only focused on taking trails out rather than putting them in. That's only a tiny piece of the story, the process of building trails in San Diego/North County is fairly involved costing tens of thousands of dollars just to get a concept off the ground. If all the stars align and you manage to be able to pay for every environmental study that comes your way then you may be able to start to build your trail within a year. Very rarely does that scenario happen, but it does.

Why? We live in a dry semi-arid climate (very little rainfall) that just so happens to be next to a nice coast line, guess what; everybody wants to live here. So we have to take steps to ensure there will be viable habitat in the future that everyone and everything can enjoy. Because of the area we live in our resources are very finite, meaning in a lot of cases that once it's gone, it's gone. Remember we live in a dry semi-arid climate with not a lot of rainfall, not the lush forests of Oregon. Most of the parks you see throughout the county are "Open Space Preserves" set up to do one job. That job is to protect the natural resources of the area. Is it a perfect system? No. But were it not in place, we wouldn't be discussing trails because there wouldn't be any, just a bunch of houses and tract homes as far as the eye can see.

The San Dieguito River Park is always looking to build more trail. Trails are a good way to protect habitat, by making sustainable trails users are able to enjoy and learn about the benefits of an area. We plan to build a lot of trail in the future but we need to make it to that point first without anything impeding the process. As a park we know how to work with government agencies on the best way to put these trails in. We may not see eye to eye, but that's how the game is played and as a park we are players in that game. The privateer illegal trail builder is not. If you wanna see a trail system get shut down in San Diego build an illegal trail on it. It may not happen over night but it will happen.

Some of the issues that illegal trails cause a land manager and why they get shut down are, destruction of habitat, non sustainable trails that cause safety issues, the blatant disregard for the lands on the outside of the parks, increased maintenance costs, all of which push back the legal process of us, the land manager, being able to go out there and build trail. The process takes time but until someone changes the process that's where we stand in "Americas Finest City". Just because it doesn't look like we're building trail doesn't mean we're not going to be. If you want to affect change come on out and put your trail building skills to use and help us maintain the trails we already have.

That never works you say, we give and help but it doesn't do anything you say. If there's a will there's a way, every positive step made is a step in the right direction. That's exactly how I started. I rode the trails around San Diego county for years and then like a lot people I know asked myself "I wonder if there's anything I can  do to help maintain some of these trails I enjoy riding so much. I was a volunteer for this park and others from 1993 'til 1999, I did trail maintenance and a bike patrol before most of the riders on the trail today could even ride a bike. I was hired as a contract employee and eventually hired on as a full time employee. I've always had the rider in mind but understood from early on the give and take we as a user group would go through. Mountain biking as a user group has been on a steady climb since then and it is only now that the effects of such a large user group are being felt. The knee jerk reaction that a lot of the parks are dealing with right now only reveals the extent of the problem. Slowly but surely the tides are changing and more consideration is being given to things like "bike only" trials and bike parks. This just means that in the meantime even more pressure will be put on the biking community to be an overly responsible user group. We need representatives that want to effect change not just be a bunch of renegade trail builders.

The way things are starting to setup, I have high hopes for the future of mountain biking in San Diego/North County. Local programs like my mountain bike patrol and the events that more and more parks are doing, are being talked about by a lot of different government agencies, on a lot of different levels. Who really knows though, maybe I'm just some optimistic asshole with rose colored glasses on. Doesn't matter, no one really reads these blogs anyway.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Yeah it's been awhile!

Yes it has it's been a awhile since the last time I wrote anything in this blog. Why, not sure, other crap going on, building a ukulele or the overwhelming feeling that these ramblings just fall on def ears, so it goes. When last we spoke the park was gearing up for some big events. The Freedom 50 one of the parks longest mountain bike races went off without a hitch this year, my initial intention was to just ride it as a patrol but about half way in I decided to race it. As normal it was about the hottest day of the year so much suffering was had by everyone, but never the less it was fun event with good competition. The Quick n Dirty 30 was also a big hit with a good showing. The event which I thought would be a really unique and fun was the Ninja Night Race. I had never seen or heard of a nighttime mountain bike race in San Diego so I was keen to take part in it. Normally the park would be closed during that time but I was willing to make a concession because of the uniqueness of the event. The race was also limited to 50 participants in order to try and mitigate some of the night time impact an event such as this would generate. All of the participants seemed to have fun and while it was cool seeing all those lights along the lake shore I can not see myself putting in the effort to do it again, but who knows. Suffice it to say the park out did itself last year by hosting over 40 events. 2014 looks like another big year, Quick n Dirty will be back on February 22nd for a stand alone race and also for the Wednesday night summer series. We will also be having a Tuesday night running series event this summer.

The mountain bike patrol had its first mountain bike swap meet in September. Twelve vendors showed up and all the people that came to check out the deals walked away with something worthy of the effort made to attend. It would be great to have this swap meet once if not twice a year and hopefully see it grow. It fills a much needed niche in the North County area.The event raised money for both the SDRP Mountain Bike patrol as well as the Sikes Adobe historic farm house.

Mountain Bike Patrol Swap Meet

I was also able to hold another patrol training within the last couple of months and the SDRP mountain bike patrol is now up to 21 patrollers. Outstanding by any measure and we have been nominated for an award by the Parks and Recreation Association to boot. With the continued support of our sponsors and dedication of our volunteers this program remains one the best attended mountain bike volunteer patrol programs in San Diego County if not the whole of SoCal. In six months the patrol has put in 436 hours of volunteer time patrolling the trails. This has enabled me to stay on top of things in the park and address any issues that may come up in a timely manner. I will be doing one more patrol training in the coming weeks, so if your on the fence now is the time to act. I have discussed spreading the love to other parks but I am still waiting for the phone call. If you live near an open space that may or may not be having difficulties managing their trails send them my way.

The patrol crew, well half of them.

Cool side story to the SDRP mountain bike patrol. Just before Christmas one of our more active patrollers had his bike stolen. During our end of the year BBQ we decided to put the word out to our other patrollers in hopes of getting some donations to get him back on a bike. Within two weeks the patrol donated $700. That enabled us, through working with one of our great sponsors (North of the Border bike shop) to buy him a brand new Norco 27.5. Couldn't ask for a better group of guys and gals!

Mario and his new bike!
Quick trail bulletin, if like me you ride the trails around the San Dieguito River Park you may have started to notice that some of your favorite trail features are slowly but surely being removed. I can assure you the the rangers of the San Dieguito River Park are not responsible for this trail sanitation. I prefer to preserve those features, they act as good buffers in slowing traffic and add fun to an already tame trail, if I didn't I would just flatten everything, pave it with DG, through some peeler post fencing up for good measure and call it a day. The sole responsibility for this recent round of sanitation lies within the mountain biking community. Those trail features have been in place since I started riding these trails over 20 years ago and within the last year they are gone. If you can't ride the feature there is no harm in walking your bike, really no one will give you any grief for doing so. If someone out there witnesses this type of behavior please due us all a favor and ask them not to. Since when did this become a popular way of looking at a challenge? That being said while I pride myself on some of the best maintained trails around there is plenty of actual trail work to be done in the park. I hold a trail maintenance day every second Sunday of every month from 0800 to 1100 and have done so now for over ten years. So if any of you would be trail work folk are out there we would love to have you. I always find it strange that mountain bikers who use the trails the most are never there come trail maintenance day. If you love the trails and want to help maintain them please come out. Right now the trails are bone dry so please stay on them at all cost, any incursions off trail will cause irreparable, unsightly and unneeded damage. Now if we could just get some rain!

All in all I am looking forward to this year and working with everybody in anyway I can in order to provide a great outdoor experience for both parks users and it's inhabitants. Stay safe and enjoy the trails!