The Parklands

Mud on your heels or wheels? Turn around.

This spring will be erratic — snow one week, super warm weather the next; rainy days, followed by cold nights below freezing. This makes soft surface trail use difficult if not impossible. With rising temperatures, we’re tempted to leap on in with both feet and both pedals, especially after the brutally cold winter we’ve had. Please think before you hop on the bike, lace up those hiking shoes and stay off of muddy trails!

Mud is very, very bad.

Trails are dynamic and change with the seasons and weather conditions. During most of the season, the mineral soils that make up good, hardened trails are fairly stable. Spring is the most sensitive time, making the trails vulnerable to erosion and long term damage. Please use your judgement and stay off the trails until the thaw is out of the ground and the trails have dried and hardened. One of the worse things you can do is ride –or walk– on trails before they ripen. 

Trails are very susceptible to damage during the freeze/thaw process. While the Parklands trails are built to sustainable standards, they also need the wet spring conditions that make visitor use undesirable.  As the frost thaws and releases water, the dirt resettles and realigns in a nice muddy mix and the organic matter for last fall’s leaf litter blends in with the mineral soil to begin to create a new generation of trail dirt. This muddy mix eventually re-hardens and makes for a primo path through the woods; but it’s critical to let this process happen on its own as these trails have to grow up just like the rest of the park’s plantings!

Riding or hiking trails before this process is complete can do permanent damage to the trail. The soils will be churned up and rain and gravity will wash these soils away, leaving a mess of exposed roots and rocks. If the trail is really soft, our wheels leave sunken tracks which could channel into ruts and carry the soils away. If we hike, our heels and boots will dig deep into the trails and help push the soils downhill. Either way, it’s the trail (and eventually your experience on it) that suffers, so please show some respect and patience.

Here are some suggestions:

  • Use your lawn as a trail barometer. Before you think of hitting the trails, take a ride on your lawn. If you can see your tracks sinking in, stay off the trails. They’re not yet ripe.
  • Use mud season to build fitness by putting in some serious “base miles” on the road and Louisville Loop. If you don’t have a road bike, put some slicks on your mountain bike and you’ll feel super-charged. Most serious racers train on the road for good reason, and the fitness you’ll develop will make your trail riding that much more pleasurable.

As the ground begins to thaw, think about the trails you walk and ride. A trail is a terrible thing to waste! 

– Source Material courtesy New England Mountain Bike Association.

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