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South West Michigan Mountain Biking Association Trail Maintenance and Building

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     The South West Michigan Mountain Biking Association (SWMMBA) is a non-profit, volunteer run, organization that promotes mountain biking in Southwest Lower Michigan. We work with local businesses and land management as well as advocate for trails and biking in the community. SWMMBA has maintained the trail system at Fort Custer Recreational Area in Augusta, Michigan for over 20 years, and has recently finished construction of a new trail, the Maple Hill Trail at Markin Glen Park in Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Fort Custer[edit]

     SWMMBA works to maintain the trails at Fort Custer Recreation Area. The original Fort Custer trail layout has great issue coping with the erosion caused by use and especially by rain. In many places the trail was built right along fall lines, meaning water runs directly down the center of the trail. This causes the trail to wear down, ruts to form, and sand and gravel to collect at the bottom of the hill, or at a turn in the trail. This is a unsustainable design, and poses a hazard to riders.
     Through volunteer "Trail Days," SWMMBA has worked to make the Fort Custer trail system more sustainable, and better to ride. Reshaping trail to allow for water to drain, armoring sections against erosion, placing barriers and signage to keep riders on the correct line, and rerouting sections of trail all while keeping the impact on the surrounding area to a minimum.

An eroded section of trail.  
Wood armoring to protect the slope and allow for a smoother ride down.  
Armoring continued.  

Maple Hill Trail[edit]

     The Maple Hill Trail was built in Markin Glen Park over a period of approximately two years, opening in August of 2017. The more complicated sections were built by Alex Stuart of Spectrum Trail Design, payed for by SWMMBA fund raising and donations from local businesses and individuals. And the simpler pieces were constructed by SWMMBA volunteers. The trail was created from start to finish with sustainability in mind. The trail avoids fall lines and is angled to allow smooth water flow and prevent pooling. The trail is also build to accommodate riders of all skill levels to attract new mountain bikers and promote the growth of mountain biking in the region and in Michigan as a whole.

A completed section or more technical trail.  
Trail under construction by Alex Stewart.  
Another section of trail.  

Where I Fit Into This[edit]

I've been a volunteer with SWMMBA for several years. I helped to build the Maple Hill Trail from start to finish and learned a lot about construction and landscaping, as well as sustainable trail design. I've participated in Trail Days (including the slope armoring pictured above), and learned about assessing slopes for the way water will fall and how to take that into account. I plan to continue to be active in the mountain biking community in college through the local organization.