FALMOUTH — Mountain bikers, runners, hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts can look forward to improved trails in Falmouth’s Blackstrap and Hurricane trail areas thanks to Allspeed Cyclery & Snow of Portland.
Bob Shafto, ombudsman of Falmouth’s Open Space Committee, approached Allspeed after learning there had been rogue trail cutting and poor trail maintenance.
“It was sort of a wild west out there,” Chris Carleton, co-owner of Allspeed, said. “(The town) wanted some uniform plan to make sure that the trails were going to be maintained and not just kind of fall apart, and also help curb illegal trail cutting because that was pretty big problem.”
According to Carleton, a lot of people were cutting new trails without really knowing where they were.
“I don’t think it was malicious, they would just go and cut a trail and happen to go
across somebody’s land,” Carleton said.
According to Caleb Hemphill, vice president of the Falmouth Land Trust, it was a misunderstanding about what could be cut and what couldn’t that led to Allspeed becoming the main steward of the trails.
“There was some trail building on the Blackstrap Hill section done with permission, and then there was some that just sort of happened beyond people asking (for) permission,” Hemphill said.
“A land owner had given permission (for trails to be on his property), but there is very little in the way of boundary markings out there, so I don’t think anyone intentionally did anything on the private property,” he continued.
Staff and volunteers with Allspeed have already begun work to revitalize the trail system. They have put in one bridge and are working on mapping out the existing trails, figuring out which ones are authorized trails and which were cut into private property.
“(What we are doing is) just really maintaining it, making all the wet spots go away, whether that’s hardening it with crushed stone or putting more bridges in,” Carleton said. “(The work is) mostly just maintaining what we have there because its really good.”
The work to maintain the bridges will not only help trail users navigate the trails, it will help to protect the integrity of the land.
“If a trail looks like its being paid attention to with the addition of small bridges when necessary and rocks or crushed stone, people understand where the trails are,” Hemphill said. “If things get really muddy people think, ‘Oh, we should go way around this and make a new trail.’ Proper maintenance clearly defines where the trails go.”
The trail stewards want the public to know the trails are open and that with proper continued maintenance, they will never have to be closed.
While they discourage “rogue trail building,” they said they could use some help lugging wood out to the trail for the 12 bridges they will be constructing over the next several months. Some of these will replace old, improperly built bridges, and others will be placed to help trail users traverse mud holes.
“Right now there’s a lot of bridges that have been built that are too low. Last week
when we got all that rain, I just went out there on Saturday, and there’s quite a few bridges that are just missing,” Carleton said. “We would like to build the bridges so they are going to stay; so they are going to be enough to get over all the wet spots and make it an overall experience for hikers and bikers.”
Allspeed’s work on the trails is expected to help the town manage problems with the trails and keep the land open for trail users well into the future.
“With proper use and respectful use we anticipate that we can continue hosting these trails for lots of uses, mountain bikers, hikers, snowshoeing and skiing,” Hemphill said.