Learning to Build MTB Trails, with Tony Boone

Tony Boone helped write the book on trail building, and now he's teaching the next generation of builders through a community college cors

This week we’re re-sharing one of our favorite podcast episodes, and we’ll be back next week with an all-new show.

Tony Boone has been building mountain bike trails for more than 30 years, and literally helped write the book on the subject, contributing to IMBA’s Guides to Building Sweet Singletrack and Providing Great Riding. He established the first bike patrol in Colorado in 1989 and has been an active member of the Professional Trail Builders Association since 1995.  

In this episode we ask:

  • What was it like working as a Boulder open space employee?
  • How do the early trails compare to the ones you’re involved in creating today? 
  • How do you learn and establish best practices for trail building?
  • What are some of the most common mistakes new trail builders make? 
  • How did you get involved working with IMBA, and building trails overseas?
  • What was it like seeing the development of mountain biking in places like China?
  • What are some of the trail projects you’re most proud of?
  • What led you to create a community college trail building course? How do trail builders benefit from a more formal education?
  • What is life like as a full time trail builder? 
  • How do concepts like sustainability and stewardship fit into recreational trail building?
  • What does the Jim Angel quote, “People don’t need trails, the land does,” mean to you?

Connect with Tony and learn more at tonyboonetrails.com.

A full, automatically-generated transcript of this podcast conversation is available to Singletracks supporters.

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Jeff 0:00
Hey, everybody, welcome to the Singletracks podcast. My name is Jeff and today my guest is Tony Boone. Tony has been building mountain bike trails for more than 30 years. And he literally helped write the book on the subject contributing to both embers guide to building sweet single track and also in this guide to providing great writing. He established the first bike patrol in Colorado back in 1989, and has been an active member of the professional trail Builders Association since 1995. Thanks for joining us, Tony.

Tony 1:17
Hey, thanks, Jeff. Glad to be here.

Jeff 1:19
So have you always been interested in trails? Like what were some of your kind of early connections to single track?

Tony 1:26
You know, that’s interesting. I was trying to think back to the first time I ever really thought of like trails, trails and I like many kids always loved playing in the dirt. You know, whether it be digging holes or tunnels or like many of my senior friends that mountain bike, I owned a sweet little gold Schwinn Sting Ray, our sparkly silver banana seat, put Nabis on the front and back. Of course, we would go out and jump dirt jumps. And we even like with Jump galvanized trash cans and lineup and jump them and I don’t know, it’s just the outside. More so moreso than trails was really my connection. I like many. I didn’t even really think of trails is something that humans created. You know, if you ask a person on the street, especially if they were in the city, you know how to trails, you know, get created. Many of those people would say, oh, you know, they just form and wild out is they’re just there. Yeah. While that is true. With social trails and Rogue trails, you know, many trails, of course, have complicated contracts and funding and, and you know, I never really thought of that literally until I was late 20s, early 30s. But anyway, I just remember back in, in the 60s, late 60s When I was a kid, and it’s like, oh man, I wish I had I had some of these pictures and stuff. You know, of us jump and trash cans and stuff. It was just what a great memory of childhood.

Jeff 3:02
Yeah. What did you have where you grew up? Did you have access to trails and

Tony 3:06
no, I grew up in Richardson, Texas, outside of Dallas, it was pretty much flat. So we would go to like construction sites where they would have piles of dirt and you know, we’d climb up on the dirt or there was a lot of creeks that run through town and we would ride down these almost like armored little creeks with limestone drainage is and and pretty much just near the house because it wasn’t all that populated back then. But, but it was definitely not topographically blessed like it is here in Colorado.

Jeff 3:36
Yeah, yeah, Texas is always interesting to me just kind of the lack of trails. And I never understood that like, is it? Is it because there’s so much private land in the state and not a lot of public land? Or is it just the topography is not worth building a trail because they’re not fun?

Tony 3:53
It’s definitely not the topography, you know, basically 3% of the land in Texas, I think is public land. So So realizing that it’s really limited. I know back in, essentially, in the early 90s and stuff when I did research for my family’s bar H ranch. There was about, I think six or seven private ranches that basically were offering mountain bike for the people to come in. They paid a camp, they paid a ride. We hosted races, et cetera, et I had our family ranch from about 97 to 2009. Cool, but now you know State Parks has more to offer even though even though it’s 3% of the public land. That’s still a hell of a lot of acres in Texas. Yeah, and I don’t know if you ever get the chance but if you ever get a chance to go out to West Texas, right out in Big Bend in, in around Terlingua just some exceptional terrain out there. I think the highest point out there’s a little over 8000 feet elevation. Wow. So yeah, very diverse state but Then again, you know, ever since I was a kid, I always wanted to live in Colorado with the big peaks.

Jeff 5:06
Yeah. Well, did you know what you wanted to be when you grew up? And how did that sort of fit into the expectations from like your friends and your family.

Tony 5:15
And now I had no real clue. I just know I kind of wanted to be outside, my adopted family had owned a fifth generation cattle ranch up in North Texas, close to the Red River and going up there, I just got this really like deeper connection to the outdoors. And so I thought, you know, whatever I want to do you know, I want to do it outdoors. I think since the family was cattle ranching, that was kind of my first thing. It’s like, wow, you know, want to be a vet, you know, or maybe a cattle rancher actually went and got my Bachelor of Science at Texas a&m and animal science thought for sure that I would do that, you know, take over the ranch. And obviously, if I had have it probably been a really great thing. I think I could still like that. Yeah. However, when I was going to college, I took a few outdoor rec classes. And all of a sudden it was like, no, no, this this is this is what I got to do this. And it’s like, like, it gives me chill bumps even now at 59. That that moment, I realized, wow, there’s a profession in the outdoors. Yeah. I mean, it was like, it was just it was new to me. So I started following my outdoor adventure pursuits, ended up teaching, climbing, kayaking, mountaineering, backpacking, worked for the wilderness Education Association, and Topher pelt. Paul Petzoldt, who started Knowles up in the wind rivers, and that, of course, was was pretty much life changing as well, in the early 80s. The funny thing about it, though, is I remember as I was going back to school for my master’s in outdoor education, and my dad, his comment still sticks with me today. And he said, Son, you’ll never make a living in recreation. And it’s funny, I think about that. Now, I think back then, I think I probably replied, fairly flippantly with so what dad I just want to go climb. Obviously, he was not impressed. But then again, you know, I just, I had looked at his life in working for a large corporation and, and just the work schedule in the two weeks off a year, and I knew I didn’t want any part of that. It just didn’t seem like a high quality of life to work your whole life, then by the time you get time to enjoy your retirement, you’re either too old or dead. So yeah, it was some life changing epiphanies back then. And so that’s what I did, I pursued that I got my masters of outdoor education with a specialty in outdoor adventure pursuits. And at that point, I figured I gotta get out of Texas. I gotta go to Colorado.

Jeff 7:59
Yeah. Well, do you think things have changed? Recently, with with regards to sort of the jobs in the outdoor recreation space? I mean, it seems like, I mean, just in the last 10 years or so that communities have really, like recognized this as something that that they can use to boost their economies. And, and so there is like this job creation, but I imagine that wasn’t in place back when you were getting your education?

Tony 8:27
Well, I mean, you know, I don’t know how old you are, Jeff. But when I was growing up, you know, you aspired to be, you know, a football player, or a basketball player, baseball player. And that’s what guys did. You know, I mean, girls went to gymnastics and ballet. And you know, they’re just really, the whole outdoor recreation industry and outdoor adventure pursuits, were so much of a fringe thing. And there was so little media coverage that I think most of us didn’t have a clue of what there was to offer out there. Now, my I was fortunate enough that my family would go to Colorado for two weeks, every summer, we’d go to Lake City, we’d take our motorcycles, we’d go camping, and we’d swim in the creeks. And it was just great. But I never really had seen rock climbing or, or mountain biking, obvious at that point in time was all different than it was lighter. So no, you know, you couldn’t really make a living in the recreation industry back there. Now. I mean, you know, we got professional, you know, Red Bull athletes, they make their living with that. I mean, that to give you a good idea of to put it into perspective, and when I got into the trail building industry and joined the professional trail Builders Association, in 1995, which was actually called Western Trail Builders Association at that point in time. They always asked their new members, you know, what are you going to do for our, for our agency for our for our organization? And I thought, Man, I I was, you know, I was young and I was like, fired up. I had a lot of mojo. My goal, I was going to get trail building in every Yellow Pages. So for those folks that haven’t heard of the Yellow Pages

Jeff 10:15
Yeah, yeah. Now,

Tony 10:16
I mean, when’s the last time you actually even look through a phonebook? You know, but that’s, that’s where we were at when we would mark it to like a Forest Service Agency, you would call them, you would then talk to them, they would send you a form snail mail, you’d fill out that form, you’d send it back snail mail, you’d get on there contractors list, you know, to market for a region or a state would take months. Yeah. Now with the Internet. I mean, literally, you can mark it to a state, you know, in somewhere between 50 and 100 hours, probably. Yeah. So technology has really just blown my mind. Just, you know, not just in trails in the outdoor rec industry, but just in life in general.

Jeff 10:59
Yeah. Yeah, that’s really interesting. Well, did it take you a while to find your first paid job once you decided to pursue sort of outdoor recreation as your career?

Tony 11:10
Yeah, I think it was about 8485. When I was working for Paul Petzoldt. I started getting paid, because I went from being a student of the wilderness Education Association to the to instructor and we would lead these 28 Day expeditions into the wind rivers. I mean, I probably made a couple 100 bucks, I could have cared less. Because it’s like a paid vacation. You know, I mean, you’re out in the woods, you’re fishing, you’re climbing your mountaineering, you’re learning edible plants. And I was just awesome. So I did that for three years. And then in 1986, I actually started my first company, which was the Outdoor Education Institute. I was in grad school at that point in time. And apparently, there was a shortage of rock climbing instructors at other universities. And I was doing that at Texas a&m. And so I started doing that for some other colleges for Texas Tech, Southwest University. And thought, wow, you know, I can make a couple 100 bucks on a weekend on Saturday, Sunday, getting basically paid to climb and camp. And the thing that was really cool about that, I think it’s really those folks that are listening, that are educators, this will really resonate with them. But it was really kind of that first kind of experience I had of working with students, you know, which were the same age as me, especially those that might have never even been camping. You know, take for example, this one gal, I don’t remember her name, but it was Enchanted Rock down outside of Austin. And she had brought her hair dryer for that camping trip, she got scared, she she literally slept in the state park bathroom. Oh, wow, she was scared of climbing. But when she got up that first five, six, or five, seven, that moderate climb, to see her face on that and to see the feeling of joy that she had. And to essentially, I don’t know, like live it like through that. It’s something that, you know, educators like it just really like to see somebody get past their fears and succeed is, I still love that I still love that. stain it in my kids. I love that scene, and then a cruise. And of course, I love the feeling to when I’ve got a super huge challenge or project which kind of makes me want to throw up because I’m nervous. And by the time I get through it, it’s such a great feeling.

Jeff 13:32
Yeah, well, obviously you’ve worked in a number of different capacities, you know, with trails and as an instructor, and one of the things that you did too, though, was you were a boulders, open space employee. What was that like? Sounds like kind of a government like job? Was there a lot of like bureaucracy and that sort of thing involved? Or what did you learn?

Tony 13:54
Yes, there was bureaucracy when you were hanging around the water fountain in the mornings. But as soon as you got outside on foot or bike, patrolling or doing whatever research you were doing, it was a whole different world. And that was, that was my second job. When I moved to Colorado after I graduated in 86. My first one was, I managed the climbing wall in wet Westminster, which is kind of down in Denver. And then I got this seasonal park ranger job in 1987, with Boulder County parks and open space. And I did that for about Whew, I think about a year or two and then I became a permanent natural resource specialist. And it was totally awesome. I mean, is one of the best jobs ever. It was the best job I’ve ever had. Up until that point. Definitely. My responsibilities have included developing master plans for Mountain Parks like Walker ranch and potassic Preserve which are super popular Mountain Parks outside of Boulder, as well as developing a park ranger program a seasonal park ranger for the county because it was our first year. We were like the first Park Rangers there. And then I also got to develop the trail management plan for the county. And it’s interesting too, because now I’m at Timberline trail craft, multiple companies later, and quatro Hundley, who’s my longtime climbing buddy at college, is now our project manager at Timberline trail craft. And just yesterday, we were awarded $423,000 bid from Boulder County parks and open space to work on the new toll and Trail, which will connect the trail trails in West Magnolia, which were around Nederland, Colorado to the outdoor ski resort, ultimately, ultimately, his trail will go across the continental divide into Winter Park and Fraser Wow. So it’s kind of cool to like, come around full circle. You know, having worked for BCP OS for fuse, I don’t know, eight or nine years. And now 30 something years later, coming back and doing a project with them, of course, all brand new people. So anyway, I don’t know just all in all, it’s been interesting to, you know, I gotta say that I don’t think there’s anything really super impressive about my work drive or skills or knowledge. I honestly feel like I’ve just been hanging on for a ride. I got into the industry at the perfect time. And as you know, our industry, the whole outdoor rec industry has just exploded. So I feel super fortunate to, you know, had said to hell with the money, I’m going to be a dirtbag, you know, and even though that meant a lot of poor years in the beginning, it’s it’s led to a really decent job enough to raise, you know, four kids on, and I’m just so glad that I took that chance.

Jeff 16:47
Yeah, yeah, that’s awesome. Well, and when you were you said 1987 is when you were with Boulder, open space. What was sort of the feeling about mountain bikes, then were you a mountain biker? Because, you know, today Boulder has a reputation for excluding bikes from a lot of parks and spaces. How did that kind of come about?

Tony 17:10
And they still do, Jeff. It’s, it’s a lot to do with just the carrying capacity and the amount of people that are recreating in Boulder, but yeah, in in 87, I essentially started for Boulder County parks and open space. And I’ve only been there about two years until the City of Boulder Mountain Parks, which later combined with City of Boulder open space to form city of Boulder open space and Mountain Parks. But at that point in 1989, it was Mountain Parks and that’s the backdrop around University of Colorado at Boulder. So as you can imagine the students wanting to get out of class, they’re on these hiking trails, essentially that were built for hiking, many steps, many steeper grades, and then we’re sustainable. And all of a sudden the mountain bike came out. My first mountain bike was a rock opera in 84. So I was already mountain biking. And all of a sudden it was all these trails now that you’ve been riding you can’t ride on and it was like, wow, the county at that point in time. Boulder County Parks and Open Space did not do any bands. But I was concerned at that point that that may be coming. So in 89 I guess it was I started the mountain bike patrol for Boulder County Parks and Open Space specialized down in donated this mountain bikes. Paul Turner donated his rock shocks, mag 20 ones man, what do they got like an inch and a half of travel? Yeah, we had first aid kits donated, we were on mountain bike trail. And what we realized is if you’re on slit, and you’re contacting hikers, it’s ideal if you’re on mountain bike, and you’re trying to educate mountain bikers, it’s much better than being in a vehicle and stopping or walking because there’s that somewhat of a connection right off the bat. Right? So we started doing you know, this is the same time to that, you know, Marin County and mount Tam, you know, they were like had radar guns and we’re, you know, right and tickets, so it was really a massive time to be in the industry. So I hooked up with two gentlemen who I would consider my mentors ones Jim has an hour. The other is Kurt low height, and their group was called concerned off road Bicyclist Association or Bicycle Association, pre Ember days, these folks were some of the original board members of ember, and they had all kinds of advocacy tools, you know, and how to start your group and how to, you know, do trail maintenance and try to legitimize your being there on those trails when you’re such a new form of recreation. And the inherent problem with mountain bikes is we can go so fast, but yet we’re so silent, right? swimming and running a Chris King hub. Or you’re on a bike. Yeah. But you know, you creep up on people and they’re not used to it. So the visitor conflicts and the whole sociological,

you know, impact of people basically having their goal of a nice quiet ride a walk or ride or whatever was interfered with. So on go the years, City of Boulder Mountain Parks actually opened up their trails again. And that lasted about six months, and then they closed them off. So still, at this point in time, the whole backdrop of Boulder owned by the City of Boulder Mountain parks and open spaces still closed to mountain bikes. And quite honestly, it’s a good thing, the carrying capacity of that park is at max are over. And that’s just with hikers and runners alone and climbers. So if you add another user group, you really just it’s it’s virtually unmanageable situation. So So I think it’s a good thing. I knew it would happen sooner or later, so might as well have happened in the beginning, because that spurred on other trail and the development with the county with state forests with Forest Service, and really kind of that whole explosion of trails on the Front Range. Jefferson county parks and open space, they also kind of led the way. I remember Kim Frederick, who was their trail supervisor invited me down to see his new Suiko trail dozer, this would have been Chase about 93 and I saw this little miniature forefoot like trail does or there was this gal and it driving it cut and trail like it was butter. And it was like, Whoa, you know, I, I gotta I gotta have that thing. You know, I gotta have one of those course Boulder County Parks and Open Space was kind of still in the acquisition phase of property, at least for another 10 or 15 years. And so they weren’t focused on management yet. So I was a little bit ahead of the time, kind of getting off track, but I think I’ll roll with it. I got a fax after that visit down to Jeff co to see this week of 450 dozer. And the fax was a used one for $36,000. And another light went off. You know, I was working for Boulder County Parks and Open Space still, after eight years. It was totally enjoying the job. But I thought man, you know, if I really want to build trails, I just need to buy one of these and start a company. And of course, that kind of idea stuck. And arrowhead trails, which was incorporated in 1994 began out of that. Arrowhead trails was the first trail building company I’d had. And I stayed in it until I sold out my shares, more or less at 2020 12. In the meantime, I had started a company with quatro Hundley, who I mentioned before, down in New Mexico, that was called Anasazi trails. One of our coolest projects there was we did a 300 mile trail feasibility study for the Rio Grande trail from Albuquerque to Sunland Park, which is essentially on the Mexico border. Totally cool project going through Spanish land grant lands, who ablow lands, private lands, but it’s just really good. So that, then we kind of can that thing about two, I think 2012 Two, and that’s when I was just like, I, I just need a break from the employees. I mean, with trail crews, it’s kind of it’s different than your average nine to five job where everybody goes home. Because most of the time during the week here, you’re pretty much stuck with those folks, or you’re blessed with those folks, depending on how well you along with them. Yeah, I mean, for for me, it was awesome. You know, I’d have people to ride with after work, you’d camp you’d sit around the fire. But then again, it having that closer family and stuff, you start to feel responsible, you know, you want to make sure they’ve got, you know, work for nine or 10 months out of the season, so that they can go back to the ski resort and, and I you know, after doing it from what 94 to 2010 I just like I got to have a break. And that’s when I pretty much got out of both of those the day to day operations and started Tony Boone trails, which is essentially just consulting.

Jeff 24:10
Okay. Yeah, it sounds a bit like, you know, having a rock band on the road. And, and yeah, lo and behold, you know, rock bands break up, you know, but I can kind of see some parallels there. I want to circle back to one of the things you were saying about user conflicts. And, you know, obviously, you know, you also mentioned the trail growth in Colorado, but beyond Boulder, some of the Jefferson County trails and now those are being, you know, overrun, for lack of a better word, a lot of trail users, and obviously, user conflicts are always going to be a part of that. Are there things that you can do as a trail builder as a trail designer to minimize those conflicts or, or is it just a matter of well, you know, we need mountain bike specific trails and hikes specific and we shouldn’t try to mix the two groups

Tony 25:00
I’d say yes on all of those. So what do I mean by that is, it’s really a case by case. And you know, it’s so much easier to go into a larger chunk of land, not next to 1000s of people in a neighborhood and not have a whole bunch of trails already existing. They’re created by social use and rug trail use. And like start with a clean slate. When you do have that situation, I think you really have the opportunity to offer a high quality experience for all your users, but not necessarily offer them the maximum mileage. And what I mean by that is, is directional trails, biker optimized hiker optimized trails. What we’ve seen over the decades, is that, you know, mountain bikes, and the amount of mountain bike advocacy clubs that write grants has been impressive. So many of the contracts that come up have a mountain bike component into them, maybe they’re not a specific downhill one way only mountain bike only trail. But often they’re optimized for bikes, they have berms in them, they have rollers, they may have you know, a kicker off to the side of a roller, little bitty features that you can do for optional lines still great for running, still great for hiking, still great for horseback, you know, assuming everything’s designed sustainably, and your soils are good. However, when you have hikers and climbers that often don’t want to meander to get to the highest point, humans have the tendency to what

Jeff 26:44
to shine the spotlight, yeah, all of a sudden,

Tony 26:46
you’ve got these eroding trails, you know, that are hard to keep people off though, because it goes to the high point, it goes the really cool overlooking the creek, or it goes to the 510 a climbing route or whatever, right. It’s like herding cats. So those trails, you know, and ultimately, it relies on getting in the head of the user those trails, why not create steeper grades, 1015 20% grade add steps, you know, make them scramble over, you know, some boulders sections a little bit, but they’re trying to get to the top, they don’t want to meander out at five to 7% do a beautiful climbing Terran meander back another five to 7% and take a half hour to get up their bikes on the other hand, and many hikers and not all bikers, obviously some bikers like to just plunge off down the foul line, we know that it’s been a problem. But many bikes and hikers are not so much into the destination experience. You know, it’s out their backyard, they’ve been to the top, you know, they’re out there to walk the dog, they’re out there to get their sanity, their exercise after a long day at work or with the kids, whatever. It’s more about the experience, not the destination. So they’re willing to meander over here see this really cool overlooking downtown, whatever, they’re willing to go meander back this way. You know, typically, they’re not seeking, you know, as fast to the high point as fast back, you know, they’re trying to burn that 45 minutes where they gotta cook dinner. So optimizing trails, and actually separating trail use, at the risk of decreasing the mileage for each group, I think is going to have to happen, especially in urban interfaces, areas where parks are super crowded. The whole other thing about odd even days with bikers, you know, you’ve got, you know, bikers can only go clockwise. You know, all these kinds of tools, directional tools, bike specific. hiker specific trails, are tools to help disperse traffic. And they were around before COVID. But there’s so much more important now. Because you look at the COVID and I was consulting up in Fort Collins, and they’ve got a natural area there where you know, the trail has to say in this corridor based on the the concern with the natural resources and the property boundaries. And this single track trail is now four or five braided trails. Oh, wow. Because people coming up the trail and down the trail since it’s a bi directional multi directional trail. You know, they’re, they’re trying to get off the trail six

Jeff 29:25
feet, right, trying to give each other space. Yep.

Tony 29:28
And when there’s a constant flow of people on Saturday and Sunday, it’s hard to get back on that trail because there’s always always somebody within six to 10 feet of you. So you end up walking two feet here, two feet to the left. And sometimes these are erosional nightmares. Definitely. From an aesthetic standpoint, they’re they’re, you know, and so what do you say to people, you know, the locals, we, you know, we want it to foot wide 24 inch single track forever, you know, but it ain’t gonna work. I mean, in reality, I tip Quickly tell him, hey, look where we’re at look at the big picture in 10 years is going to be 10 foot wide concrete. Okay, how about we go like six foot wide Crusher funds till then, you know, you ruin their whole single track experience on this particular thing I offered some optional bike routes, which they were going to leave on the existing trail. So they’d be, it’d be kind of technical and, and the bikers would still be able to kind of get what their goal is accomplished. But yet try to separate that goal with the hikers goal of, you know, walking the dog or seeking a little bit more tranquillity both essentially experiences offered in the same trail corridor. Yet, you’re optimizing both of those users experience and enhancing the safety factor tremendously. Well, I went off on that I’m not even sure where we went just then.

Jeff 30:52
No, that’s great. That’s so on your website, it says that you’ve led crews that have built over 1000 kilometers of trails. So how did some of the early trails that you and your crews built compare to the ones that you’re involved in creating today?

Tony 31:08
Well, I’ll say this, we always focus on sustainability. So I would say that most of the trails I’ve built over the last 35 years are still in really good condition. And I feel most accomplished about that. Even though I was a mountain biker, and even though I was younger, I never built trails out of ego. I did not build my trails to get the Instagram shot. And then the trail fall apart in six months, I built because I built to what my clients asked me to build if they wanted to green trail. And I like to ride Black Diamond, guess what I built him. I built him a green trail wanted a black. And my crew likes to ride green. And I like to green, I still built him a black. So refresh my question on that.

Jeff 32:02
Well, I guess the follow up question to that, you know, yeah, we’re talking about sort of how the early trails compared to trails being built today. And it sounds like you had a pretty firm understanding of, you know, what is sustainable? And that sort of thing? How did you learn that? How did you establish those best practices early on?

Tony 32:21
Well, there was definitely some trial and error. But I tried in the 90s, to take quite a few trainings. My mentor was Jim Angel. He’s the one that told me the you know, you need to get inside of the head of the trail user. And he’s also the one that told me that people don’t need trails, the land does, we can talk about that a little bit more. But also just a variety of people like you, Duffy, some other folks in National Park Service, when they would offer these trainings, I would I would go take them in, you know, luckily, the county would pretty much pay for me to do that. You know, there was also a variety of private projects where I had friends, and we would basically build trails on their property. So, you know, I would say how if the change trail trails that I’ve built changed over the year, number one, I think I’ve learned a lot, I definitely have learned from my mistakes, where I pushed grades and poor soils, or whether I had change in in, in flows to abruptly that lead to, you know, stutter bumps or braking bumps before the corner. But, you know, over the years as you learn that, the interesting thing about that is this is really never quit learning. Yeah, because you’re at a new site with new topography, new soils, you know, different kinds of natural and cultural resource concerns. But the other way really, that trails I think have changed over time is those projects that we were bidding on in the 90s rarely had a bike component or mountain bike, people, mountain bikes, bikers as stakeholders. So from a flow trail standpoint, you would say those trails are boring today for some people. However, as time went on, you saw more of that bike optimized theory invested into these trails, many clients, these land managers that received grants for these trail projects written by the mountain bike advocacy clubs, allowed those mountain bikers to, you know, really develop a trail that satisfy those needs of the mountain bikers and of course in the last 10 years, especially with the just off the world, Disneyland stuff that they’ve accomplished in Northwest Arkansas. It’s just mind blowing, how we’ve been allowed to push the evolution of trails on public lands. I mean, here’s an example. I remember thinking it was the sharp turn when I was a ringtail Trail, which is outside of Denver did for douglas county parks and open space and I thought I was always into rolling great dips, because they get water off the trail. But yeah, all mountain bikers can kind of boost over them, right? Beginners can advanced can depend on how fast you’re going, you can launch a long ways, or you can just get weightless a little bit. And I put two of them close together, because I wanted to double it right. And I got I got a comments and concern, you know, they’re too close together, you know, the horses are not going to like them. That’s basically they needed to go back and take one out. And it was true, I kind of pushed it, my crew and I maybe we had a little bit of ego to it, and we kind of, you know, valued our mountain bike thrill over that of the horses, the equestrians, and the hikers. But you know, those types of trails back then, were somewhat of a new thing. And now, of course, you know, you got contracts going out to bid that are like, you know, we want to flow trail or, you know, we want to jump trail. It’s interesting, too, that you see the evolution of the different generations in mountain biking. And I know, a lot of the senior folks that I’ve been friends with for decades, that mountain bike, lot of them cluding, myself, hopefully in the next year or two, when they get more affordable, or getting the bikes. Because you know, our knees are falling apart, you know, 5060 7080 years old, and it just really helps us ride with other people and you know, not get left behind and have to have them wait at every trail intersection for us.

Jeff 36:35
Yeah, it is interesting, because I would say a lot of people my age, you know, I’m early 40s. And a lot of people my age are really into technical or they say they are you know, they’re like, oh, flow trails too easy. You know, I like technical. And to me, I don’t know, I’m curious to hear your take. But I feel like a lot of it too, is what you kind of started out on what you’re you’re used to writing and a lot of us don’t really like change.

Tony 37:02
Wow, that’s a good concept. I never really thought of that. But my evolution is I’m pretty much back at the point where I would rather ride low use single track with very few people,

Jeff 37:20
wouldn’t we all right.

Tony 37:23
And that’s what the joy of it was, in the beginning to me in the 80s was going out and exploring on dirt roads and old trails and just abandoned mining and logging and ranching roads, and not really knowing where the hell you’re going and being out there all day with your buddies. And then, you know, coming back the next week and thinking about how to connect that to somewhere else. Yeah. And, you know, with stuff on metropolitan areas, with the whole explosion of the outdoor recreation industry, and the fact that it’s almost a trillion dollar industry now, many folks don’t have that opportunity to get that solitude that they used to. Along with that. Many users were not introduced to trails for solitude, they were more introduced for physical challenge. Look at the whole, you know, exploding of Strava and other workout programs, which is totally awesome. I mean, you look at somebody going out on a mountain bike ride or a run, and I’m thinking, wow, that if I didn’t have so much exercise, just in my regular job, and I actually like exercise, for fun on the weekend, I would be thinking, Man, that’s what I would want to be doing. I wouldn’t want to be going into a gym, you know, especially nowadays. So, you know, that gets me back to the whole COVID thing. I mean, you look at the increase in trail usage on a global basis. 200 300 up to 500% increases on trail use. Yeah, wow. Of this new, you know, this new demographic. And it’s interesting because the new demographic, you know, is I would say they’re a little less skilled in their outdoor skills and etiquette, right, which is sometimes painfully clear, especially looking at the backcountry ski deaths, avid avalanche deaths already this year in Colorado. Like what we’re seeing here, you know, with the whole resorts and you got to make a reservation to get your ticket and you got to you know, know when the lodge you got to go to your car and you got to social distance people are saying, you know, to heck with that. I’m gonna you know, get a split board. I’m gonna get a snowball bill. And so what two weekends ago had already been at like four deaths. Oh, wow. I bet it’s a bit it’s 10 to 15 this year here just in Colorado. Geez. And you look at that, and you know, it’s so many new people going in to the backcountry going outdoors that are new to that zone and not not potentially aware of the hazards about it. Plus, we’ve had just a really crappy snow year and Colorado. So those first couple of snows are just like ball bearings.

Jeff 40:05
Yeah. Well, what are some of the most common mistakes that you see new trail builders make

Tony 40:11
building with their ego of what they like to ride and not what their client asked for? Yeah, and rushing their trail clean up to make more money. You know, leaving Punji sticks in the ground, leaving sticks sticking out from trees, putting organics under their jumps, putting logs under their berms. looks great in Instagram for a few years, right. But I’m not really built in for a few years. You know, I got in this to build, you know, I my goal was I want my grandchildren, it’d be hike or ride or run on these trails. Yeah, you know, I don’t want them to have to be rerouted. Because they sucked.

Jeff 40:51
Right. Right. Well, how did you get involved working with Ember and then ultimately building trails overseas?

Tony 40:59
Yeah, that’s, I feel really super lucky on that. So back in 2010, Chris Bernhardt, who was the director of in betrayal solutions hired me to develop trail projects in Asia primarily with track China, as well as assist Nick Bowman down in Australia to get into Australia. Some projects under their belt. Okay. I mean, you know how long you have to think about that. Let me think about that. Yes, I’ll go. Yeah. So my wife and I, and at that point, we had a three month baby, we packed up and moved to Chengdu China. Wow, that’s one province population. 18 million people in that,

Jeff 41:38
that valley? Yeah. And how many of them were mountain bikers, then,

Tony 41:41
when they have a race, a mountain bike race? They’ll have a couple 1000 racers and 10,000 spectators show up? Oh, wow. Wow, I had no idea when they say they need a parking lot for a race venue. It’s not like many areas where people argue that 20 cars is too big. Now they say we need they literally they said rip the top of that mountain off. I want 250 cars and 50 commercial buses, whoa, and a UCI event start finish area. Wow. So we headed out to Chang do. And it pretty much lived up to every expectation of aging food, the culture 3800 years old, you know, just seeing some of the temples. And we worked in a little village, this little village of San Liu was what it was called. And basically, I had families that you would go through their plots of land that they leased from the government, they were 2000 year old terrorist land, about an hour or so out of Chengdu and each, each orchard or each vegetable plot that you would go through about every you know, one to two weeks would be a different family. And you would train them. So I had two translators, because I had to go to all ultimately to the session dialect for this village. So trek China and Shimano, like basically supplied to translators. And I would teach these families how to build trail and it would be like from babies to grandparents in these crews. It’d be everybody. Yeah. And it was a really unique situation. Because you know, the first week or two, like the body language is just like, oh my god, I was thinking, Man, these people hate me because you’re their arms were crossed. You know, they’re thinking Who the heck is this way low in here? What the hell? What am What are mountain bikes? Right, you know, and here, you know, I’m making them build trail hard trail between these terraces. I mean, we’re talking 100% side slopes, all hand built back slopes that are like 12 feet tall. Wow. And over the months, they started seeing it bikers started showing up. The one restaurant in town, you know, started having more people. And it was interesting, because they would they would come out in the morning since I started early. I was going out with the village later. And I would put, you know, walnuts in my pockets or boiled sweet potatoes in my pockets. By the end of it. I’m like going in their houses. These are dirt floor houses, chicken and pigs all over the yards. I mean, and just shit is priceless. Yeah, betrayal building standpoint. So we were there, I think about four months. And after four months, pretty much had another opportunity to move to Australia directly from there, I think it was. So we moved to Adelaide, Australia. And were there five months, we did projects in South Australia Victoria, New South Wales for Ember, Australia and Nick Bowman. Starting in Australia at that point in time I also imported a Suiko for 80 are now a Sutter for 80 dozer, across the big pond into Australia, and proceeded to build a ton of different trails there with different bike clubs, and things like that. Yeah, I mean, honestly. So it’s about Two years of Australia, in China. And honestly, if you look back, it’s probably some of the highlights of my life just from an adventure standpoint.

Jeff 45:09
Yeah. Wow. That’s incredible. It even topped to Aruba and

Tony 45:13
Iceland. Wow. Yeah. I mean, that puts it into perspective. How can you top a river in Iceland? China and Australia? Yeah.

Jeff 45:22
Yeah. Well, I’m interested to understand too in China. Sounds like you’re working with some of the big break brands, you know, track and specialized. We’re supporting the work. I mean, what was the demand for trail there? Was it you know, that they’re just all these people that want to ride? And they need trails? Or was it more of a trying to figure out what would came first here, the chicken or the egg? Where were the brand saying we need trails so that people will want to try biking?

Tony 45:49
Know, 10s of 1000s of mountain bikes in China. Lots of races in China, but mostly on pavement. As you may expect, a road race in China is not really sustainable for a road bike, rough roads, you know, not some of the best roads. So many of the racers, which like I said, there’d be a couple 1000 people show up for a race, I went to a couple races. And you know, most of the people are on mountain bikes, and they’re mostly on pavement. But once you start giving them some trails, it just goes off. So that village and sadly you we were there, we built about 10k A trail 10 kilometers, they built another 10 kilometers that we designed after I left, and they had their first race. And like I say, you know, 1000 plus racers 1000s of spectators, they had three restaurants at that point in time. I think they have their hotel built now that you know, they had always had their cool sign up that said they were going to build a hotel by their fishing like, and it’s pretty much exploded there. And the interesting thing is, is you look at how many mountain bikers you could potentially have in China. And I was really bummed it that Ember, as well as we didn’t really have the time or the bandwidth to basically just stay there and help basically help trek China start him but China. Yeah, I think it would have dwarfed the US membership at this point in time. Well, it’s it’s it’s a huge market over there and you only get so. So in. Let’s see, when was it oh six I went over to the Philippines. And I volunteered for the governor of the province of Cameroon a series names Governor La Villa for Arctic. It’s actually where I met my wife, and I did a bike park for him. Adjacent to Asia’s largest wakeboarding complex, which was a 800 meter overlay Ken had all the cool like jumps and features like you see the snowboard park and then had like a cable tow they went around, they were hosted like World Championships. So we built the bike park. And then we could use the same clubhouse, the pools, massage, the restaurant, bar, all that kind of stuff. And it was really amazing. Because after I did that project, I got a call from Vic paterna, who was one of the CEOs of 711, Philippines and he’s like, man, we need some more trails like those ones, you build an in camp, sir. So he hired me to go out and build some trail at Timberline heights as a gated community outside of Manila, which of course is millions and millions of people. It’s up in the mountains. And so I was there training the local crews to build. And he’s like, You got to come up and ride on a Saturday. And I’m like, Alright, let’s go ride on. When I rode on Saturday, there was before we really hardly got any trails built. There was over 1000 mountain bikers, pedaling up that hill and getting towed up that hill on motorcycles to go up and ride in this neighborhood. And it was just mind blowing. So when you go to these other countries and you think, you know, is mountain biking, popular, they’re like, Well, you know, maybe Salida, maybe 10% of the people, you know, mountain bike. So we got like 550 mountain bikers, what do you do? You know, maybe a 10th of 1% mountain bikes in China. Oh, whoa, that’s a million mountain back. Yeah, so it’s just the whole number thing. But yeah, I’ve just been watching the whole industry explode essentially, in front of my eyes. I think in the last, oh, five to seven years. I’ve seen as much evolution as I did in the first three decades. And I really do see that we’re going to see in the next five years as much evolution that we’ve seen in the last 10 to 15 years. It’s it’s off the hook.

Jeff 49:40
Yeah. Wow. That’s incredible. Well, one of the things you’re doing is you’re currently offering trail building classes through a local community college in Colorado. What led you to create the courses and how do you trail builders benefit from a more formal education?

Tony 49:57
Yeah, so you know, that’s one of the things that I will have never actually done, but the dean of instruction from Trinidad state Junior College. His name’s Keith Gibson. He’d been in that college for about 33 years running their globally acclaimed gunsmithing program in this small community college in Trinidad, next to the brand new state park of 19,000 acres, and he had contacted me, you know about what I would think about, you know, having trail classes. And then, over the last year, we’ve developed essentially three levels of trail curriculum. We have our first level online, we offer our first four out of eight classes on level one, in April, May was introduction to trail management and outdoor recreation, Intro to trail planning, Intro to trail design, Intro to trail maintenance, I think it was can’t remember the first for our level two classes, basically are at the approval stage. And then we’re working on basically fleshing out our curriculum for our outline of level three, the ultimate goal of this program is to have a person come in here finish all three levels. And they would obtain an Associates in applied science or applied technology, one of the two in trail management and construction. So why do this? Well, two main reasons Number one, when I was growing up, if I had seen something like this, I’d have been all over it. Yeah. So many people I talked to say, man, if that hadn’t been around, when I was like going out of high school or college, I’d have been all over that. I mean, it’s it’s so many, it’s so interesting course, I hang out with a lot of trail builders. So that’s probably not a surprise. But I, I feel that trail building is a legitimate profession, just like Plumbing, electrician, framing, farming, landscape architecture, you know, teacher, whatever, it’s JIT. And we wanted to have, we wanted to be able to offer people benefits paid time off 401 K, just like other professions, you know, I mean, I’m basically a trail planter designer and builder, I have to pay the same insurance rate professional insurance rate for errors admission that engineers and architects do. Yeah, but yet, I’m not an engineer or architect, and thank God, I don’t want to be stamped or licensed. I have nothing even close to that, that you could even take. So anyway, so we want youth. We want really all ages. I don’t care if it’s youth. I mean, it could be a vet, that’s, you know, back for more and it’s on the VA, you know, where they have money to go to school. I mean, it’s it’s not just a profession for 20 year olds, it’s not. Secondly, our industry needs skilled workers. Timberline trail craft needs to hire 12 to 15 people over the next two months. Wow. We’re one of about seven or eight companies that build trails in the summer in

Jeff 52:59
Colorado. Yeah, just in that state. I mean, Colorado,

Tony 53:03
and northwest Arkansas, kind of are these, my epicenters of trail building. Colorado is blessed because we got tons of public land and we’ve got our Go Colorado lottery funds, which are millions and millions of dollars every year given out as well as the RTP funds that we go for. So, you know, lots of grant monies in our states, lots of public support, lots of grassroots efforts. And then you have the other epicenter, which is Arkansas, northwest Arkansas, which, you know, it’s been pretty much funded by the Walton Family Foundation, and they’ve done an incredible job, considering their initial goal for my understanding was they wanted some mountain bike trails so that their people that work there would have a higher quality of life. Yeah, well, Gary burnin who works for Walton Family Foundation has taken that and run with In fact, I think they just trademarked Bentonville as the mountain bike capital of the world. Which I think is amazing, because I don’t know I’m just partial to Colorado, but I think it’s amazing what they’ve done. And I want to I want people to wrap their heads around. This is the last article I read has been a couple years old is they invested about 79 to $80 million. Walton Family Foundation, wow. over about a 10 to 15 year period. Okay. When they did this study, I want to say it was a Mesa University maybe if I remember, it’s been like say it’s been over a year or two since I’ve read it. They calculated the economic impact to Northwest Arkansas from that $80 million investment in mountain bike trails, hiking trails, bike paths, public art, bridges, etc. And that economic impact that one year, which was I think 2017 I think it was $179 million. Wow, wow. We had a study done in our valley. You know, I live in a town of about 6000 people now. Salida our Valley has maybe 20,000 people in it. And I think the impact of non motorized recreation which is trail use hiking fourteeners and all the rafting, kayaking, etc. But not skiers or it’s not hunting, not fishing was like 54 million impact in my valley. Wow. It’s just mind boggling, I should probably send you a link, I’ll send you a few links. They do it state by state. And for the for the nation, of the recreational impact in dollars, the number of jobs. And it’s just really interesting to not only know how how impacting that our industry is, but the fact that it’s it’s one of the fastest growing industry still, while others are not growing. I think we’re 3% of the GDP, outdoor recreation industry.

Jeff 55:45
Wow. Yeah. And Arkansas is an interesting one, as you mentioned, because initially it to me, it doesn’t sound like it was necessarily about a tourism play. Right. Like, like you said, it was about attracting people to live in the area, which has definitely has an economic impact, but it’s not the one that we always think about. It’s not the one where we think oh, these are tourists people staying in hotels and, and that sort of thing. This is actually people like making their lives there. And, and, you know, doing their shopping and everything. Versus Salida, for example, where you do see a lot of tourism. So I guess I guess what I’m saying is there’s a lot of different ways that that economic impact manifests itself.

Tony 56:27
There is like I’ve got two friends and they’ve they’ve basically bought places in Bella Vista just north of Bentonville. They’re like yeah, that’s where we’re leaving. We’re gonna go retire there.

Jeff 56:37
Yeah. Yeah. And that’s, that’s a multi year impact. That’s not a, you know, spin weekend, or we’ll spend a week there and put some money into the economy. I mean, this is houses are being built. And yeah, people are making their lives there. And that’s, that’s huge.

Tony 56:53
Yeah, just to get an idea of the volume of trail building there. There’s usually eight to 10 trail building companies working there. Almost on a year round basis. Wow. And last year, I heard at one point during the busiest part of the season that there were over 400 diggers on the ground, northwest Arkansas. So which I’m guessing that in Colorado between the half dozen or so folks that work here every year, we’ve probably got don’t know 100 125, which seems huge to me, but then it’s like, Oh, my goodness. I mean, like my buddy, Aaron Rodgers, who owns rock solid trail contracting. I think he’ll have 75 employees in his company this

Jeff 57:39
year. Wow. That’s incredible. Yeah.

Tony 57:41
So just I mean, just just look at the evolution of that industry. ptpa for the last two years, we’ve grown like 28%, on the average. We had 10 new members last year, 10 new members the year before. We’re now in half a dozen countries around the world. I think we’ve got three or four members from Australia, three or four from Europe. We’ve got hm Lim with their traction out, it’s a poor. It’s just, it’s mind blowing.

Jeff 58:12
Yeah, yeah. Well, I imagine too, that that creates some competition as well. I mean, it sounds like there’s a lot of projects, and that’s where a lot of the growth is coming from. But we’ve also heard recently, in the last year or so about trail builders, new trail builders bidding on projects and under bidding, like kind of not understanding exactly how much work is involved to actually complete a project. Are you seeing that happening in the industry at all? Or are things pretty smooth?

Tony 58:43
Well, I’m not gonna, I’m not gonna say any names or anything, but I’ll give you a real life example. We had bid on a project. Little cheese back in November, December. The engineers estimate and the grant application was for about 387,000. I think we could not match that grant. They forgot to include a few corners that they added they forgot to include bonding, we offer our employees per diem. So they have their food every day since they’re camping out. And so we added all ours up we came out about 423,000 which we thought was a damn good bid. Actually, we thought oh, they’ll love it. You know, it was really quatro my buddy, you know, he put it together. We were sitting and then boom, we got underbid. By a company, no need to name them. They bid under 200,000.

Jeff 59:37
Is this a new company though? Is this a company that had experience doing this sort of thing? Or?

Tony 59:42
I would say relatively new within the last couple of years. Okay. Yeah. And then of course, they you know, most most projects are still low bidder. We’re trying to push the industry to go for best value, but some some some agencies still buy their regular shouldn’t have to go low bidder, they chose that company. We were bummed out, we were like, man, you know, I feel sorry for these guys. They’re gonna lose their ass. And sure enough, they bailed. Oh, wow. And we got awarded that contract for $423,000. Yesterday.

Jeff 1:00:18
Oh, jeez, what happens in that situation? I mean, I guess was there work that had already been completed at least or? Or how does how does that work?

Tony 1:00:26
No, they didn’t even get to the contract signature time. So they bailed out before they signed on the dotted line, which most likely means they lost their bid bond, which, you know, better to lose a couple 1000 and a lot more. They, you know, you feel bad for those folks that, that do that. Because, you know, if they had a bit a little bit more, they probably would have got the job. And I mean, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting how it’s, here’s the deal. So when Tony Boone trails sold all of our construction equipment, to Timberline landscaping, and we formed Timberline trail craft, Tony, Ben trails doesn’t do any more construction. Okay, super small company, just me, consulting masterplanning design, you know, pretty much it. In fact, with Timberline trail craft, now I do very little atonia and trails. So the Timberline trail craft, we are part of a company, where there’s four different units, and all together, we have over 200 employees, okay, I have access to it, I have people that do the websites, I have access to the accountants they do. I mean, all these professionals, you know, a safety officer, all this kind of stuff that I never had in any of my other companies, which were essentially what I would call bowtique mountain bike trail building companies. You know, I mean, never more than a million dollars a year did we do, you know, so now you’re part of a bigger corporation, you know, our headquarters, which we’re not really usually at, but we store stuff there, we there’s a shop there with full time mechanics, that we access to 38,000 square foot headquarters for all of the four different business units. So we have overhead, I, I am one of three salaried employees with paid vacation benefits 401 K, we’re never or rarely going to be able to be the low bidder, we can be the best value most of the time, but rarely are we low, because here’s what we’re competing with. We’re competing with what I call a sweet spot. I’ve used it a lot. It’s me and a buddy on two machines. And we’re sleeping in a tent or an RV. And you can bet half the cost and still make money, or at least less and still make money. So So you know, I still I still like it and appreciate it. There’s all different kinds because as larger company, you know, we look for these, these trail builders, because we can’t keep up with all the bids. We have turned down two bids. And just the last two weeks, you know, these bids? Let’s see one, about $150,000 bid. Nope, can’t get involved with that we’re holding out another one, maybe 75,000? Nope, just we just we’re waiting for some certain bits that we want to be part of more than these. But rarely, in the past decades have I’ve been able to like let bids go across my desk and not be going Damn, I need to we’ve had a bid on them. And we better bid on that, you know, we don’t have anything for next year. We don’t have anything for fall, you know, let’s bid cheap. Let’s you know, sharpen our pencils. Now. The the market is so saturated with projects and underserved with trail builders that were like No, that’s not a great fit. And if we did that, then we wouldn’t be able to bid on this one that we’ve been waiting for for two years. So yeah, it’s interesting. And you know, in a way it’s good and in a way it’s bad. It’s bad in the fact that we lose some jobs to projects that are substandard, because people underbid them and tried to make money and they should have stayed an extra week or two to get it right. Right. However, in the long run when that happens, those clients have come back to us and basically gone with Best Value realize that the low bidder didn’t did it wasn’t a good service for trails you know if your order and toilet seats, maybe low bidder if you’re gonna order you know, sustainable built trails, and you know, it’s what seems like a simple task. There’s really a lot that goes into it. And trail builders have to wear quite a few hats. You know, they will the way they wear their trail builder hat they wear the land manager hat they wear the asshole neighbour hat the doesn’t want the trail. You know, you got to wear your psychiatrist hat for, you know the person that you just changed this Fall Line Trail section out and rerouted it to a climbing term because because you know, every single section of trail is likely somebody’s favorite section of trail.

Jeff 1:05:21
Right. Interesting. Well, earlier in our conversation, you quoted Jim Angell, saying that people don’t need trails the land does. I’m interested to know what does that mean to you?

Tony 1:05:34
What does that mean to you?

Jeff 1:05:36
I don’t know. I’m trying to figure it out, honestly. And that’s why I wanted to ask you, I mean, what, how does the land need new trails?

Tony 1:05:43
Yeah, so it does perplex many people except land managers, and trail builders. And what it says, And he told me this in 1993, his company was core plan, he’s passed away now, the crusty old Scotch drinker, Jim. But this thing has stuck with me. And I’ve shared it with literally 1000s of people around the world. And his statement is people don’t need trails the land does. So have you ever been to a new park that doesn’t really have a trail system, and people are just out there wandering wherever they want?

Jeff 1:06:18
No, you don’t see that often. I mean, there are plenty of places where the land is preserved, and there is no sort of access to it.

Tony 1:06:25
We have a number of places in Colorado that if you pull up to the parking lot, you might have 20, choices of trails to go up that foul line is not a single one of them designed contour. Yeah, they were trails created by social use, people not really thinking or educated enough to know that they’re potentially harming the land, they just want to get up to that high point and take a picture of the beautiful mountains. A million people do that. Over the decades, and now you got 2030 trails going up, it looks like a bowl of spaghetti. Okay, same thing going down to like a water feature. You know, like, everybody’s got to get to the creek or the lake. And so basically, you end up having non sustainable trails that create a loss of soil, which is one of our key natural resources. Ultimately, you can impact the vegetation, the wildlife habitat, and essentially ruin an area. That’s where we got that saying, Our area is love to death, people aren’t really doing it on purpose. You know, but once again, once you see a couple social trails, or you see a couple pieces of litter, I think human nature is just to not be so concerned about creating another hiker trail or walking off trail or dropping that gum wrapper, you know, it’s litter breeds, litter, social trails, bleach social trails. So then you have Rob trails, many trails were built at night, in many places, you know, you look at fruta and try Rarick out there with over the edge bike shop. All those trails on 18th road were illegal. Now, they’re all designated trails, people from around the world seek out that place. That place was a defunct bankrupt little farming community. Now, it’s expensive to live there. And it’s a cool place to live. Same with Salida. Same with hundreds of places, not just in the West, but all over the US and all over the world, these outdoor recreation destinations, whether it be for people climbing a fourteener whether it be people for gold, gold, metal trout stream fishing, or mountain biking, or, or running or modelling, you know, these destinations have developed, because because people want to come there and recreate and they want to hang out there, they want to stay there, they want to eat there. And it’s basically changed. And once again, I got lost.

Jeff 1:08:52
No, yeah, I mean, that’s a great explanation. I mean, it sounds like what you’re saying, and which I think is true, too, you’re not going to keep people out of an area that has, you know, natural beauty and that’s, you know, desirable. And so, if you don’t have trails, then that area is going to it’s going to pay for it, it’s going to suffer.

Tony 1:09:13
It is and by the time future generations get there, they may not even know what you and I appreciated 10 years ago. So ultimately that saying is alluding to proper and sustainable trail planning, design, construction, and routine maintenance is our best way to protect our cultural and natural resources. And it’s likely the best way to stoke up that next generation of stewards. And here’s one that I really see. It’s the wilderness and the mountain bike issue. It’s a very hot topic, and I’m coming cerned about many of these wilderness areas that don’t have people going into them that have trails that are grasping over and covering up because they don’t go into them. And they’re next to a little town, that suffering economically. But yet, it’s a blanket ban. I really hope that we can continue to keep wilderness areas with less use, but I really feel like some of these wilderness areas would best be suited. The ones that surround these towns that need some form of sustainable non consumptive development because they’ve lost their extractive industries. I really think that mountain bikers could do that. Yeah, I think that they could come in and maintain trails in a certain area, and not the whole dang wilderness, but in areas by towns, and it would give those, those areas that are struggling those rural areas in America, as well as other countries. Another tool in the toolbox. You know, how some mountain towns and you’ve, you’ve seen that over your career, Jeff, how these Podunk little poor towns are now like, top destinations, right? Yeah, it really has been good and bad. And here’s a saying that one of my buddies told me, he said, You know, when you have done a really good job, building trails in your community, developing it and outdoor recreation destination, and I’m like, Okay, well, what? Guess what he says, You have to move out. Because it’s too expensive. Yeah. And the trails are too crowded.

Jeff 1:11:45
Yeah. All right. But then the question is, is that a good? Is that a good problem to have? You know, I mean, that’s, that’s gentrification. And yeah, I mean, how do you, how do you there’s too much of a good thing.

Tony 1:11:59
It’s, it’s essentially, our, it’s, I mean, it really is essentially a form of human scourge in the form of recreation. You know, I mean, we, we, as humans are a scourge on the planet Earth. It’s, it’s obvious, like what we’ve done in so few years. But it’s just something that I’ve seen and observed. You know, like, you’re, you’re, you know, you’re an illegal trail builder, you’re in your town, you’d love it, you know, you tell your buddies in the next town down, they tell their next buddy, all of a sudden, you’ve got enough critical mass, and then the agency comes in, oh, they’re gonna close all these trails. And then you show up at the public meetings, and then boom, all of a sudden, your little cool little private country club trail system that you loved. You know, is now in, you know, Outside Magazine, top 10 mountain towns live. Right? Yeah. So yeah, it’s good and bad. So yeah, I love it.

Jeff 1:12:53
Yeah, it’s it is fascinating. It’s fascinating to think about this. Yeah, in terms of human nature, and from the psychological standpoint of people are going to do what they’re going to do. And so the more that we’re able to kind of guide that through trail building and through management and that sort of thing. I think the better that, that everybody is.

Tony 1:13:14
Yeah, I mean, ultimately, we’re trying to protect it for future generations so that my grandkids and your grandkids can go out on a really cool mountain bike ride or a run or a rock climb or a paddle or whatever.

Jeff 1:13:25
Yeah. Well, Tony, thanks so much for talking with us and for sharing with us sort of your lifetime of trail building expertise and outdoor recreation. Really appreciate you coming on the show.

Tony 1:13:40
Hey, thanks, Jeff. appreciate you letting me go off on the deep end there for a while.

Jeff 1:13:44
Right on. Well, we’ll have links to Timberline trail craft and also Tony Ben trails, if you’d like to get more information. So we’ve got this week to talk to you the next week.

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