One of the really cool things that has happened on this trip is that time and again the timing has often worked out that I can join in on existing club activities that folks already have going on. I think that is mostly because enthusiasts and members of BRC are generally busy about doing club activities, from trail rides to work days.
That happened to be the case when I contacted Mark Carpenter, president of GARTRA (http://www.gartra.com/outdoors/). They were already having a rescheduled work day out on one of the trail systems they have adopted as a group. Mark said, "Come on over. We would love to meet with you, and, by the way, we are putting you to work too!" So, Sunday, September 23 I headed over to go out and work with these guys.
Arriving in the parking lot, I quickly found out that part of my job for the day was to ride the four wheeler/tool truck to the various locations on the trail so they wouldn't have to. Single trackers, the lot of them. I thought, "Bonus!" Then, with knowing smiles all around, they hooked up the trailer. "Putt, putt, I'm the mutt."
Still, a better day for a work day could not have been. And, these guys get after it. Trimming, cleaning out silt traps, bolstering waterbars, and generally making sure the trails are still in order. I'm talking McLeods, Polaskis, and shovels. I am still sore and thinking, "These guys are out here once a month doing this, just to try to maintain trails they have."
Unfortunately, that is largely because, at somewhere around only 100 miles, in GA they don't have much opportunity for single track trails. Most of those are on FS lands and although they have tried in many ways and have a pretty good working relationship with the Forest Service, it has proven tough to increase the size of the systems. There are a lot of riders in GA, and not a lot of trails. It requires a lot of maintenance.
Additionally, one of the other big issues they face is not enough volunteers to get the work done. Indeed, while out working on the trails with them, riders were out there riding and, although some even slowed to thank us, only two actually stopped to offer to help (Brendon Worley and George Stephens-Kudos guys!) Work days typically only include the faithful few in the club. Again I heard about how many people have resorted to frequenting private parks and how that affects the struggle to keep a club healthy and strong. Getting people to be involved is a tough nut to crack and I am seeing it nearly everywhere I go.
When we stopped for lunch (thanks for cooking Nathan), we talked about some of the other issues they face, such as with funding mechanisms in GA. Georgia has some semi-unique approaches to how they handle programs like the RTP program that present challenges to getting the right equipment to maintain trails and getting the agencies to take full advantage of what is available.
One thing in the conversation over lunch that stood out to me was on the subjects of how difficult riders with bad attitudes have been. We've experienced that at BRC too. It is discouraging. You know the type, riders who are happy to ride the areas, but not so happy to help keep the areas open, then first to criticize online and elsewhere when areas get closed.
But, I can tell you that the guys from GARTRA that I spent the day with have a good attitude and are constantly busy as a club about doing the right things. I had a really good time with all the good natured ribbing and getting to know them personally. That is part of the fun of what we do. Sure, there is a little hard work, but it is "feel good about yourself" work. It is the right thing to do and lunch never tasted better.