In The Demo Flow


by Andrew Juiliano

Aug. 20, 2013—Last December, as Soquel Demonstration Forest sat in a midwinter limbo between fog and rain, Drew Perkins tromped around the site of the recent Rim Timber Harvest. The logging operation, begun in 2011, had turned the popular Tractor Trail from swooping single-track into a double-wide logging road—ideal for heavy machinery but mundane for a mountain bike. So goes the reality of recreational trails on multi-use land.

Amidst the soggy piles of slash, Perkins, the bearded trail officer for Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz and designer of the Emma McCrary Trail in Pogonip, envisioned a sustainable trail reroute specifically designed for mountain bikers. “I saw the opportunity for a purpose-built replacement,” he recalls, “not just a convenient adaptation of existing logging roads and skid trails.”

The new Demo Flow Trail stems from this desire to create a mountain bike-specific trail at the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains. With construction on the $100,000 project expected to begin this winter and completion of an initial phase anticipated for spring 2014, it looks like Perkins’ dream is set to become reality. MBoSC’s "Own The Flow" event in April raised $44,000 for the project, thanks in part to the coveted Ibis Ripley donated to the cause by the Santa Cruz bikemaker. The Demo Flow Trail now has $75,000 in its piggy bank. Not bad for a bunch of people who just want to play in the dirt.

Go Flow
A flow trail consists of berms, jumps and rollers. The result is a sort of gravity-fueled pump track and the kind of terrain many mountain bikers enjoy. These swooping turns and rolling jumps perform another function: they control erosion and protect the trail from wear. The new style of construction reconciles two values in trailbuilding long thought mutually exclusive—fun and sustainability.

The current trail layout begins off Ridge Trail, 500 feet downhill from the junction of Braille and Ridge. The proposed four-mile-long route will wind through the redwoods in six separate trail segments distinguished by access to the new fire road. The bermy, buttery goodness intersects with Tractor Trail three times before popping out on Hinh’s Mill Road.

Patty Ciesla, president of Stewards of Soquel Forest, the nonprofit tasked with maintaining the park’s trails, explains the benefit of a purpose-built trail instead of reclaiming the Tractor Trail logging road. “Making old logging and skid roads into trails is not sustainable,” she says. “They require a huge amount of human effort to maintain each year. Instead of digging drainages and removing silt on two feet of trail, you’ve got 10 feet to deal with.”

Responsible Trailbuilding
When the winter rains return moisture to the soil of the Santa Cruz Mountains, volunteers will sink their shovels into Demo’s dirt to construct Central California’s first flow trail on public lands.

To ensure responsible trailbuilding, the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz and Stewards of Soquel Forest launched the Crew Leader Training course—approximately 30 hours of classroom and hands-on training in proper trailbuilding technique. Says Perkins, “We want people to better understand the basics of good trail design and also create lots of supervisors for larger trail work days on the new flow trail.”

With more than three dozen trained volunteers and the support of CAL Fire land managers, Demo Flow Trail is an opportunity for mountain bikers to prove the benefits of a purpose-built trail as an environmentally responsible, long-term asset to the forest-going community.

Perkins, who also heads the new flow trail project, envisions the end goal as a “fun, sustainable trail that minimizes erosion and will last long enough for our grandkids to enjoy.”