GREENSBORO, N.C. — Wet winter weather made a big mess of hiking and biking trails in the Triad.
Two ice storms in February and higher than average rainfall left the ground oversaturated, leaving trails muddy and slippery. Muddy ground, mixed with the weight of icicles and some wind, caused trees to fall, creating hazards and making the trails impassible.
The Piedmont Fat Tire Society is a group of mountain bikers that volunteer their time maintaining trails in partnership with the city of Greensboro. Certified sawyers go out to cut back trees and brush blocking the trail corridor.
Trail advocate Mark Gatehouse says February’s ice storm brought down more than 20 trees on one of the most popular mountain biking trails, the Wild Turkey trail.
“We have a lot of dangerous trees down. We have trees uprooted, we have widow-maker branches hanging overhead,” says Gatehouse of the Bald Eagle Trail.
There are 100 miles of trails in Greensboro, but the PFTS works with 34 miles. Those trails were officially closed following the ice storms. Clearing those trails of hazardous fallen trees takes a lot of time. Gatehouse says it takes, on average, four hours of volunteer work for each mile of trail.
“The city is working on the high priority, paved greenways, and hiking trails, and the bike club is utilizing the volunteers to do the mountain bike trails,” Gatehouse says.
Warmer spring days are on their way, which encourages many people to walk or bike on the trails. Gatehouse says using these trails in their muddy, saturated condition can be dangerous and could destroy the trail.
“I know there are some complaints out there from people who say 'it looks like a disaster area.' Well, essentially, this climate impact has been a little bit of a disaster, but nature is also healing itself,” Gatehouse says.
Volunteers and frequent trail users use TrailForks to report broken limbs or fallen trees that can be addressed by the Piedmont Fat Tire Society. As of February 26, all trails were closed for maintenance. The PFTS posts trail closings and updates on its Twitter page.
Other Southern Off-Road Bicycle Associations around North Carolina are maintaining hiking and biking trails ravaged by wet winter weather. For more information on the Piedmont Fat Tire Society and other groups in our state, click here.