SMBA Expands to Albany/Troy Area and Adopts Pittstown State Forest
In early 2011, a group of riders within our MTB community began discussing the benefits of forming a regional bike club to support trail maintenance and conservation efforts in the Capital District. The consensus was that there are a number of great trail systems in the region that do not have a specific group tasked with stewarding them. This has caused many of the trail systems to be neglected, while others have MTB access in jeopardy.
From the very beginning SMBA board members were involved in the discussions, offering their support of the effort. The board members shared their future goal of expanding SMBA beyond Saratoga, and becoming a regional organization. This expansion had been a goal of SMBA since its inception as a club in 2001. The group was receptive of the idea of working with SMBA to reach their goal of organizing an MTB club representing the greater Capital Region. Having a single, unified group to represent riders would streamline the organization process, and eliminate any overlap that would occur should a new group be formed, and provide a unified voice for all riders. An added benefit was that SMBA had an existing organizational structure that could easily be modified for regional expansion.
The stage was set and the first step was to update the SMBA bylaws to reflect the regional organization. While work was underway to revise bylaws, the newly formed Region of SMBA (SMBA South) hit the ground running. The first order of business was to choose a trail system to begin focusing their efforts on. Several different trail systems in the Capital Region were evaluated, and it was decided that Pittstown State Forest would be a great fit. The club bylaws were later updated and approved during the September 21st meeting, officially making SMBA a regional organization.
Pittstown State Forest is an 1155 acre state forest that is located approximately 15 miles east of Troy on Rt 7. It is situated at the base of the Rensselaer Plateau which provides great topographic opportunities with ample elevation changes and diverse terrain. There were already many miles of challenging single-tracks on the property however the trails had fallen into neglect and some sections were unidentifiable due to lack of maintenance and clearing. This existing trail network provided a backbone that would require minimal work to revive the existing trails, and would provide ample opportunity for new trails.
In the Spring of 2011, SMBA approached the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) to formally express their interest in becoming the steward for Pittstown State Forest. In July, SMBA was designated as official steward of Pittstown State Forest through NYSDEC’s Adopt-a-Natural Resource (AANR) program. The AANR allows SMBA to perform trail maintenance, organize trail days, and work with the NYSDEC on new trail construction and re-route projects.
Since receiving the AANR, SMBA volunteers have logged countless hours resurrecting the existing trails in Pittstown. Blown down trees and limbs were cleared, trails were raked and swept off, and several problem areas have been repaired. The trails bounced back quickly and are riding extremely well….better than they have in a long time! But – there’s still more work to be done.
The first major project that was identified was to re-route a section of trail that followed an old jeep road. The jeep road had become extremely eroded and was constantly wet and muddy. This road was the primary connector between the parking area and the single-track trail head. SMBA worked with the NYDEC to obtain approval for the construction of a re-route trail that would avoid the use of the muddy jeep road.
In August SMBA hosted an IMBA Trail Care Crew weekend in Pittstown. Over the course of the weekend IMBA held several workshops that focused on fostering relationships with land managers and building a successful club. The highlight of the weekend was the IMBA trail building school held at the trails. During this session the IMBA crew taught sustainable trail building techniques, and performed hands on training. Over 40 people attended the trail building school, and began cutting the new re-route trail in Pittstown.
Since August, SMBA volunteers have continued the construction of the new trail in Pittstown. When finished the trail will be nearly 2 miles long with 250’ of elevation gain, flowing through a wide open Red Pine forest. The trail is turning out amazingly well. The techniques learned during the IMBA school are being put to work, and the trail is becoming a showpiece of proper trail building for the Capital District!
SMBA has many plans in mind for the future in Pittstown. We are currently working with the NYSDEC to develop a long term trail plan for the forest. Preliminary plans have been approved to build 2 new trails in 2012!
If you’re interested in getting more involved with SMBA or helping out on the trails in Pittstown State Forest you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.