With the blunt and honest self-reflection unique to teenagers, Ben Pino, 15, summarized what many Spokane-area mountain bikers must have felt last week as fires burned the Beacon Hill and Camp Sekani areas.
“I almost started crying when I saw the smoke,” Pino said. “Because I thought it was going to get the jumps.”
On Monday, Pino and 26 others trekked along the network of mountain biking trails near Beacon Hill. The volunteers surveyed the damage the Upriver Beacon Fire did to the popular mountain biking trails.
And they started to rebuild.
The fire, which forced hundreds of evacuations, burned 115 acres and destroyed three structures but didn’t burn the mountain biking jumps. It did impact a number of mountain biking trails between Camp Sekani and Beacon Hill, said Nate Hutchens, president of Evergreen East Mountain Bike Alliance.
The trails affected include segments of Bastard Son, Rabid Rabbit, Carousel, Simple Tools, Upper Old School, Ronald Reagan Parkway and Animal Tractors, Hutchens wrote in an email.
Many of those trails are used as connecting trails between Camp Sekani’s downhill trails and Beacon Hill’s downhill trails. The Camp Sekani parking area, maintenance shed, event field, downhill area and skills park were not damaged.
On Monday, volunteers filled holes left from felled trees and tried to remark trails.
“Currently, a biker could point their bike straight down the hill without any impediment,” Hutchens said.
The dirt is too dry for any serious trail work to be done, said David Goode the Evergreen East Mountain Bike Alliance operations manager. Instead, volunteers focused on remaking existing trails in an effort to keep riders from creating their own trails. Because much of the underbrush and smaller trees were immolated in the fire, Goode said riders will be tempted to carve their own lines.
“That’s going to be our Facebook message,” Goode said. “Don’t break trail. Don’t break trail.”
In an effort to redirect enterprising riders, volunteers pushed downed trees to block tempting turns and built small dirt berms to try to keep riders on track. The trails were largely unaffected by the fire because the hard-packed dirt surfaces have no vegetation.
Some trails were damaged by fire lines built to contain the fire, Hutchens said.
“It’s going to need quite a bit of work,” Goode said. “But until we get more moisture, we can’t do anything.”
Volunteers also made sure the trails were safe to ride, Hutchens said.
“Overall, the damage could have been so much worse,” he said.
Hutchens added that Evergreen East will offer its volunteer services in future reforestation efforts in the area.
The volunteers ranged in age and experience, although all were pulled together by a common love for the extensive network of mountain biking trails 20 minutes from downtown.
Alexey Florianovich has been riding for 17 years. On Monday, he sawed through a dangerously leaning tree.
“Wow, this is so different,” he said of the trails that snaked between the skeletal trees.
His steps sent up plumes of ash and dust.
Florianovich said volunteering is his way of giving back to the trails he’s come to love.
Plus, it’s a way to preserve and protect trails he hopes his children ride someday.
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