LocoJason, thanks for the comps on the NCT from M-20 north earlier this year.
I have two request from MMBA riders as you ride from M-20 north to Nichols Lake. First, many of you have probably noticed a bit of work on the section from Pierce Rd to Croswell the past 12 months. Included in this work has been some rerouting of the trail and the installation of some stiles. This has been done to eliminate the illegal horse riding that has been taking place on this section of trail, along with potential enforcement action by the Forest Service. While none of us, hiker or bikers, like horses degrading the trail experience, this work was also done because of the impact trail sedimentation was having upon the four cold-water feeder stream that cross the trail in this section.
My request is that riders honor the stiles and the "please dismount here" signs. These were installed with conservation in mind. It has come to our attention that a lot of bike traffic has been circumventing the southernmost stile. As a result, I expect this stile is no longer an effective barrier for horses seeking to access the NCT from the end of Parson Road. Please help us preserve that trail and the ecology of the habitat by resisting shortcuts.
Second, we are also aware that someone is also conducting some illegal chainsaw work along this section of trail. This results in hazardous conditions as blowdowns are incorrectly or insufficiently removed. Instead, we would prefer that riders report blowdowns to the Western Michigan Chapter NCTA for removal. We have adopters who are out maintaining the trails three times a year, and a summer roving mowing and chainsaw crew. These folks would be happy to take care of any noted problems.
The problem with uncoordinated volunteers using chainsaw is not just an safety and standards issue, but it also results in people not reporting hazardous conditions because they feel things have already been "fixed." As a result, substandard and hazardous tree removal situations often go unreported for far longer than necessary, posing a prolonged accident risk to riders and hikers. We shudder every time we come across a blowdown that has been insufficiently addressed, thinking about the injuries that could happen to riders from incorrect clearances, sharp points, etc.
Please also be aware that one must be trained and certified to run a chainsaw on Forest Service lands. If you would like to take the class and exam, can finder a trained "swamper" to work with you, and would like to coordinate with NCTA to help, please let us know.
Thanks for your cooperation, and enjoy your ride!
Volunteer Trail Manager
Western Michigan Chapter NCTA