“Trails don’t appear from nowhere. We don’t have a right to trails; we need to work at them.” It’s this belief that drove organizer Scott Forsyth to start up the Church of Dirt — an informal group of volunteers who assist the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society (KCTS) in building new trails. As a trail user in Ontario, Scott recognized the need for community involvement in developing a trail system, building trails and maintaining the sustainability of the network. He worked for years as both a trail builder and trail advocate while in Ontario, eventually being a key leader in the formation of the Ottawa Mountain Bike Association. He brought this passion and volunteerism for trail building to Rossland and in August 2013, in cooperation with the KCTS, formed the Church of Dirt.
Volunteers of all ages successfully completed one trail and have made large strides on a second. In an effort to ensure trails are built to similar standards, allowing for the Kootenay Columbia Trails Society to adopt the trails into their network, Scott was in regular contact with trails manager Stewart Spooner throughout the summer. Stewart said of the group, “It’s been great working with Scott and the Church of Dirt volunteers. Having a group of dedicated volunteers prepared to focus on our high priority trail development projects is a huge bonus for the KCTS. They’re doing high quality work and, as the new Drifter trail has shown, there is high demand for more moderate and accessible trails close to town.”
Working with the KCTS wasn’t even a question of “if” for Scott but a matter of “how”; “It’s the only way to build legal trails,” he said. With land-owner agreements in place, a plan for the trail network and standards on trail construction, Stewart would flag out an area that Scott would fine-tune during his build. Scott also noted how his evolution in trail building knowledge has expanded — building in this area has proven significantly different than the rocky, Canadian Shield ground he’s used to working with.
Stewart is happy with the completion of one trail — coined “Drifter” as per a recent KCTS contest. It parallels Centennial Trail and provides an option back to the trailhead. Developed as a beginner-friendly trail, it provides another option for new riders to learn on but serves as a fun, swift rip for intermediate or advanced riders just out to have fun.
On the second to last evening of Church of Dirt, eight volunteers were gathered to get dusty and turn some dirt. “We need to get to the mineral soil,” Scott informed the group. “This is the soil that will allow the trail to be solid and not wash out.” After a briefing on safety and trail building, the crew got to work removing rocks and brushing, raking and tossing dirt in an effort to create a trail that will allow for an alternative route up Monte Christo Road to Techno Grind, Snake or Yellow Submarine.
With summer truly coming to an end, Scott wishes to thank all of the volunteers who came out during the summer to help complete Drifter and begin progress on the second trail. Looking forward to next season, he hopes the group is able to grow and stresses the need for trail users — hikers and bikers alike — to get involved in a fun, low stress way that will help strengthen the current trail network.