Why Trash Free Trails? It’s a good and valid question. I could simply respond with a simple ‘why not’, killing any conversation, using an abrupt one line that adds no value to anyone, even myself.
So let’s begin.
Looking back, I can remember Surfers Against Sewage back to my youth, despite never living near the coast. I liked what they did, but never got involved. Meeting some of the team at Boardmasters in 2011 and 2012 (when I was representing GoPro) I got to meet a few of the crew and was able to get a better feel for what they were about. Fast forward through a few years again and Protect Our Winters caught my imagination for different and similar reasons. This time, despite never being active in snow sports, I took on a volunteer role as a social media admin for the UK arm. A year on and here we are.
I contacted Dom Ferris, the vision behind Trash Free Trails and a senior member of SAS (it’s all beginning to make sense/complete circle) as I was interested in getting involved. As a trail runner and rider, I feel strongly about protecting and looking after my local trails, moreover, those throughout the UK and abroad. Finally, TFT offered an organisation I could get fully involved with, I live a mile from my local trailhead, I can see the direct impact of the collectives work and it provides me the opportunity to get involved with the local community.
For a time, I was part of the local digging crew, maintaining our Red graded trail, running our social media and taking photos. When we had issues with logging, forestry work and prolonged down time, I stepped away, as 12 months on, we had no clear vision or instructions. I spent that time running and riding the trails, and it became more apparent, that bridging gaps across trail user communities, establishing there is a need for riders, runners, walkers and all other groups, to play their part in picking up litter, moreover, not dropping it in the first place.
MTB can get a bad wrap. We are still a young sport and there is an element of communities that see us as antisocial, littering, wrecking trails and many other labels I am sure many of you reading have read or heard in the past. Of course, there is a degree of truth, but as will all society, there are different factions who chose to operate in different ways. One of the best ways we can put out some of these fires and cement the riding community as positive contributors is to look after our trails, refrain from littering, getting involved with legitimate dig days, respecting other users and looking at the bigger picture.
With a lot of legitimate trails falling on private land; building, maintaining and above all growing relationships with land owners, those managing the land, user groups and the communities they are situated in is key to future land access and establishing our position in the community.
Having worked in the UK mtb industry for 7 years, I have seen the rise in riders, bikes, kit, bike parks and trail centres. There has never been a better time to fly the flag for our community and we are also seeing brands taking active roles in promoting the sport and the people behind it.
I’m also an active trail runner and media squid in the world of ultra and mountain running. We (trail runners) have the same affinity for trails, utilise the same sports nutrition and given for many, we like to run off trail, in the mountains, can see the effects of litter on trails, where even the most biodegradable products, both natural and manmade, take decades to break down. It has been epic to see increasing numbers of races go cupless, putting an end to endless white plastic one use cups at aid stations, disqualification if you are found to be littering and just like the mtb race community, race directors are going out of their way to clear up taping, signs and race HQ/Paddock rubbish.
May runners ride and runners run. I can see benefits to cross user group activation and ownership.
I’m stoked to be on board. Spreading our stoke, showing that we aren’t here to look down on those who misuse the trail, but encouraging everyone to drop in rather than drop trash, will keep the riding sweet and the trail networks growing.
To find out more about Trash Free Trails – Click HERE