Riding Mountain National Park is an island of wilderness in a sea of agriculture. The escarpment can be seen from quite a distance above the flat prairie landscape. Wagon and ski trails make up the bulk of the park’s network but there is also some singletrack to be found for hiking and mountain biking. In fact, the park has a very progressive attitude towards mountain biking and is working closely with mountain bikers to improve the trail offered. They demonstrate the highest level of cooperation with outside interest groups of any park we’ve seen. It’s a model that other parks should look at because the surrounding communities care earnestly for this park and feel a strong sense of ownership.

We held the classroom session at Elkhorn Resort’s beautiful conference facilities. They were very generous with us since they have an obvious interest in the park’s trails for use through their equestrian facilities. Present at the lecture were representatives from many surrounding town councils as well as provincial trail and recreation organizations. It’s encouraging to see that communities are realizing that trails are as important to their infrastructure as hockey rinks and swimming pools.

The trail we worked on during the weekend runs along the north shore of Clear Lake. The existing corridor skirts the crystal clear, groundwater-fed lake for seven kilometres. Daniel Scott from our Trail Solutions program was there in May to teach the park staff some sustainable building techniques. We began where he left off and plotted a benchcut reroute as well as a series of armoured crossings to drain a massive spring head that was turning the trail into a muddy mess. The reroute was pretty standard fare and the old corridor closed easily. Draining the water from the trail where the spring was located was another story. We’ve never seen so much water coming out of the side of a hill and it covered a large enough area that it was not practical to go around. Three armoured crossings using rock brought in by mechanical wheelbarrow were required to get the tread to start drying out. We returned the next day to do finishing work on the benchcut but the spring crossing will be completed next season with a little more imported material.

Richard and James, who manage Visitor Experience and Product Development respectively, went beyond the call of duty during the weekend to make it a success. We’d also like to give mention to Deron Ash from the Maintoba Escarpment Trail Society who volunteers in the park on a regular basis to provide his expertise and elbow grease in order to establish new singletrack on the east escarpment.