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Talkin' Trail 

It's still too muddy to ride some of Central Oregon's trails, but in the meantime, Bend becomes a gathering point for trail builders from all over

It's a busy time of year for trail builders all over North America. Every year, more and more communities are seeing the impact on health, happiness, and economy that comes from creating access to good forest trails. Because of this, there's an ever-expanding need for further education of the professionals within the industry.

Last week, professionals in the trails industry descended upon Bend to participate in this year's sustainable trails conference, put on by the Professional Trail Builders Association (PTBA). The national organization includes over 80 private sector businesses that design, build or consult in the building and maintaining of trails. Land managers and trail professionals shared information about all topics trail, from designing long-distance mountain bike trails, to building trails where the mountains burn, to designing the ultimate pumptrack and the factors of risk management. The information sessions were a recreationist's ear and eye candy, covering the thoughts, practices, tools, and language that go into the construction and maintenance of sustainable trails and trail systems.

Newly elected PTBA president Jon Underwood opened the conference with a talk on where the trail industry is in 2017. With an almost constant building of new trails and improvement of existing trails, many businesses are working whenever weather isn't a factor.

At various sites, including Smith Rock, participants focused on trail assessment and terrain dynamics. At Tetherow, participants checked out the continuing construction of easement trails that connect Bend to the Phil's trail system. Other events took place at Seventh Mountain Resort, Tumalo State Park and Shevlin Park.

The official conference was held at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes, with lectures and networking sessions, as well as an indoor trade show and an outdoor demo area—a personal highlight for me.

In this ever-competitive industry of best practices and trade secrets, it's nice to see hundreds of trail professionals coming together to share a common language and goal of bringing consistency to a historically inconsistent practice.

As access to good trails becomes a bigger draw in both urban and rural communities, it's helpful to be able to adopt and share common practices that can be used in every new trail built by the individuals and organizations in attendance.

Trail users around Central Oregon have lots of new trails to check out, but as always, remember to check conditions before heading out to play, because sustainable recreation means not damaging trails when they are too wet to ride.

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