Building more miles of trail at Cosca.

Images and text submitted by Austin Steo, Cosca Liaison

While many may not be aware of the trails at Cosca now, or haven’t bothered to check them out when they’ve heard about it, Trail Conservancy is continuing to build out a redesigned trail system there. With a $40,000 grant from the Recreational trails Program, machine built trail is being created now. Only 15 minutes southwest of Rosaryville there exists six new miles of trail we built several years ago. The new Cosca trails can be compared to a cross between Rosaryville and Fairland. As I am also the MORE trail liaison for Cosca, MORE volunteers are an important part of the construction effort, either by corridor clearing or doing finish work on the fresh cut tread. In addition, the volunteer hours are a valuable match required for our grant. This is a collaborative effort.

We’ll be scheduling a MORE trail work day or two soon.  If you have time and want to come out and help do some finish work on the new trails before we schedule a weekend trail workday, please let me know. Otherwise keep a look out for the scheduled volunteer work day for some upcoming weekend–winter weather permitting.

The rest of this post will be long because there are many levels to the end result of your tires rolling across dirt somewhere, but also because my full-time effort trying to get trail doesn’t leave a lot of time for much needed social media or marketing, so I’m trying to get it all at once here and let others respond who have some history.

When I was the Maryland Advocacy Director for MORE in the early 2000’s, I began developing the trail system at Rosaryville.  About half the trail system was handbuilt by volunteers, some existing trail was temporarily kept for future redesign and then we started hiring IMBA Trail Solutions to build the rest so it would get done sooner and we could all ride it sooner rather than later.

For Rosaryville, at that time we did not have a lot of trail in the region that was open to mountain biking. There was still resistance to our way of using trails from both the general public and the park departments, and a lack of knowledge about sustainable trail design that could also include the interest of mountain biking. They can coexist. Of course, there are also those who simply did not like to share the trails with bikes, and not all of them have come around yet either. Lack of understanding was also from the mountain by community, regarding avoiding writing muddy trails, trail user courtesy or how legitimate trails didn’t just magically appear out of thin air, but required some motivated tenacious volunteer/liaison/liaison to be (not including those dug in by ORV’s, do it yourselfers with nowhere else to ride, and old fire and farm roads that simply were adopted as trails, but never designed for trail use.

Every park has different potential for trail, for volunteers, location challenges for general public access, and each has their own construction needs–sometimes all volunteer, sometimes partially built by volunteers, sometimes all machine built, and some combination of the two.

Some park managers and mtbr’s will look at a park location and say, who wants to go there? Some may say the park only has a couple miles and I’ve never heard of it. Well, the Rosaryville trail system did not exist 15 years ago, Fairland trail system didn’t exist 15 years ago, Emmitsburg trail system–still in development–didn’t exist five years ago. “Build it and they will come” applies to these. And I’m only mentioning ones that I personally helped design and build, there are many other trails systems in our area that MORE members and liaisons worked on or working on that did not exist until recently. It’s hard to motivate volunteers out to a place that they either never heard about, or doesn’t already have a lot of miles to ride, or doesn’t have a huge vacuum like baconland has. With Rosaryville only 15 minutes away from Cosca, some people still are unwilling to make the trip until we get enough mileage. I get it. Everyone values their free time and where they spend it. But that will soon change. Even with what we have, in the last two years we we’ve had an increasing number of volunteers turn out.

Rosaryville was a large chunk of public land with no trail system that had a locked gate on 301 for half the year. When I first explored what was there and realized the potential I reached out to some of my mountain bike friends, Martin and Dan, to get them excited. That portion of Prince Georges County had a vacuum. Maybe not quite as big a vacuum as the one there is in Anne Arundel County because we had the mellow trails of Cedarville not far away, but still there was no other place to go that had enough mileage like Cedarville. The only Park in the area that had some trail was Cosca. But for those who rode Cosca back in those days, you can remember why you didn’t come back. All it takes is having only a few miles of poor quality trails to put revisiting there again very low on any list. And by the time we started rebuilding the trail there in 2011, most of the trails had virtually disappeared from lack of use. I was first introduced to the old Cosca trails when on a ride led by MORE’s oldest mountain biker, and pro bono legal expert, Dave Scull in the late 1990’s. There ought to be a book written about Dave’s history in support of mountain biking in Maryland. The trails were just a hodgepodge of segments in lousy eroding locations, but surrounding them was relatively good flowy terrain with some elevation. I began by getting a grant for IMBA to develop a trail system redesign map. Once I started Trail Conservancy and left the MORE board, I continued by obtaining a grant to start rebuilding the trail system. 6 miles of new trail later, and the 2 to 3 miles we?re building now, and another grant to build a few more miles this spring will ratchet the total up to over 10. In the end we may have 14 to 15 miles in total.  Also on tap is a large dedicated mountain bike skills area. The bigger picture, which will take a bit longer, is a trail connection between Rosaryville and Cosca. PGCo Epic??? And while night riding has not been developed here yet, there’s a campground at Cosca, so night rides could include sleepovers. For parents, there’s a skateboard for those with kids that don’t want to ride bikes with you. That doesn?t happen?

Whether you’re making bacon, or Patapsco sauce, it takes someone to spearhead that effort who is willing to spend countless hours and years for that to begin, or see it thru to completion. And just like everyone can have their own opinion about how they would do something different if they were trying to make it happen or the personality of that person or their approach to making it happen, the bottom line is that they persisted and volunteered their time, their effort, their gas money to go to meetings, write letters and make phone calls to make it happen. The reason I say this is that Cosca is one of those projects. And like other recent examples, when you see bacon sizzling and hot sauce spreading, there was somebody behind it, and maybe they motivated you to come out to help be involved in the trail you will ride someday.

If your a mountain biker who wants to give back, consider volunteering for a trail workday, be MORE liaison, be a board member, be a park manager, be a county councilman, be delegate, senator or a president (Ok, that actually already happened, and GWB rode Rosaryville in 2010) and ensure that when trails are built they don’t exclude mountain bikes.

I put more history in here than may be needed and self-serving, but for a purposes. Since I don’t have any staff or volunteers at this time to do marketing I think it would help people to know that what we are doing is not just some little side venture, the trails we?re building at Cosca has been a long time in the making and myself and Trail Conservancy have a long history making trail. In fact have built over 40 miles of trail in our region in the last five years in places like the Patapsco Thru Trail, Little Bennett, Fairland, Seneca Ridge, Seneca Bluff, The Swoop Trail at Schaffer’s south end, Emmitsburg and Cosca in addition to trail designed and built by others.

I knew most of you’ve heard this before but needs to be said again, the current MORE board members are volunteers. If you have followed any of the history of MORE, you will see all past and present board members have done much to support mountain biking, the current board especially. And if you didn’t like or don’t like which way something is happening or is not happening, the election is your opportunity to both participate and support those who you agree with. If there’s limited candidates, that’s only because you have not volunteered yet. No pressure, we know we all have busy lives, just like the current board members do too. Just saying.

We at trail conservancy need volunteers also. We are a nonprofit 501(c)(3). More is a nonprofit 501(c)(3). We both need your help. I am not only representing Trail Conservancy, but I am a MORE liaison for three parks. At some point–usually when the trails finally get built out and finished–we need someone to step up and keep the volunteers and maintenance going for all trail users into the future, including your kids, visitors from out of state, and newbies like we all once were.

Trail Conservancy needs support in marketing, Facebook, writing and fundraising. In addition, we are searching for a professional accountant who preferably understands nonprofits. So, if you can help in any of those areas, please let me know.

Thanks for whatever support you can give, even if just making a point to tell park managers you love the trails MORE and Trail Conservancy built and you’ll come back again.

Austin Steo
Trail Conservancy, Inc.

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