Closer to Home: Single track to my heart

Editor’s note: once a week for the next bit here at Transforming Edmonton we’re sharing some of our favourite places in the city. The pandemic has shortened the travel horizon for many. And that’s okay, because there are plenty of gems in different parts of our city that are worth a visit. Each week a different City of Edmonton team member gives you a story about a fave spot closer to home. This is Laura Henderson’s view.

Massive smiles. Words of encouragement. Positive culture. New friends. This has been my experience of singletrack trails in Edmonton.

They’re a hidden and a ridden gem.

Singletrack trails are the narrow, twisty-turny, up-and-downy unpaved trails, typically in the river valley trees or along the riverbank, that extend over roots and rocks from the southwest to the northeast corner of our city, and beyond into the neighbouring region.

They feel less manicured than asphalt, and closer to nature. They’re about the width of a bicycle itself.

Earning my descent

We live in a city of 1 million and growing, but, when I’m riding the trails and in the dirt and among the leaves, I feel like I’m far, far away from the busy streets.

It’s more rustle than hustle and bustle.

I’m not the only one. These trails are used and loved by many—trail running enthusiasts and families exploring, too.

Emily on one of our favourite trails: Six Shooter.

A favourite of mine is the trail called Six Shooter. In the lingo, you’d call it “blue flow,” which describes cruisy trails with flowing turns and rollercoaster-like hills. I can leave my apartment in downtown Edmonton, be on a trail in five minutes, and climbing up Six Shooter to earn my descent in 15.

Giving back

I wanted to better understand who I have to thank for the joy.

So, thank you Edmonton Mountain Bike Alliance and City of Edmonton staff who work together to make these trails possible.

The alliance is a non-profit society dedicated to advocating for and improving mountain biking in Edmonton. In 2019 they hosted 30 Trail Days, with 406 Volunteers logging over 994 hours on 57 km of Edmonton’s trails.

They removed 40 dead trees that had fallen over trails.

Their community is growing as people put down roots in Edmonton. The number of volunteers has nearly doubled since 2016. Riding clubs, many out of local bike shops, get together to give back to the trails on trail maintenance nights.

The positive results of well executed trail maintenance in the Edmonton River Valley.

“A great community group to work with”

“Reach out to EMBA, become a volunteer, bring your ideas to them,” Braeden Holmstrom, Team Lead within River Valley and Horticulture at the City of Edmonton, told me.

“This year we have completed maintenance on dozens of trails already,” Braeden said. “EMBA is a great community group to work with. They care about building a network that will last. They want to continue to maintain and build a quality and sustainable trail network in Edmonton.”

Keeping the trails close to nature requires a formal approval process behind the scenes. Things that singletrack riders take in while enjoying life on the trails are things the environmental planners and geotechnical experts pore over. How to best manage water, mud and vegetation? How to protect wildlife habitat?

All of these crucial questions and more point the way to a low-impact trail system that will last for others, like me, to discover.

Follow us, join us

Joe Yurkovic, President of the Edmonton Mountain Bike Alliance, thanked the organization’s volunteers for making life better here.

“Nature lovers, hikers, trail runners, cyclists and visitors to our city all benefit from our trail maintenance partnership with the City of Edmonton,” Joe told me. “We’re always looking for more people who love the trails and want to give back, so follow us on social media and join us on an Open Trail Day.”

Find EMBA here.

Happy trails to you

In a time that keeps us closer to home, I have found a space where I feel safe and free and refreshed. I have lived in Edmonton for 10 years and had no idea that this massive natural amusement park existed.

Trail building is an art. It requires a great deal of thought and energy and time. Thank you to everyone who has contributed to improving and building healthy trails.

Thank you to everyone who has invested themselves in this sport and these trails and for giving us all another reason to love Edmonton.

Smiles all around!