What are Trails Associations?
Trails associations are rider driven groups, sometimes with charitable status, that are dedicated to the stewardship and development of the mountain bike trail network in their area and acts as an advocate on behalf of riders in their local area.
They promote a culture of responsibility amongst users of the trail network and generate funds to invest back into the trails and the local community.
They work closely with the landowner/manager helping to improve the trails, make them safer (without sanitising them) and, when trust and relationships are built up, will begin to build trails with permissions from landowners.
How do we support Trails Associations?
We provide support to Trails Associations across Scotland helping, especially where we have regional co-ordinators, to provide start-up funding for the groups providing them with trail inspecting, maintenance and building training courses, first aid courses, governance advice, buying tools and protective clothing, and cover insurance.
Obviously, access to land is crucial to the work of Trails Associations - we provide support and a recognised/respected voice which helps agreements to be reached with landowners, largely through Memorandum of Understandings (MoU's).
Once groups are up and running we help promote sessions, spread good practice, and aid group collaboration through a national trails association virtual meeting, and help share templates of documents/policies (eg risk assessments, MoU’s, insurance documents etc).
What work do Trails Association’s do?
Associations have a planned approach to the maintenance of existing trails in their area, often ‘adopting’ trails from the landowner and taking over any agreed improvements. They will discuss and agree new trail options with land managers and utilise organised trail building sessions, with volunteers, to carry out any work needed.
Why are Trails Associations so important?
In early 2017, Forestry and Land Scotland and Scottish Land & Estates tabled a paper to the National Access Forum expressing their concerns about the level of unauthorised trails which were being constructed across Scotland.
The paper resulted in a site visit to the Tweed Valley and a sub-group was formed to look further into the issue. At DMBinS we were very concerned that the benefits of the rider led/hand-built trail network would not be appreciated and that there may be risks to our access rights in Scotland.
We provided a robust defence, engaged the mountain bike community in the process and led the drafting of the ‘Unauthorised Trails Guidance’ which was published in November 2018 by the National Access Forum.
Part of our defence was that we could evidence that groups had approached landowners to maintain and build, using hand tools and minimal construction, trails but were met with a complicated and bureaucratic process that would require them to either lease or take out a community asset transfer on the land. Whilst we agreed that in some instances a lease or CAT should remain as an option we agreed that a framework to help mountain bikers engage with landowners would be beneficial.
One of the four options is for formally set up groups, such as trails associations, to be able to support landowners to manage trails. They can then provide landowners and land managers with risk assessments, inspections and maintenance programmes which effectively help them lower the risks of these trails in terms of liability, particularly looking at areas of concern such as crossing points and trail exits.
It also helps build relationships and ensures that we keep, and grow, our amazing trail network in Scotland – giving us the trails we want to ride and helping landowners mitigate the risks and negative impact of these trails.
Trails Associations are a massive step forward as we can now manage trails, build relationships and help us mitigate risks affecting us as land managers.
How riders can get involved?
Simply, volunteer! Contact your local association, register your interest, sign up for digs, volunteer for courses. Often they need people for committee of board positions too.
We also need your support at a national level to continue our work with Trails Associations through the Scottish Trail Fund. We hope you can spare your time or hard earned to help sustain and grow the network in Scotland.
If you would like to start a Trails Association in your area then please get in touch via our Contact page.
You may also like
Our Strategic Projects
Guide to creating pump tracks and purpose built trails
Unauthorised MTB Trails Guidance
Trail building courses (DIRTT)
More of what we do
Mountain biking can play a role in making Scotland healthier. By increasing participation, through targeted programmes, we aim to help make our amazing country a healthier and happier nation.
Our work focuses on building on our key destination's strengths, pushing for development and supporting areas and businesses to improve the experience for riders.
We work with Edinburgh Napier University, through MTBCOS, and our enterprise agencies - encouraging businesses to develop and promote new products and services for mountain bikers contributing significantly to the sustainable growth of Scotland’s economy.
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