Snakecharmer

A new mountain-bike trail hardly seems like a big deal. And, in and of itself, it is not. But as an example of how things can work, it is outstanding. For this is how you build a great community: one step at a time, with cooperation between forward-thinking government and public-spirited residents.

As The Durango Herald reported Thursday, local mountain-bike riders have a new and innovative trail to enjoy. Called Snakecharmer, it is in the Horse Gulch recreational area east of downtown Durango. It will formally open today.

Horse Gulch already has a number of trails, but this one comes with an imaginative twist. Called a “progressive” trail, it is designed and built in such a way as to accommodate riders of all skill levels. It features three “option lines,” short sections that branch off and allow riders to choose simple or challenging paths. Think “easy way down” signs at ski areas.

With that, riders of all skill levels – and presumably all ages – can use and enjoy the trail. That not only opens it up to more people, it allows novice mountain bikers to learn and develop their skills and technical ability. Also akin to ski area practice, the different levels of difficulty are indicated by colored signs – in this case, blue circles for intermediate, black for expert terrain.

The trail itself consist of a mix of dirt sections, a large slickrock area and places where large rocks have been arranged almost like puzzle pieces. Called “rock armoring,” it helps preserve steeper parts of the trail that could otherwise be damaged by erosion.

Snakecharmer is just less than a mile long. To get to it, mountain bikers can ride up Horse Gulch Road and take Rocky Road trail up Raider Ridge. Advanced riders can get there by way of the Skyline trail.

But how it came together is the best part. Snakecharmer was designed by Tyson Swasey of Moab, whose experience includes building other progressive trails in Utah. Overall, he worked on the trail for a total of four weeks. The project was overseen by Trails 2000, whose volunteers worked with Swasey for 16 days. And the city of Durango contributed $2,500 for Swasey’s work.

What a great model for local projects. We have an active group of volunteers, a guy who took the time to learn an esoteric and unusual design skill and a city government with the imagination to recognize that the money involved is both paltry in a municipal sense and a smart investment that will pay off over time. This sort of process, which can be applied to all kinds of attributes and concerns, is a splendid model for creating community and developing amenities that, directly or indirectly, benefit us all and make Durango such a great place to live.

That a single trail is no big deal is not an argument to the contrary but rather goes right to the point. No single pat on the head makes a child a responsible adult. No one nail holds together a house. Good more often comes from the cumulative effects of a great many relatively minor actions, thoughts, words and works. Snakecharmer is merely an example. But it is a good one.

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