CAMDEN, Maine — It was a short, steep hike through uphill fields of ferns before John and Jeff reached the mucky problem.
John Anders, the president of the midcoast’s chapter of the New England Mountain Bike Association looked down at a small foot bridge.
“Super muddy. Super ruddy. A lot of water overflow,” Anders said, shaking his baseball-hat covered head.
“But mud is fun,” said fellow mountain biker, Jeff Senders.
“Yeah. Mud is fun. If you don’t come back a little muddy, you didn’t do it right,” Anders laughed.
But Ragged Mountain, also known as the Camden Snow Bowl, could face erosion if water drainage isn’t dealt with properly. That’s one of the reasons about 15 people headed to the lush, green mountain Saturday to volunteer to clean and fix trails, including building foot bridges over muck. The event was part of National Trails Day.
According to Camden’s parks and recreation director, Jeff Kuller, more than 300,000 people helped around the county with National Trails Day last year.
“We’re a year-round recreation facility and trails are a lot of what we’re about,” Kuller said as he stood at the base of the mountain Saturday morning. “Virtually all the trails — other than the alpine ski trails — were built by volunteers.”
The municipally-owned side of the mountain boasts about seven trails, but they’re all interconnected. Nearby, two different land trusts own dozens more trails on the mountain, which will be connected to the Snow Bowl in the near future, creating a large network of Camden trails.
This is good for organizations like the mountain biking club.
“This is the only legal access we have. These trails are hugely important,” Anders said.
Senders lives a stone’s throw away from the mountain. For him, mountain biking along the dirt trails is stress relief.
“This is easy access to a lot of fun and good exercise,” Senders said. “I can grab my bike from the basement, ride up the mountain for 2 hours and be back for lunch.”
“Yeah,” added Anders. “It’s therapeutic. Therapeutic — that’s the best way to say it.”
Without volunteers like Anders and Senders, trails could grow wild quickly, according to Jay Astle, the stewardship program manager for Georges River Land Trust. The land trust’s trails on the mountain will soon be connected to the Snow Bowl’s trails.
“People will come to the Snow Bowl and they’ll have a whole mountain,” as opposed to the half-mountain they have now, Astle said. “But we rely heavily on volunteer support.”
Astle said his land trust can only dedicate two staff members to trails.
“It would be impossible for a staff of two people to keep up with this without volunteers.”