Are public trails a good thing?

City Dirt is about as public as trails get. Literally located a few hundred metres shy of the city centre in the south parklands of Adelaide it has been a perfect test case for public trails. As one of the main diggers for the past 7 years I have experienced about every pro and con the place has to offer. In the interests of finishing things on a positive note, I am going to start with the evil shit first;


The Cons

It’s pretty common to hear about builders of trail spots being salty or outright hostile to outsiders. Having put years of hard work into my own spot I can definitely relate; there is nothing that gets under my skin more than seeing people taking my time and effort for granted.


The Man - One of my dreams is to one day go way out bush to some remote perfect trail paradise and just dig by myself for three months. No distractions and no one telling me what I can and can't do. It's this mentality which makes digging on someone else's land hard. City Dirt is on Adelaide City Council land and as progressive as they are in comparison to many councils, red tape and other limitations always affect what is and isn’t possible for us to create.



Wear and tear - Some days I feel like if I have to argue with one more parent why little Jimmy can't use my freshly buttered lip as a slide I am going go insane. Combining this with the 12 year old riding his Huffy through every bowl as soon as there's any sign of mud compounds my stress and when the sun finally does come out, there’s plenty of dry riding to look forward to. I am sure this term was invented for City Dirt, because even the people who do make the effort to get the hose out will still leave it sitting at the edge of the trails long after the water has evaporated, just as surely destroying the once immaculate lips and landings.



Trail etiquette - When everything is done for you why should you respect it? This to me is one of the hardest attitudes to overcome. If I go to a new set of trails I don't even think of riding straight away. Having dug my own spot for so long I know how important it is to show builders elsewhere that I appreciate them and their work. Generally it’s as simple as watering, cleaning up rubbish, and helping with whatever else needs doing. The etiquette changes with the spot, as diggers will always have different ways of doing things: If it's a bike park that you pay to go to, like La Poma in Spain, you probably aren't expected to dig but if it’s private trails the first thing you should be doing is getting involved.


With a public spot like City Dirt, which is run by volunteers, it’s all about people showing some straightforward respect by watering the trails and putting rubbish in the bin. With loads of signs and publicity around City Dirt, it's often plain laziness that stops riders putting in even the least amount of work. Despite this, most seem genuinely surprised when they get the cold shoulder or some agro comments



The Pros

For me, the rewards of trails are what keeps me coming back. at this point I can’t separate who I am from what I do down at the jumps, it’s a massive part of my happiness and often what I dream about as I drift off to sleep at night.


Variation keeps it fresh - Just like your new bike or a over watched movie, trails can also become stale. I feel this is not the case at City Dirt simply because it is so public; almost every time I am there I meet someone new. BMX racers, DH racers, weekend warriors, travelling trails hessians, locals, pro BMX and MTB freestyle riders all come to shred. There are two sides to this, number one being the good times: Put simply, having different people around is fun and interesting. Someday's I might be talking with a rider who regularly stands on world cup podiums and another day I might be talking with an English trail boss about their local spot. The second side is the entertaining and educational aspect: Seeing how all these different people can be connected by something you’ve created and all the different ways they ride is fucking rad. Simply said if I had my own private trails this stuff just would not be possible in the same way.



The Crew - Trails ain't trails without the crew. But as anyone who has tried to hold down a spot would know it's hard to keep a crew together. People can get salty, People can get hurt and become soft or just plain and simple move on to other things. Because our spot is so central and available for anyone to come down, we always have people that are down to dig or ride. I think of the City Dirt Crew like an onion: At the centre are the dedicated peeps and then there are multiple layers of crew around this. I feel that this is only truly possible with public trails where everyone is welcome.



The Man - I know I know. How can it be a good thing? Well the reality is that the majority of us live in cities and we just don't have enough space for our own private trails. The Adelaide City Council have given us a slice of prime city parklands where we can create and ride without the constant threat of demolition. To top it off, they’re always happy to work with us on whatever new idea we’ve dreamt-up, often even giving us the tools to achieve it. An example of just how good we have it is our water situation; the council have installed four water points around the park which gives such easy access to water that one person can have the whole park watered in under an hour. What's more, if there is a problem like a leaking tap I don't have to fix it, I just contact the council plumber. I imagine trying to do this by myself on my own land on top of commitments like the 9-5 and family and realise just how good we have it here.

Sometimes keeping the trails running can feel like it's going to mentally break me, but when I look at how far things have come or I’m having a golden hour session surrounded by mates it all seems to fade away. While it definitely hasn’t always been easy or straightforward, i have no doubt it's all worth it in the end. For me public trails are a win.