There was a workday at Matson Hill this weekend. Apparently not a lot of people knew about it. There were some conflicts with a few big events, namely the Ouachita Challenge, and the Ozark Trail Mega Event, but clearly, having only 12 or so people show at a park which is slated to have perhaps the most singletrack in the metro area was less than we hoped for.
Several of us had to leave early, so we decided to meet before the scheduled 9 am start so there would still be enough time to get some work done. Mike Dunston showed Glenn Meyer and me the planned reroute that we would be working on, and we went and looked at the reroute that was done last month to see how it was holding up.
The thing that struck me most was the current condition of the trail. Mike, Craig Seibert and St. Charles County Parks work hard to keep the trail in good shape, but the fact is, the trail is starting to show the effects of design decisions made 10 years ago, and heavier use. While we're all in favor of rocks an roots in a trail to provide a bit of an extra challenge, as Mike pointed out, the appearance of so many new ones, along with erosion channels, in a trail that has been used and packed down for 10 years is somewhat troubling.
The character of this trail is going to change. That's not a bad thing, but the days of going to Matson for its lung-busting climbs are coming to an end. A reroute a few years ago eliminated one unsustainable climb, and the new reroute will bypass the last fall-line climb in favor of more gradual lower line. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, once the park has 12-14 miles of singletrack, it will inevitably draw more traffic, something which this climb would not stand up to very well. One reason Matson has been able to get by is that it has historically seen fewer users than Klondike or Lost Valley. I can remember 5 years ago when I always had the park to myself. I almost never saw anyone else there. I almost always run into someone there now. Another reason is that some of the steep climbs have become sluices for water. Severe erosion is occurring, and the trail is in as bad a state from a sustainability perspective as I have ever seen. Fortunately, Mike and Craig are on top of things in preparing for the expansion of the park's trails.
Matson is going to be a very fun place to ride with lots of mileage, but it's going to take a long time to get that much trail built. If you can spare the time, please come out and help. The next workday there will be some time in the Fall.