By Emma Castleberry
There’s no doubt that mountain biking trails are a crucial part of our region’s appeal and economy, and Pisgah Area SORBA (PAS) is a volunteer organization dedicated to maintaining and improving those trails. “Recreation opportunities like mountain biking are important for the health and well-being of communities,” says Daniel Sapp, vice president of PAS. “Trails also help support our economy as many people travel here to explore and experience the abundant natural resources we have in WNC.”
SORBA stands for Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association, a collection of more than 40 dedicated mountain bike groups. The largest nonprofit mountain biking organization in the southeast, SORBA’s mission is to promote land access, trail
preservation and new trail development for all mountain bikers. The organization is proactive in community outreach, engaging and educating riders on how to care for the natural spaces where they play. PAS also raises funds for large trail work projects often completed in partnership with the US Forest Service. For example, PAS is working with the USFS and Pisgah Conservancy to realign a large section of heavily used and eroding trail in the Pisgah National Forest. It will be re-worked over the next year alongside the ongoing upkeep of the hundreds of multi-use trails in the Forest.
Trail maintenance is especially important in our region, a temperate rainforest that receives heavy rainfall every year. Trails that are great for mountain biking tend to be steep and often have loose, rocky soil. When you add water, it’s a perfect recipe for erosion, fallen trees and washed-out bridges. There are simple ways to avoid such damage, namely by ensuring that water can flow off and away from the trail during heavy rain. “As trivial as moving some leaves and brush around and out of a drain that looks like a glorified ditch may seem, it’s actually really important,” says Sapp. “It’s something that has to be constantly done to keep trails in good shape and prevent more major work from having to happen.” Much of this trail maintenance happens during PAS Trail Work Days, which are open to volunteers of all ability levels, even those with no previous trail work experience.
Volunteer Jack Henderson first learned about PAS in 2017 at one such event. The PAS mission of maintaining trails in the Pisgah Ranger District is important to Henderson “because it acknowledges that the US Forest Service, the official land manager for these trails and associated roads and trailheads, has limited resources to maintain trails and create new trails, and thus steps up to fill in the gaps in stewardship,” he says. “By volunteering time and resources to maintain trail, it gives the organization’s leadership—and by extension, its membership—a seat at the table when the land managers make decisions that affect PAS constituency (mountain bikers). I like to have a seat at the table, and I am willing to put in the work to earn that position.”
For more information or to sign up for a Trail Work Day, visit PisgahAreaSORBA.org.