When it comes to off-trail vehicles, one thing is even more important than the type of vehicle, its maintenance, its brand or its model, something without which everything else would be impossible: safe and practicable trails. Several factors must be considered, including their constant maintenance in all seasons and the respect of this maintenance. It is with this in mind that I will present the basic rules related to our precious trails, regardless of their type, the club they belong to or even certain trails on state land such as Zecs.
If we talk about summer trail maintenance, there are several things to consider. First of all, a good quality summer trail requires a lot of maintenance every year. By maintenance, I mean ensuring that the trail remains passable and fun to use. This is often the main cost for FQCQ member clubs and also for the Zecs. It is important to ensure that the trail remains safe by strengthening the bridges that cross the various bodies of water, as this type of breakage can cost the lives of ATV riders.
Culverts must be checked, unclogged, properly lined and their openings must not be blocked by the hard work of beavers. Indeed, beavers make life really hard for culverts since their nature is to build dams everywhere, especially at the ends of culverts. As we are environmentalists, there is no question of eliminating the beavers, so we sometimes have to relocate them to another place, which requires the hiring of a trapper who knows how to work without hurting the animal. This practice still creates additional costs for the clubs.
Also, always make sure that trails are graded properly with a grader. There are different types of graders at different prices, depending on the means of each club. Grading consists of scraping off excess soil to level the trail while tapping it with a grader attached behind the tractor. This exercise brings out rocks of various sizes, which is where the work of the volunteers is appreciated for picking them up.
It is often necessary to repair portions of the trails in the spring following the snow melt. There are crevasses to fill, dirt to spread to level the trail, as well as extensive scraping to repair damage caused by offenders who do not respect the closing times during the melt. These offenders cause a lot of damage to our trails by creating deep coves, holes and crevices, which will be made worse by the melt and spring rains. It is therefore essential to respect the clubs’ requests when it comes time to stop using the trails for a few weeks in the spring. Take advantage of this time to do your vehicle maintenance! There is also the cutting of fallen trees that falls under the category of “trail maintenance” in any season.
The maintenance of winter trails that are not shared with snowmobile trails is a different story. Quad trails are maintained in the winter in a very different way than snowmobile trails. This is why snowmobilers never share their trails 100% with ATVers. You will understand that the snow is volatile, soft and easy to dig into while creating huge ruts very quickly.
Winter trail maintenance is essentially a constant leveling process, very costly in terms of gas and operators, when clubs have very few volunteers to do the work.
A quad trail, unlike a snowmobile trail, must have a hard bottom with as little snow as possible on it, keeping in mind that there must be enough snow to not damage the winter trail sections that pass over the fields. The tractor must scrape as much snow as possible off the sides, without removing too much, while tapping the snow hard with a quality winter grader or 4 season grader attached behind it. This is a precision job that requires a certain level of skill, as it makes it easy to break the path and make it impassable. It is important to wait several hours of cold weather after a winter grading before going on the trail with a quad to avoid digging up the trail immediately in snow that has not had time to harden. Trails get narrower in the winter, which makes the big 64″ wide side-by-sides, in my opinion, more difficult to maneuver on many sections of trail, especially when encountering other oncoming vehicles. It is much easier to get stuck in the winter. Civic-mindedness is required as well as mutual aid. The tractors of the various clubs also have a role of “rescuer” for people who have managed to get stuck too far away with vehicles that are difficult to lift or pull.
In conclusion, we know that summer trail maintenance is very different from winter trail maintenance. The grading tool, whether it is a tractor or a hooked grader or both, is still the best way to have nice straight trails. Manual maintenance is essential for safety to avoid cracks and torn culverts. Finally, in summer and winter, respecting the instructions of our clubs is the watchword to facilitate trail maintenance. All this is very costly and the more we work together, the more beautiful the trails will remain for a long time.
Have a good ride and be careful!