Brian Batteiger is committed to creating trailbeds that last.
Even if you have never met, or even heard of, Brian Batteiger, you know his work. If you’ve ridden, hiked or run a trail in the Roanoke area over the past decade, chances are he had a hand in building it or maintaining it. As a board member for Pathfinders for Greenways, Batteiger wears many hats within the organization, doing everything from coordinating trail work days and coding volunteer databases to performing maintenance on the fleet of heavy equipment used to shape landscapes. His work earned him the 2014 Cox Conserves Hero award – and a $10,000 donation to Pathfinders – through an online vote; a testament to his stature in the trail-user community.
Batteiger is one of the most prominent faces in Roanoke when it comes to trail building and maintenance, but his initial jump into trail building grew mainly out of necessity. When he moved to Roanoke from Chicago in the mid-1990s, trails were established but organized maintenance was virtually non-existent. During mountain bike rides, he would clear debris from trails and mark spots to come back and remove blow-downs. Eventually, he helped form one of the earliest trail groups in the Roanoke area, the Valley Area Shared Trails network (VAST), as a way to manage trails, trails systems, maintenance, and work on establishing new trails.
In those days, he says just trying to name a trail became a drawn out battle between different users and personalities. Having things run through local government entities, as most do today, has streamlined the process, but Batteiger is a firm believer that users should be the ones most involved.
“I like the idea of the people having more ownership in the trails and I think it is the right thing to do,” he says. “If you want trails, why should the government build your trails? You should do some work to build them yourself.”
But building and maintaining trails can often be a thankless job, and a lot of the time, the attention you receive can be negative. Planning, mapping, and gouging trails out of the wilderness is grueling work, and while it often goes unappreciated, Batteiger says it is always rewarding.
“I love the feeling of making a trail then riding it,” he says. “Going through Four Gorges and seeing where you know you improved it is fun. I like the feeling of having accomplished something.”
Improving trails in Roanoke frequently means fixing older trails to be more sustainable in the long run, something Batteiger is more concerned about than building new trails.
“It’s easy to stick a new trail in and ride it, it just may not last very long,” he explains. “To do it right can take some extra work.”
Here in the mountains of Virginia, Brian Batteiger is up to the task.
Brian Batteiger has attended numerous sustainable trail building conferences, but you don’t need that intense of training to lend a hand. Trail work is a never-ending process and volunteers are always needed, especially team leaders. You will be starting with hand tools, but eventually move up to using heavy equipment like walk behind bulldozers. They can make a big mess really easily so experience is a key component to their operation. Once you learn how to craft a sustainable section of trail with the right equipment, you will be able to teach others those skills and help ensure the lasting legacy of area trails and systems. Here are some ways to get involved:
Pathfinders for Greenways
Despite their name, the official community volunteer organization of the greenway system does most of their work on dirt trails. They hold trail work parties several days a week. greenways.org
The Roanoke chapter of the International Mountain Bicycling Association provides funds and manpower to ongoing trail projects such as the Lakeside Trail at Carvins Cove, Pandapas Pond, and other projects. roanokeimba.org
Roanoke Appalachian Trail Club
The RATC maintains over 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail and its side trails. They are always looking for volunteers for their monthly work hikes. ratc.org
Blue Ridge Gravity
Blue Ridge Gravity is a local group of riders concentrating on establishing downhill trails in the area.
City of Roanoke
Roanoke Parks & Recreation hosts regular volunteer trail work days at Carvins Cove, Mill Mountain, and at local parks, often teaming up with other organizations. playroanoke.com
Other ways to help
Physically unable to get out and swing and axe or shovel? Consider donating to any of these organizations to buy tools, equipment, food, water, and other essentials. Every little bit helps!