Why is Sugar Bottom is closed at times?

Our Agreement & Responsibilities

The US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) owns the Sugar Bottom Recreation area, and allows ICORR use of the trail system for mountain biking. As part of ICORR’s volunteer use agreement with the COE, the trails must be closed when conditions dictate. The trails became very damaged in the past and the COE ordered ICORR to close/rehabiliate certain trails and repair others or the use of trails by bikers could be lost. The COE has the authority to repeal the volunteer agreement and has made it very clear to the board that they will if need be.

The equestrian group (Sugar Bottom Stables) that previously had use of the area lost their use of the area when they failed to adequately maintain the trails. This allowed the local mountain bikers to form together (the birth of ICORR in 1990) and develop an agreement for our use of the area. Since day one we were told we faced the same result as the equestrians if we didn’t adequately take care of things, and that has never changed. In fact as usage levels have steadily climbed, the COE has paid closer attention to the condition of the trails and the amount of volunteer effort that has gone into them.

The trails are closed when trails or parts of the trails are moist enough that use would cause damage to the trail system or be unsafe for riders. The trails can appear to be dry or even be completely dry for parts of days they are closed. Especially in fall and winter, the trails can become very muddy during certain parts of the day due to freeze/thaw cycles. Also one part of the trail system can be completely dry and another can be treacherously muddy. It can be a tough judgement call and ICORR errors on the side of having the trails closed in marginal situations. Please understand it is in everyone’s best interest not to damage the trails!

The COE rangers close the trails as part of their regular patrol when it rains. It is up to ICORR to decide when to open them, though the COE has objected in the past when the trails were opened too soon in their opinion. During the months when the COE is not fully staffed, it is up to ICORR to make sure the trails are closed properly. Designated ICORR members take responsibility for opening/closing the trails. If you ever have a question about why the trails are closed or not closed, call the hotline (626-1160) and leave message or send an email.

* Also the Sugar Bottom trail system can be closed when the US Army is using it for maneuvers (this happened in 2003) and for the month of December due to shotgun deer season. Sugar Bottom is a public hunting area.

Why does the Sugar Bottom trail system need to be closed when some other trail systems do not?

Soil association, which is the specific composition, layering and arrangement of the soil, is the single most important factor in trail design. Unfortunately, soil association is usually overlooked by the generalized trail design and maintenance texts available to the public.

Sugar Bottom was cursed with highly erodable Fayette soil (163D, 163D2 and others), and this is why that land needs the protection it has been afforded over the last 10 years. If not protected it will quickly disappear as will the trails.

Why does the Sugar Bottom trail system close for the month December?

Here is a brief description on why the Sugar Bottom trails are closed during the month of December.

There are very few early muzzle loader hunters. So ICORR compromised with USACOE in not closing the trails in October many years ago. Closure in December is just simpler to do because the hunting season closes for 3 days. In reality if we wanted to we could close the entire system November 25th – Jan 29th… but ICORR is inclined to only close the trails for the heaviest user seasons. The actual hunting dates were:
Early muzzleloader: Oct 15-23.
Late muzzleloader: December 19-Jan 10.
Shotgun seasons were: December 3-7 December 10-18
November antlerless November 25-27th.
January antlerless Jan 11-29.

History of hunting in the area precedes the bike trails and for the sake of safety we close during the month of December because shotgun season is the
heaviest hunting season.