It's not entirely accurate to describe my opinion of "New Maxwell" as "Pro". From a strictly riding/running/hiking enjoyment perspective, I preferred Maxwell before the recent changes (both climbing and descending). Riding it felt the same way that we all enjoy the few days of riding on dry trails with bare arms and legs we seem to get in January or February every year - it's enjoyable in the moment but comes with the unavoidable thought in the back of your mind that it doesn't bode well for the future. Many of us (especially those of us who remember Maxwell prior to 2013) have seen sections get deeper and deeper every year, have seen the larger rocks slide into the trail, and have seen new reroutes spontaneously appear as a result. It's more accurate to describe my opinion as "What should we think about changes to Maxwell once we remove personal feelings, preferences, and biases, once we remove lies and misinformation, and once we acknowledge what information we don't have." The most important thing, and the only true requirement, for any trail construction or maintenance project, is that it be durable, sustainable, and cause minimal other environmental issues - everything else is a secondary "nice to have." Keeping that in mind makes it easier to understand a lot of the complaints about Maxwell that have been flooding Facebook and Reddit, which can generally be grouped into a few categories.
- "It's more dangerous now because it's faster!" It's still your responsibility to ride safely and not like an asshole. If this is your main argument, sit down and reevaluate your participation in the trail user community.
- "I liked the difficulty level that it was/It was just right for me/I got better because of the challenge." Many of us did. Many people didn't. It is irrelevant either way; it wasn't sustainable in its previous state. Another version of this is "If you couldn't ride it you had no reason to be out there anyway." Get that elitist gatekeeping crap out of here. Both of these are related to a higher-level flawed argument...
- "They did this just to make it easier which sucks/it's pandering to the lowest common denominator/our society is going to hell by babying people/this is another example of the government socialist agenda to make people softer and more reliant on them." Does anybody actually have any specific evidence that one of the goals of the project was to make the trail easier? A paragraph in the public project description? An official statement from somebody? A leaked email? It's far more likely that the trail becoming easier was an unfortunate side-effect of meeting the goal requirements. This argument has a nastier side too - people gravitate towards this type of thinking because it gives themselves the moral high ground that they can use to justify attacking the people and agencies involved in the project as a way to express what they view as deliberate slight against themselves and what they care about. It's easier for them to believe that there is a "bad guy" who has wronged them than to accept that maybe this is one of the best outcomes of an imperfect situation. I've heard enough hateful, aggressive, borderline violent things coming from people I thought I knew to rethink my opinion of them.
- "They didn't listen to us!/They could have compromised more!/They could have added sweet directional MTB only trails and sick technical feature!" Yes, they could have compromised more or done more for mountain bikers. They also could have done less. That is the nature of compromise with multiple stakeholder groups while also being bound by the reality of budget and geology. They also could have compromised a lot less. We could be riding Maxwell on odd days only right now. It could be closed to mountain bikers completely. It could be closed to everybody indefinitely. All of these things have happened in other communities. Not getting exactly what you wanted isn't the same as not being listened to. Trails also evolve and you can't do everything at once. The first goal was getting the trail routed and rebuilt in a way to make it more sustainable. There is no reason to believe that it can't or won't continue to become more technical or interesting over time, both from natural processes and wear and deliberate updates. We need to wait a little longer to see the blank canvas; too much extra work right now would have been for nothing. Could the city have communicated more about what the planned end result was to reduce the surprise? Definitely, I will give the detractors that one.
- "They ruined a Fort Collins highlight trail! They ruined riding in Fort Collins! No tourists will come and spend money anymore! This was a historic trail!" Things change. Populations grow, recreation behavior changes. Trails have to evolve as well. The way Maxwell was in 2020 was not the way it has always been. Most of the fastest times for Maxwell (up and down) are from 2012. What happened? Did people get slower? Did all the fast people move away? Did 29" wheels and slack headtubes actually slow everybody down? No, record-setting rain and floods drastically changed Maxwell over the course of a week. You may have liked its recent difficulty rating, but it used to be easier. A lot easier, and it will get a little harder again over time. New trails/recently rehabbed trails always seem too easy in rock areas. They have to overfill them to make the work worth it and give a buffer for initial erosion and wear. Reservoir Ridge was intolerably buffed out the last time it was worked on, and that lasted all of 2 months before the rocks started showing up again. Give it time - the way Maxwell is right now is not the way it will be for the future. It may not ever be exactly what it was again, but that's ok. Maxwell had no future as a mountain biking highlight trail, it will probably just have to become a way for lots of different types of people to get where they are going with as little user conflict as possible. There are plenty of other trails close by that we can focus on to make great for mountain biking.
So once we remove personal feelings, misinformation and lies, and other biases and focus on the actual requirements for the trial and needs of all the stakeholders, what are we left with to form our opinion? Maxwell wasn't going to make it much longer the way that it was. Building, maintaining, and managing multi-use trails is an expensive and thankless job and it's impossible to please everybody. Maxwell is not as much fun as it used to be. But it's still there, it's still open, it will last a lot longer now, and this was probably close to the best outcome for everybody in an imperfect situation. The sky has not fallen and we still have it really good.