This late fall and winter, the east side of Flint Woods, a well-loved part of the Powder House Hill Trails, was selectively logged by a team who used horses for the project. The horses were astonishing to watch, as they caught the woods up on some overdue forestry management without the degree of environmental impact you get with conventional modern logging. Of course, reduced impact is not the same as no impact, so as the snow melted and the trails dried out, the need for a cleanup project became obvious.
I'm a board member for Powder House Hill Trails. One trailhead to the network is just at the end of my street, and I run a minimum of twice weekly on the nearly 10-mile system. Usually my board involvement has tended towards communication projects, but I'm without much of a daily regular schedule due to COVID-19, I'm handy with a rake and hoe, and I have the fitness to tackle this kind of work.
As luck would have it, most of us are capable of the work needed to maintain or rehabilitate trails. Yesterday, I just raked wood chips. It doesn't sound like much, but it was two hours of work that will have a significant long-term impact. The day before, the work crew had chipped leftover brush along one of the trails that had to be widened to form the main logging trail and a modest wood yard. The chips cleaned up debris from the woods and provided material to protect the wider trail that was now exposed to more sunshine and soil erosion. The chips offer a barrier against the regrowth of vegetation that would choke off the trail within a surprisingly short time. I didn't even have to shovel the chips, just rake them--the project leader did the harder work of distributing the chips with his tractor, while I followed along and fine-tuned their distribution. We just need a couple of weeks of foot travel to pack the trails and they'll be perfect.
Today was even easier! We needed to finish spreading a couple more piles of chips, but the real focus was on seeding and laying hay on exposed soil in a clearing and along the widened trail we had chipped down the center. Our leader would spread grass seed while we tagged along behind, spreading hay over the grass seed to encourage its growth. It was scratchy and a little dusty, but if you wear a mask, gloves and long sleeves, there's no lasting effects. There were enough of us to make it quick work, spread out across a large enough area that keeping appropriate physical distance never required any additional effort.
This was the second time in a month that I've joined into a trail maintenance project. I think that some of us stay away because we don't know how easy, accessible or meaningful these projects can be. The work I helped to do in Flint Woods this week will support the trail system for literally years to come, and it was easy. Like, incredibly and almost embarrassingly easy. Our volunteerism is necessary for our favorite trails to thrive, and I can now say from experience that joining a work crew can be a low-key way to have a big impact. Answer the call and get out there to help on your local trail system.