WODC Trails Report: Spring 2000
Although snow is falling on the Sandwich Range this evening (April 21st), its only a few weeks till the start of another busy trail season. Based on the success of last summer's trail crew, and strong support from the 1999 Annual Meeting, the WODC will be devoting another summer to the ongoing restoration of the Walden Trail. The plan is much the same as last year:
A four person volunteer crew has been recruited through the Student Conservation Association. Over an eleven week period they will perform 450 hours of trail work, consisting of new rock steps, water bars, and other measures to protect and restore the fragile treadway of the Walden Trail.
The WODC will provide housing for the SCA crew members, who also receive a subsistence allowance (for food) and travel reimbursement through the SCA. The SCA also offers an $1100 educational award upon completion of 450 hours of service.
The crew will work under the experienced guidance of Chris Conrod, who has accepted the position of crew leader for the eleven week program. We're very fortunate that Chris has agreed to spend the entire summer on the trail. Although he will be a salaried employee of the WODC for eleven weeks, Chris continues to volunteer a considerable amount of time on the trail.
The WODC will provide all tools, camping gear, and related supplies for the summer program. This includes essential safety gear, such as hard hats and first aid kits, plus a cell phone for emergency communications.
In addition to the full-time crew, nearly one thousand hours of work is expected by WODC members and other volunteers. This includes a wide range of planning and administrative activities, from preparation of a detailed trail log last Fall, to weekly trailwork and support activities during the summer season.
All told, nearly 3000 hours of work will be invested in Walden Trail this year, mostly by volunteers. So what does the program actually cost? And who pays for it? In round numbers, the WODC will provide $6000 from membership dues and contributions. An additional $9,920 has been awarded under our new grant from the Recreational Trails Program. The combined total of nearly $16,000 covers all out-of-pocket expenses including payroll, housing, tools, supplies, and a share of SCA's program expenses.
The progress made on Walden Trail in 1999, together with the work log produced in the Fall, made it clear that another two seasons would be required to complete the essential work along the entire trail. It was therefore decided to submit an RTP grant request for the entire two years, thus saving the work and uncertainty of another application for the 2001 season. When complete, the WODC will have spent more than three seasons restoring 2.8 miles of trail.
The scope of the Walden restoration project illustrates the importance of good preventative maintenance on all trails. Although many of the problems on Walden are due to poor layout and erodible soils, at least half of the work could have been avoided by proper preventative maintenance! This means correcting problems at the first hint of trouble, like water draining down a trail rather than off to the side. Loose stones or soil in the treadway are also definite signs of trouble, and require prompt investigation and correction. Unfortunately, these signs went unnoticed on the upper Walden Trail, until minor drainage problems had developed into gullies up to four feet deep and sixty feet long!
While no other WODC trail can compete with Walden for erosion problems, there are several trails that require our attention in the coming years. These include Old Mast Road, Lawrence Trail, and Wiggin Trail. The proximity of OMR makes it feasible to correct these problems with numerous shorter trips. In fact, our 1999 SCA crew did a lot of work on the upper-most OMR erosion, and more will be done this year with Trailwrights. Unfortunately, Lawrence and Wiggin are not so straight forward.
This Spring the Trails Committee will be working with the USFS to evaluate the problems on Wiggin Trail, and consider possible solutions. Since this may require relocations or other significant disturbances within Wilderness, the planning process will require a year or more to complete, including the environmental assessment that may be required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
As an interim measure, the Wiggin Trail signs were recently revised to include the wording "Steep and erodible - Not recommended." While we do not believe anyone should be prevented from using the trail, this wording should help to reduce "accidental" use by hikers that would actually prefer one of the easier routes!
Although Wilderness sign standards normally allow just basic directional information, this deviation was approved by the USFS because it contributed to "resource protection", which is the ultimate standard by which all Wilderness management should be guided. This is just one of many Wilderness management issues where the WODC continues to work closely with the USFS. Other areas of ongoing collaboration include camping, visitor information, and of course, trail maintenance.
With the major focus on Walden Trail, the Club will again be dependent on Adopters for the majority of trail clearing and basic maintenance. Some trails suffered significant wind damage in December, so trails should be checked early for any major problems. As always, please contact the Trails Committee if you want a hand, or just some company. Trail work is always easier and more fun in a group, so don't hesitate to give us a call.
Despite the full season on Walden trail, no year would be complete without our annual overnight trip on Kate Sleeper Trail, plus an exciting day with Trailwrights. Both events are scheduled for the wonderful bug-free days of Fall. Please see the adjacent trail calendar for details.
Finally, please visit the WODC web site at www.wodc.org for late-breaking news throughout the summer. We plan to post regular dispatches and photos from the Walden crew, providing a personal perspective on their summer adventures.
The RTP is a grant program administered by the NH Trails Bureau, and funded by Federal gasoline taxes. The funding is a component of TEA-21: The Transportation Equity Act for the 21st century. A portion of the tax is earmarked for non-highway use, both motorized and non-motorized.
In 1998, the WODC was awarded a $9730 RTP grant, which provided primary funding for our 1999 work on Walden Trail. Based on the success of this program, a second application was submitted in January, 2000 to cover an additional two years of work on Walden Trail. In late March we learned that our $19,840 application was approved, making it possible to complete the restoration of Walden Trail during the summer seasons of 2000 and 2001.
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