In mid-August, the WODC trail crew finished its last week on Walden Trail, marking the completion of the five-year restoration of the entire trail. During their ten week internship with the WODC, the crew members built approximately 150 rock steps, five water bars, 100 feet of side-hill trail, and uncounted finishing touches, all designed to restore the illusion of a simple path through the woods. In fact, foot paths are rarely simple (or cheap), particularly those that receive as much traffic as the top mile of Walden, which provides access to the summit of Mt. Passaconaway, a popular "four thousand footer."
The Walden project began in 1997, with 28 rock steps built by the Sandwich Range Conservation Association. This first year served largely to illustrate the magnitude of the project, so a full season crew was planned for 1998, but was delayed until 1999, in large measure because of the efforts required to clear trails after the ‘98 ice storm. Despite excellent progress in 1999, much remained to be done. Fortunately, the season’s progress, together with a detailed log of the remaining work, allowed an accurate estimate of the remaining work: two more years.
Although the pace of work can vary greatly from week-to-week, the overall average proved to be quite consistent, allowing the crew to complete the project with a few days to spare! This allowed for a little extra bonus work: replacing the rotted puncheons at Camp Rich with stepping stones, and cleaning all the water bars from there to the summit of Mt. Passaconaway.
This year’s crew followed the same model as the previous two years: A four-person crew recruited through the Student Conservation Association, with an experienced Trails Committee member (Chris Conrod) as the leader. The crew worked five days each week, camping in the woods about ½ mile below Camp Rich, and staying at Mead Base each weekend. Although they serve as volunteers, the crew members do receive free housing, a weekly subsistence allowance, and a modest educational grant, which helps to offset the loss of summer income that college-age crew members would normally require.
The Walden Work Summary (below) summarizes the funding and accomplishments of this lengthy project. Had the WODC been paying a nominal rate for all crew time, as well as for planning and support by the Trails Committee and other volunteers, the project would have cost approximately $130,000. Thanks to support from the National Recreational Trails Funds, the US Forest Service, and 8,366 volunteers hours, the total cost to the WODC was only $14,150 over five years.
While each of us will draw our own conclusions from these numbers, one thing is clear: We need to be alert to the early signs of trail erosion and take prompt action. Although the location and soil conditions on Walden Trail made it particularly vulnerable to erosion, proper trail tending and early intervention could have greatly reduced the magnitude and cost of the required work. When detected at an early stage, a simple water bar or a few rock steps can avoid the need for more expensive repairs in the future.
With the restoration of Walden Trail essentially complete, the key responsibility for its ongoing health is now in the hands of its new adopters, David and CC White. Although David and CC have another major project completing their new homestead in Sandwich, they bring high standards and devotion to their important role as WODC adopters. Walden trail is in good hands, especially because David and CC know they can call for help whenever they need it!
The Trails Committee is also excited to welcome new adopters on three other trails: Kevin and Karen Coffey (from Madison) are the new adopters on the wonderful Bennett Street Trail. George and Jean Hurley (now living in the Wonalancet home of the late Phyllis French) join us as co-adopters on the Wonalancet Range Trail. Tom and Athena Holtey (living by the river opposite the Ferncroft kiosk) are co-adopters on the Square Ledge Trail, raising the hopes of long-time adopter John Mersfelder that the war on hobble bush might actually be winnable!
May 19th was a very successful trail-clearing day, with 31 people helping to clear blow-downs and brush, as a prelude to a wonderful potluck supper hosted by Nancy and John Boettiger. On New Hampshire Trails Day (July 21st) a good turn-out of 24 folks made excellent progress cleaning water bars and cutting brush, followed by a great swim and cook-out at Dick Daniels’ pond. On September 28th, seven volunteers participated in the annual "Sleepermania" weekend, cutting brush throughout the trail, and building 13 rock steps to stabilize an eroding pitch on East Sleeper. Entertainment was provided by Chris Conrod in the form of an exploding Svea stove. Fourteen people attended the final trail day on October 13th, with half the group doing brushing on Old Mast Road and Square Ledge Trail, while the others built four rock steps and two water bars on Blueberry Ledge Trail. The day (and the season) were officially closed with a traditional Pizza Barn supper.
The 2001 Work Summary (below) gives a general overview of the time devoted to each trail, including the independent work reported by adopters. While Walden Trail leads the list with over 2700 hours, and additional 825 hours were spent on other trails.
Plans for 2002
Although Walden Trail was the single largest trail project we face, there are other trails-in-trouble (like Lawrence), and numerous smaller projects, such as the replacement of rotting log water bars on Dicey’s Mill Trail, new erosion problems on Blueberry Ledge Trail, and the completion of new water bars of Old Mast Road. This is above and beyond the regular maintenance required just to clean the hundreds of water bars on WODC Trails.
Based on strong support (and full funding) from the 2001 Annual Meeting, the Trails Committee is working on a new trail crew model consisting of SCA volunteers and an SCA leader. Although the leader would ideally be a prior crew member or WODC volunteer, we’ve encountered very few candidates over a five year period. Instead, we’ll be recruiting an SCA Conservation Associate (CA) with the experience and aptitude required for the job. Unlike the 11 week crew positions, the CA position can be up to six months, and provides additional benefits commensurate with the experience and responsibility that the position entails.
The crew leader will tentatively start in mid-May, allowing them to participate in early trail days and develop a working relationship with the WODC. The leader may also conduct a complete trail inventory, allowing them to become familiar with the trails and help identify projects for the crew later in the season. When the full crew arrives they’ll start with a range of basic maintenance (such as water bar clearing and major brushing projects), and gradually progress to more ambitious erosion control tasks, such as rock steps and water bars. Other projects may also be included as suggested by WODC members or by the crew itself. The full crew will depart just before Annual Meeting, with the leader staying an additional six weeks to assist with other projects.
We need your help!
Anyone with suggested crew projects is encouraged to send them to Trails Chairperson Peter Smart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-323-8827. If you have ideas for more general (non-trail) projects for the final weeks, please contact WODC president John Boettiger at email@example.com or 603-323-8812. We would also like to hear from anyone with ideas for crew housing in the Wonalancet area. Although we hope that Mead Base will remain a viable housing option, we would also like to explore options closer to Wonalancet that would immerse the crew more fully in the day-to-day activities surrounding our trail system.
If you'd like even more information on the Walden Trail project, you can download a copy of the detailed work log in Corel WP-8 format!
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