1999 Fall Trails Report
1999 has been a record year for the WODC trails program. As reported in the Spring Trails Report, our primary focus has been restoration work on Walden Trail. The season has been a great success due largely to the efforts of for full-time volunteers recruited through the Student Conservation Association. Over a ten week season, the SCA crew, a paid crew leader, and other devoted volunteers have completed all necessary restoration from the beginning of Walden Trail (at the 4-way) to the deep col between Wonalancet Hedgehog and Nanamocomuck. This work entailed the placement of 182 rock steps, 20 rock waterbars, over 32 rock scree, plus the construction of 42 feet of sidehill Trail. The single most difficult section (just below the Mount Paugus outlook) required the construction of 62 rock steps and took nearly three weeks for an average crew of six people!
While the accomplishments of the crew seem easy to summarize, the program has entailed many other activities over the summer. Even before the crew arrived, housing was located directly across from the trailhead in a house owned by Doug McVicar and Frumie Selchen. During the work week the crew was camped in a specially selected location off the top of old mast Road. This provided convenient access from Wonalancet, while placing the crew close to work site.
Upon arrival, the crew was greeted by WODC members at a potluck supper hosted by the Mersfelder's. The next several days were spent on intensive training including a tool workshop, grip hoist workshop, a map and compass program, a low-impact camping workshop, and evening of wilderness first aid training. (See some photos here.) The crew's first week in Wonalancet was capped by an all-day hike over Mount Passaconaway and along the full length of Walden Trail, viewing the planned work sites along the way.
After a three-day rest, the crew began its first full week on Walden Trail. After a few weeks of on-site training, the crew was able to consistently set over 20 rock steps each week. But more important than quantity was the necessity for durable, high-quality work. By midseason it became clear that the crew was as committed to the success of the project as the WODC "trail lunatics" that had recruited them several months before. Their efforts and enthusiasm are deeply appreciated, and will long be associated with this section of Trail. Also deserving of special recognition of the WODC members who spent considerable time on the trail, including Chris Conrod, Fred Lavigne, Evelyn MacKinnon, Larry Labrie, Pierce Beij, Judith Reardon, and Peter Smart.
More than 3200 hours of work was done on Walden Trail this year, for an average of approximately 15 hours for each rock steps and waterbar constructed. Using an average value of $10 per hour yields an approximate cost of $150 per structure, and a total of $32,000 for the entire season. Adding the expenses for housing, tools, and SCA expenses brings this total to over $38,000, yet the cash cost to WODC was under $5000 after reimbursement of $9700 was received for our NRTA grant awarded in 1998. While the the grant application proposed that the WODC would cover 55 percent of total project value, the increased volunteer effort resulted in a final contribution of 75 percent.
Our SCA crew departed from Wonalancet on Aug. 23rd, the day after annual meeting. It was both a relief and a disappointment to have the hectic summer of 1999 behind us. In the following weeks WODC volunteers resumed a more normal schedule including an annual weekend on the Kate sleeper Trail, and an annual trip with Trailwrights on the Bennett Street Trail. The latter trip was notable in that it entailed the wetlands application filed by the WODC, required for stepping stones where the trail crosses a small stream adjacent to Great Falls.
In addition to serving as crew leader for the second half of the summer season, Chris Conrod has continued his activities as WODC signmaker. Chris has made and installed 24 signs this year, mostly of the five-sided Wilderness format. The most unusual signs were probably those placed at the top and bottom of Wiggin Trail. These include the wording "steep and erodible-not recommended", in an effort to minimize unnecessary traffic on this fragile trail. As a professional cabinet maker, the WODC is very fortunate to have Chris's services as a signmaker, for which the club reimburses him an average of $12 per sign to cover shop expenses.
While this has been an exceptionally hectic year for WODC trails, it has also been exceptionally rewarding. In addition to the work and fun times we have shared with our SCA crew, has been the satisfaction of spreading the skills and understanding of wilderness trail maintenance with a broader group of outdoor lovers. Motivated by this experience, plans are already underway to organize a similar effort for the summer of 2000. We have already placed our request for four SCA volunteers who will serve with a full-time crew leader. We expect to spend most of the season restoring the next section of Walden Trail, up to some point above East Loop. A finance subcommittee has also been formed for the purpose of applying for NRTA funding for the next two years, which will allow the club to continue a trail program of this magnitude on a sustainable budget.
While major restoration projects such as Walden Trail are essential undertakings, we must remain diligent in the care of all WODC trails, especially those that still suffer from the aftereffects of the 1998 ice storm. One of the most affected trails was Old Mast Road, which will require extensive erosion control and drainage measures over the coming years. Fortunately, this is one of our most accessible trails, thus providing convenient training opportunities for future crews, while allowing the work to be accomplished through a low-intensity program.
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