Trail Maintainers: Unsung Heroes

Screen Shot 2019-08-07 at 4.35.59 PMAuthored by Center for Sustainability student Michelle Dong ’20

Vedha Muvva (r) and I are two seniors pursuing the Sustainability Fellow designation. One of the requirements is to participate in 25 hours of off-campus experiences related to sustainability. We recently volunteered for the Adopt-a-Trail program at the Cuyahoga Valley National Park (CVNP), which is a drop-in opportunity for the public to assist the CVNP staff in keeping a trail in optimal condition. Each month, volunteers can choose from seven trails of varying lengths and difficulty. 

We joined a group of about 15 experienced volunteers, the leader of which had been maintaining the Plateau Trail — the longest hiking trail at the park — for over a decade. Vedha and I were responsible for clearing culverts of mud and rocks using a culvert hoe. We learned that keeping the culverts clear was important since the pipes helped with drainage, ensuring that the trails stay dry.  

From this experience, I realized that trail maintenance is a complex process that is often overlooked and underappreciated by the public. In the five hours that we walked the 4.5 mile Plateau Trail, the group was always alert, looking for anything that may disturb the experience of those who utilize the trail. Early on, the crew leader even pulled out a hand chainsaw in order to cut down a sizable tree that was blocking the corridor. A number of fallen trees were also lifted and moved using straps. Some volunteers helped with applying a mixture of gravel and other rocks, or “trail mix,” using a utility vehicle to areas of the Treadway that were not exhibiting proper drainage. 

The often unseen work of trail maintenance volunteers not only minimizes erosion but also increases the aesthetics and safety of the paths, enhancing the overall hiking experience. Next time you see a trail volunteer at a local park, be sure to thank them for their invaluable assistance!

Upper School students pursuing a diploma designation as a Sustainability Fellow are required to complete 25 hours of off-campus experiences. This is a reflection of their work and experience with HB’s Center for Sustainability.  


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