UNITY — Conditions in the woods were ideal Saturday for Unity College Community Trail Day — wet and muddy.
Melted snow from a winter’s worth of bad weather allowed volunteers and members of the Unity College Trail Crew and trail crew club to see just where berms, rocks and logs needed to be placed to chase draining water off the trails and into nearby woods.
Trail team members used hand tools to divert running water into tidy streams, away from the public walkways on parts of the 3 miles of trails on the college’s annual spring cleanup and work day, now in its 15th year. Participants worked on general trail improvements, drainage and erosion control, and upgrading the college’s outdoor classroom in the woods.
On the Nature Trail, one of seven such trails in the 100-acre woods, teams notched sawed hemlock logs to be linked to other logs for a 30-foot-long bog bridge through some of the wettest terrain.
“This is very important for the trail system. If we don’t have this, then people are walking around and damaging the outer areas of the trail,” said trail team member Steven Hughes, a Unity senior in wildlife conservation from California. “We’re trying to reduce the impact of humans in the area so we’ll be able to keep the main focus in the middle of the trail and hopefully bring back the habitat on the outside of the trail to restore it.”
Fellow teammate Bess Fagerstrom, a Unity sophomore in parks and forest resources from New Jersey, agreed.
“I enjoy work like this,” she said. “I did a voluntary job doing trail work at Morristown National Park last summer. It’s important work so people can enjoy the trail and enjoy nature and be more environmentally conscious.”
Unity College senior Zach Monroe, a parks and forest resources major from Hope, was the trail crew chief Saturday as part of his work-study program at the college. He said team members worked Saturday to repair the outdoor classroom at the convergence of two trails where students sit in the open air for a class.
“The outdoor classroom was something that was developed years ago — it’s just like it sounds — for students on a nice day to go out and sit outside on some wooden benches and have classes in the woodlot,” Monroe said. “This year we took on the idea of totally redoing it, making it really nice so the classes could use it more often.”
Monroe said the trails are used year-round and are groomed in the winter for cross-county skiing and snowshoeing. One of the trails, the Big Ash Trail, named for a 130-year-old ash tree, also features an Adirondack shelter where visitors can rest and get out of the bad weather. The area previously was farmland, and some of the old stone walls became raised walking trails, he said. He said the trails are recreational but also perform real-life laboratory opportunities and experiences for environmental studies.
The trails also feature disc golf stations and sap buckets on the maple trees for making maple syrup.
Jesse Sambahl, a sophomore with majors in adventure therapy and adventure environmental education and also a work-study student, said he and Monroe organize the volunteers to come for the day to work on the trails.
He said water bars, made from mostly cedar logs are installed to create barriers along the edges of the flowing water to direct the flow from the trail to dry it for easy walking.
Ryan Park, a sophomore in wildlife and fisheries management, said he and Fagerstrom were using hand tools to divert a small stream away from the trail. He said Fagerstrom was using a hazel hoe, also called a grub hole, to dig up the mud and let the water flow freely into the woods, while he used a conventional pick ax.
The idea was a simple one — clear the mud and the water out of the trail, they said.
Monroe said work on the trails will continue with work-study teams coming out on a regular basis and club members and volunteers returning each semester so that by summer, all seven of the Unity trails will be dry and mud-free for hikers.