Whitetail Ridge in River Falls, Wisconsin – for a time it was unused city land, slated for future industrial development. The local cross country running coach put in a little bit of running trail. After a city study concluded most of the land was not suitable for development, a number of pieces fell into place that ended with the land being designated as a city park and the local bike club, Kinnickinnic Off-Road Cyclists (KORC), having permission from the city to build trails there. And the trails are good.
For the past 5 years, the club has been laying in singletrack for the enjoyment of local mountain bikers, hikers, runners, and snowshoers alike. With their own funds, they have put in signage, a porta-potty, and have armed themselves with a bevy of tools for building and maintaining this new community asset. The result of their efforts thus far is a 6.5-mile network of trails that twist, wind, and flow through the woods. And there’s more to come.
We had the privilege of spending four days with these good folks, exploring their trails, exploring their options, and moving some dirt. Saturday’s project was a reroute of fall-line trail in a section of tricky terrain. Old logging truck tracks criss-crossed a fairly flat and moist area, leaving ruts and high spots throughout. The volunteers for the day had a hefty lesson in cutting in trail with drainage, drainage, drainage on the brain. More work than typical was needed to modify the topography below the trail to ensure there was enough slope for water to flow across and off the trail tread. The club knocked it out like champs.
Often, the most rewarding and striking projects are reclamations of old trail. It takes more than throwing a few logs across a trail entrance to properly shut it down. This Saturday, the volunteers did a thorough shut-down and reclamation of a section of fall-line trail by breaking up the tread, transplanting plants and trees into it, installing check dams, and covering the loosened dirt over with leaves and other deadfall. A wooden boardwalk that once led up the fall-line trail was disassembled and repositioned to put users onto the newly cut reroute. The exit from the boardwalk was nicely armored with rock. The old trail was no more.
In a couple of weeks the fall leaves will help to make it completely disappear, and in the spring, seed matter will sprout and new plants will grow and fill in the old trail corridor. The next day, a couple approached us in our hotel parking lot. They had just ridden the trail and were asking us about our project. They could not tell which part of the trail had been closed and rerouted. That’s a great compliment – the reclamation was a success! (Check out before and after pictures in the slideshow below. Go directly to the Flickr! set to view captions.)
KORC has done great work at Whitetail Ridge, and now they are armed with the knowledge to make their trails even better. Our thanks to KORC for a great weekend! Particular thanks to Matt, Tyler, Bob, and Nick for their hospitality and to Susan Reese from the city Parks and Recreation Board for attending!