Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mammoth Cave to commit $130,000 to backcountry trail repairs

Mammoth Cave National Park will commit $130,000 to backcountry trail repairs, planned for August through November, Superintendent Patrick Reed announced last week. Trail users will experience some closures and delays. New trail construction of Big Hollow Trail will begin later this year.

“Extreme weather conditions over the last three years, plus increased use, have caused erosion and mires along several backcountry trails,” said Reed. “We are putting a five-year funding plan in place using Fee money to address the problem spots. Trails in the Lincoln and Wet Prong areas will be rehabbed this year.”

The park received $40,000 in NPS project funding for trail work this year. Beginning this year, Superintendent Reed intends to devote $90,000 from the park’s Recreation Fee Program to backcountry trails each year for the next five years.

The connector trail between Lincoln trailhead and Collie Ridge Road was identified in the Comprehensive Trail Management Plan as a target for trail work. The park’s trail monitoring program pointed to the upper end of the Wet Prong of Buffalo Trail as being one of those in the greatest need of repair.

During August, the Lincoln Trailhead and the Lincoln Connector Trail (.37 miles) will be closed for rehabilitation. The crew will define the trail, make it more sustainable by hardening it with dense-grade gravel, and construct runoff controls, like water bars and low bridges.

When Lincoln is complete, crews will move to the northern end of Wet Prong of Buffalo Trail, working in from the First Creek trailhead; both trails will be open September 2-5 to accommodate Labor Day weekend visitors. A few parking spaces at First Creek trailhead will be closed for storage of materials and equipment. Each week, the trail will be open on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays; crews will work a Monday-through-Thursday schedule. Riders and hikers will be allowed to pass through the work area; a cell phone number will be posted at both ends of the work zone for people on the trail to call the workers and inform them that a group is approaching.

Later this year, the park will begin construction on Big Hollow Trail and the extension of Raymer Hollow Trail.

• Big Hollow: Planning and environmental/archeological compliance are complete for the new Big Hollow Trail, a multi-loop bike-hike trail that will lie east of Green River Ferry Road-North. Bike use on Sal Hollow will be permitted until September 1, 2011, when Sal Hollow Trail will be designated for horse use and hiking only.

• Raymer Hollow Trail extension: A new extension of Raymer Hollow Trail will serve as a connector between Big Hollow Trail, Maple Springs Trailhead, Maple Springs Group Campground, and the Mammoth Cave International Center for Science and Learning. Horseback riding, bicycling and hiking will all be authorized on this trail.

Beginning in 2009, the park implemented a multi-year trail monitoring program. Information from this program helps park staff prioritize trail maintenance, identify volunteer projects, and quantify impacts on park resources and visitor experiences. During the summer of 2009, 2010, and 2011, Student Conservation Association interns monitored 39.4 miles of northside trails:

• assessing the physical parameters of trails (width, depth, length);
• observing general tread conditions;
• noting the number of unauthorized trails (shortcuts, parallel trails) present; and
• assessing the health of macro-invertebrates communities in nearby streams.

For the trails monitored in 2010, data showed 20 percent were highly eroded and 712 unauthorized short-cuts or short detours had been created. The stream health assessments showed the overall quality of the backcountry streams to be excellent.

Volunteers make a significant contribution to trail upkeep. The fall Backcountry Workdays will focus on the segment First Creek Trail that lies between the trailhead and Clell Road. Anyone interested in volunteering at the park may contact the Volunteer-In-Park Coordinator, Eddie Wells at 270-758-2143. The workdays are on September 24, October 15, and November 19.


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