We have begun the process of building the trail into Laurel Gorge. Josh, Nancy and Alan have measured and marked the trail route. A big crew turned out for a trail building workshop.
Laying out the route requires a lot more than just walking along tying a piece of flagging tape to an occasional limb. Consideration must be made as to how to provide the best access to the various unique elements the gorge provides. Because the initial part of the trail will be handicapped accessible we must keep the grade within strict limits. This means that we had to survey to be sure that the trail is located to allow acceptable slopes. We also need the elevation, grade and current trail surface condition information to plan the material to be used for each part of the trail. Portions that are level or nearly so will be finished with a surface that is firm enough for wheelchair access. For parts of the trail that have large dips or irregular surface features boardwalks will be used. We are nearly ready to develop the list of materials to be put out for bid. We can't actually buy any of the tools, supplies or materials until the all the paperwork requirements for authorization is completed by the county Fiscal Court in mid March but we have a number of things to keep us busy until then.
There is a lot of litter in the gorge, some of it from careless individuals who have traveled through the gorge, some has fallen over the edge and some has washed down the stream. The Junior ROTC is willing to help with the clean up and will be joining us for their initial survey of the job early next week. We are thankful for their willingness to help.
Thirteen people turned out for the trail workshop. We went over the trail specifications and what we would be doing. We reviewed drawings and diagrams taken from US Forest Service publications, Appalachian Trail construction guides and information from other trail building groups. We didn't spend too much time inside with the books preferring instead to go into the gorge to see exactly what it was that we would be doing. Cutting back the limbs that hang into the trailway sounds simple enough, but doing it in a way that leaves a natural appearance and doesn't unnecessarily damage the tree requires training and care. Disposal of the limbs and brush that we will create was another point that we discussed. Much of the trail is heavily eroded from years of use by ATVs. They have loosened the surface, killed the vegetation and created channels that rainwater runoff enlarges. These parts of the trail will need to be restored to a contour that permits the water to run off the side of the trail rather than along it.
As we work we have been considering where along the trail we will locate the interpretive stations and what sort of information each will provide. More on that as the plans develop.
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