Ice storms, storms tossed off by hurricanes, and normal use have taken a toll on some of the backcountry trails in Mammoth Cave National Park. To mitigate that wear and tear, crews will head into the backcountry next month to begin repairs.
Park Superintendent Patrick Reed says the park will spend $130,000 on the trail repairs, which will be conducted into November. Later this year crews will start construction of the Big Hollow Trail, he added in a release.
“Extreme weather conditions over the last three years, plus increased use, have caused erosion and mires along several backcountry trails,” said the superintendent. “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 connector trail between Lincoln trailhead and Collie Ridge Road was identified in the park's 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.
The park received $40,000 in Park Service 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.
“Like any maintenance chore, taking care of the trails is an unending task, but we are attempting to make the trails more sustainable,” said the superintendent. “We have not been able to designate a crew solely to trails for several years. The park’s fee money will make that possible.”
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.
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.