7.14.2008

if you are going to change things... change them for the better

this morning when I hiked the dog I saw a box turtle on the trail
the sighting of a box turtle, a fox, or a snake in the woods of rock creek park always gives me hope

deer are also fun to see
but far more common

if you are going to change things...
change them for the better short and sweet rock creek park is in a state of disrepair the trails that border the neighborhoods get the most use these trails are nothing shy of neglected the daily foot traffic of the runners, walkers, and dog walkers are beating the paths to its core the paths themselves are old not only are the paths old but they are poorly designed designed long before there was such a notion as trail design
before there was a concept of sustainability
before there was a population mass like there is today
many of these trails are also the creek beds/stream beds of the running water from the rain the alley ways and gutters all feed into each other sending all the water down into the park at once a slight rain brings in water at great volume a hard summer rain can send water into the park rushing like a river
the trails can not withstand this volume of water
the impact is clear and visible
just as roads get rebuilt over time so must foot trails it is a simple fact of life just as car traffic gets reviewed and routes get analyzed and rerouted so must hiking trails
this should become a fact of life
the hiking trails of rock creek park are in deep need of a visit fertile soil needs to be brought in indigenous plants should be put in place there should be a conscious effort to control the flooding where the alley ways meet the woods there should be irrigation gardens as well as barriers to guide the flow of water
drain pipes in the neighborhood should be cleared and functional
something is a miss
each rain strips away the soil from the trails over the years I have done a fair amount of work bags and bags of trash removed from the park hundreds and hundreds of bottles and cans.... far more bottles than cans tires and other larger items have been dragged from the woods I once dragged a car seat from a gulley only to witness a National Park Service employee toss this seat back into the woods some days later there needs to be an understanding of sustainability in addition to my trail clean up I have also tried to guide the trial users so many people cross cutting trails and beating new paths blocking unnecessary short cuts and illogical paths with fallen tree limbs and branches another trail user/dog walker has also taken on this task his efforts far greater than my own I have also tried to slow the erosion through a similar process simply by putting some logs perpendicular to the trails
on steeper trailsI have build terraced stairs... setting the logs perpendicular to the trail with a little build up and nature does the rest
the logs catch the run off as it gets carried away in the rushing volumes of rain water

these terraced stairs have made sections of trail far more managable
pieces of trail that were too steep to walk without slipping are now manageable due to these stairs these stairs slow the flow of water during the summer rains they also act to catch the run off of top soil it is an organic process the stairs are a living part of the trail they build up and tear down they become part of the woods home to the bugs and animals that call these woods home

I have seen that the steep sections of trail are far more walkable due to the terraced stairs
less slipping and falling
this weekend while hiking my black dog brutus I hiked on the section of woods in rock creek where I have terraced some stairs in a problematic spot on a short section of trail where I had once set up some terraced stairs I found that someone had taken it upon themselves to undo what I had done they had ripped up the terraced stairs... well... at least some of them but... their efforts had not made things better the trail was not more safe or more comfortable to walk
not even more ascetically pleasing
in fact the changes made it more awkward to approach I lost my footing on my first walk down it was all very frustrating I question why this person had undone what I had worked so hard to do why did they not work to fortify these stairs rather than tear them down the stairs grow and change they become more stable and at times they grow frail they need to be rebuilt no different than the roads we drive our cars

earth expands and contracts with the seasons
the soil drys up and gets washed away
some stairs build up to be more stable than others
changes in the weather build up and tear down these stairs the stairs are as organic as the woods themselves they are made of the woods they are part of the woods frustrate I continued on my dog walk breathing easy trying not to let these actions get my heart rate up I have never taken a poll on the trail users' opinion on my effort in fact my rogue efforts are done under the radar
never trying to get credit
just trying to give back to something that gives so much to me

I question what the perspective of other trail users may be...
my guess is that the majority approve of my efforts
while I am aware of a slight minority that disapproves
clearly the person who took action against the terraced stairs believes that they are doing something better
what was their motivation?
they may have undone something that they did not agree with
but... they did not make things better

the trailheads... well... rebuilding the trailheads would be a great start
if we rebuilt the trailheads
cut off some short cuts
cleaned up the intersections
brought in some furtile soil and some indigenous plants
okay... I am carried away
call me a dreamer

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