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Evolution of a Trail

In April, volunteers from Steep Rock embarked on an exciting project: constructing a new half-mile trail at Hillside Farm, the latest addition to West Mountain Preserve. Creating a sturdy hiking trail requires a long-term commitment, attention to many details, and a team effort. Let’s delve into the process and understand what it takes to build a trail that is both enjoyable and sustainable.

The journey begins with meticulous mapping and planning. Before any construction begins, staff must carefully assess the terrain, taking into account factors such as slope, vegetation, wetlands and streams, and other natural features. This crucial step ensures that the trail is designed to harmonize with the environment, providing hikers with an immersive experience while reducing negative impacts on the surrounding natural area.

Proper permitting is another crucial aspect of trail building. Securing necessary permits ensures compliance with regulations and that the trail has minimum impact on the environment.

Once planning and permitting are in place, the real work begins. Staff and volunteers invest dozens of hours of manual labor to bring the trail to life. At Hillside Farm, the dedicated team started by mowing a path through the fields. They meticulously cut and filled uneven areas to create a smooth and safe path for hikers. To conquer challenging terrain, such as wetlands or marshy areas, the team will build bog bridges and a boardwalk, allowing visitors to traverse these sections without disturbing the delicate wetlands.

The initial phase of the project saw the combined efforts of ten hardworking volunteers who devoted 25 hours of work. However, the trail is under construction with the bog bridging and boardwalk yet to be finished. The goal is to have the entire trail ready for public access this summer.

Creating sustainable hiking trails that will last for years is not a one-time effort; regular upkeep is necessary to ensure its longevity and enjoyment. Continuous mowing of the paths is essential to keep the trail well-maintained and accessible to hikers year-round.

On the third Saturday of every month, Steep Rock hosts a “Work Party” where volunteers engage in a variety of projects, from building trails, to removing invasive species, to creating trail amenities that enhance the hiker experience. No experience necessary to volunteer for our monthly Work Party. Whatever the work may be, the goal remains the same: stewardship of our beautiful preserves.

To view our upcoming Work Parties, please visit our Events & Programs Calendar.

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PO Box 279
Washington Depot, CT 06794