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Managing Trails For A Changing Climate

Managing Trails for Changing Climate

Featured image: Stone steps built by SRA Staff along a vulnerable riverside trail.

In the last century, average precipitation in the Northeast increased 10 percent, with a corresponding 70 percent increase in heavy rains since 1958. It is not terribly surprising then that over the next century, as the climate continues to warm, the Northeast is forecast to receive more rain in more extreme weather events. Some of the impacts of these weather patterns may be obvious – heavy rainfall, such as we had with Hurricane Ida this year, may periodically flood roads and buildings, while increased heavy wind events, such as with Tropical Storm Isaias last year, may damage trees, powerlines, and other infrastructure.

But have you ever considered the consequences for your favorite trail? As rain and wind events increase, trail maintenance becomes increasingly difficult. Flooding may erode vulnerable trails while high winds may blowdown trees that render trails inaccessible; both scenarios translate to an ever-expanding need for increased trail maintenance and stewardship. In fact, following Isaias, staff and volunteers spent nearly 250 hours cleaning up the 300 blowdowns across SRA’s trail network. To address these challenges, SRA is investing in opportunities to expand our stewardship capacity and thereby make our trails more resilient to the climate crisis. Over the past several years, we have greatly increased our volunteer offerings, from programs like our Trail Managers to the Monthly Trail Work Parties. In the coming year, we intend to further this effort, establishing a trained corps of volunteers specializing in stonework to assist in major trail restorations, from construction of crib walls to stone steps. Special thanks to the National Environmental Education Foundation, Toyota Motor North America, International Paper, and the Hilton Effect Foundation for their sponsorship of this project.

Want to join the effort and do something meaningful about the climate crisis? Reach out to our Trails and Preserves Manager, Mike Giapponi, or sign up for our next monthly trail work party.  Every step taken (or built) supports a more sustainable future.

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