Mariton: Trail Trimming

January 31, 2012

Stewardship Assistant, Kevin Mault

One of the winter jobs at Mariton is trimming back the edges of trails.  We use a weed whacker with a steel blade.  Then, it is a matter of going step by step alongside each trail, and cutting all the woody vegetation on the shoulder. 

The purpose is to keep shrubs and trees a few feet back from the trail.  During the summer, their branches reach into the walk way.  Unfortunately, then those branches have to be pruned, which is even more time consuming.  And during the summer, we really don’t have time.   Trees right on the edge send roots into the trails and are more prone to damage from routine trail maintenance.  Without the edge trimming, the trails gradually close in to narrow paths.  While it very difficult for most people to see the difference, you can definitely feel it.  We have had to skip the job some years because of heavy snow cover, and you could feel the trails closing in the following summer.

When I started this winter job many, many years ago, it was just about keeping tree trunks, roots and branches out of the trails.  Over the years, I have discovered the added benefits of this job.  The most noticeable is that when we pushed back the woody vegetation the wildflowers moved off of the trails and onto the shoulders.  Instead of getting trampled, the flowers along the edge flourished, going to seed, and spreading along the trails.  There are a lot more wildflowers at Mariton now.

Winter trail trimming is a very time consuming project, but it is less time consuming than trimming back the individual branches during the summer.  Plus, more trail maintenance during the summer would mean more impact on wildflowers.  Finally during the winter, we can comfortably wear heavy protective clothing.