Trail Renovation at Willisbrook Preserve 

March 12, 2020
Erin Smith

pink flags on the sections of trail marked for restoration.

Early on a misty morning, five volunteers and eight staff members gathered to give the yellow trail at Willisbrook Preserve a much-needed makeover. This milelong trail winds through a wetland area, which means that conditions are often muddy. While getting some dirt on your boots can be fun, a muddy trail is a less accessible trail. As hikers skirt around the mud and puddles, the trail widens and encroaches into the surrounding vegetation, killing plants and cutting into wildlife habitat 

The trail was renovated with a technique called ‘turnpiking’. Although the name might sound like we’re installing tolls, it’s actually a process for elevating a trail. Turnpiking uses fill material to provide a stable base for hikers and equestrians. The team worked for five hours digging trenches, hauling three tons of gravel, installing geotextile fabric, and moving dirt to renovate the trail.

pouring dirt on the trail

This week stewardship staff returned to to install a truck bed of wood chips. Wood chips help to stabilize moist soil. One more load of wood chips on the trail and the project will be complete. The yellow trail will reopen for visitors in April.

Trail improvements make our preserves more accessible to visitors, but it takes supplies, skill, and many hours of work to make it happen. In the end, the effort is invisible as the trail blends back into the natural landscape. Visitors won’t know they are walking on three tons of gravel, they’ll just see a winding trail through the trees  where the birds are singing, and the first signs of spring are sprouting.

Photos by Erin Smith.  

You can support our efforts to maintain trails at Willisbrook Preserve and our other natural areas when you become a member of Natural Lands.