With more than 70 miles of natural trails, it is imperative that the Land Trust of North Alabama makes an effort to create sustainable trails in order to minimize the amount of ongoing maintenance. Having a sustainable trail system allows the Land Trust to focus its limited resources not just on maintenance but also on the continued creation of new and exciting trail experiences. But sustainable trail restoration takes time and resources, which means we rely heavily on partnerships to make it happen.
Last fall, the Land Trust was awarded grant funding from the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF) to renovate and upgrade one of its signature trails – Bluff Line Trail on the Monte Sano Nature Preserve. This particular trail has been around for more than 30 years. It was not originally designed as a hiking trail, but served as an access road into the property. Over the years, it has been subject to erosion, recently exacerbated by two significant regional droughts, and the traffic of innumerable hiking and biking trail enthusiasts. All that damage and heavy use has left its mark.
With NEEF’s grant funding, the Land Trust is finally able to rally trail care partners to the cause of converting this trail to a sustainable one that will remain suitable for all trail users, another 30 years and beyond.
The trail restoration project includes training on sustainable trail building techniques for our volunteers. These skills can be applied to enhance trails on all Land Trust nature preserves, as well as other trail systems throughout our community, such as Monte Sano State Park, the Space and Rocket Center, and neighboring municipalities. Trainings cover best practices – like rock work for drainage crossings, armoring of trails, containment walls, and chainsaw safety (for clearing trail corridors of hazard trees).
Using these specialized skills, volunteers, with guidance from Land Trust staff, will make the following alterations to Bluff Line Trail:
- Approximately one mile of the 2 mile trail will be rerouted to a more sustainable trail corridor.
- Two major trail intersections will be rerouted to create safer and more sustainable transition points.
- Two significant bridges will be constructed and drainage issues will be addressed to keep water off the trail.
- Trees within a minimum eight foot proximity to the trail corridor that are deemed hazardous will be evaluated and marked by registered foresters for removal.
- The remaining one mile of trail will be groomed and adjusted as needed.
Trails weave together a community and it takes partners to make the connections. The Land Trust is fortunate to have such great community support for this and other trail projects.
- Southern Offroad Bicycling Association (SORBA) Huntsville will be a major partner in completing this trail work, including the construction of a bridge.
- Monte Sano State Park will provide much needed equipment and property access.
- Dynetics Young Professionals will design and build a second bridge.
- Huntsville Young Professionals, Frank Williams Dealerships, local Boy Scout groups, and numerous individual trail care volunteers will all provide the enthusiasm and sweat equity needed for trail construction and maintenance projects.
- Chainsaw Team Six, a group of retired military volunteers, will provide much of the hazard tree chainsaw work.
If you are interested in volunteering to help with the Bluff Line Trail Restoration, please sign up for one of our upcoming trail care work days at landtrustnal.org/volunteer.