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New life for old trails

If you walk through the woods, you do not leave much of a trail. Only a well-practiced tracker can follow you from point A to point B. If you walk the same woods every day, in the same spot, you will create a shallow groove in the forest floor. If you throw a party in the woods, by the end of the weekend your guests will have turned that shallow groove into an obvious path.

In a sense, we throw a party every day at Little Long Pond between Memorial Day and Labor Day and, unfortunately, some of our trails are suffering from it. The natural lands at Little Long Pond see well over 60,000 people and 30,000 dogs per year. At the most distant part of the David & Neva Trail we measured over 9,500 people in 2020 (4,300 between Memorial Day and Labor Day), which means that the number of people using any part of that trail is much higher. This volume of traffic is leading to erosion and trail deterioration.

The good news is that the Preserve has a remedy that will keep our trails open, safe, and enjoyable. The many paws and feet on the trails usually require hardened surfaces, which is what we will be working on this summer. We received a $50,000 grant from the State of Maine to restore major sections of the David & Neva Trail and the Jordan Stream Path, our two most popular trails. The Preserve received this funding through the state’s Recreation Trails Program, which dispenses federal highway money to a variety of trail groups around the state including municipalities and conservation organizations like the Preserve. Our project will span 2021-2022 and result in a much safer and more pleasurable hiking experience for everyone.

Sections of our trails are so well used that the original soil surface has eroded, leaving exposed roots. This is not an ideal surface for a hike.

Many sections of the David & Neva Trail and the Jordan Stream Path will not change much; we will mostly remove roots and lay down a rock/mineral soil base. Other sections will see short relocations to avoid sensitive wetland areas and stonework to reinforce the trail. The trail width will remain the same (2-4’) and we are trying hard to retain all the best features and views. To keep true to Acadia-specific design qualities, we have worked closely with Gary Stellpflug and Christian Barter who are the current leaders of the Acadia National Park trail department and have 60 years of trail building experience combined.

Both the David & Neva Trail and the Jordan Stream Path will remain open as we repair the trails. You will see me along with our land stewards Ed and Dave, as well as a crew from the Maine Conservation Corps working on the trails. Stop and say hi if you are passing by.

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