Maintaining Our Trail System
by Steve Ward, Park Manager
Maintaining the trail system at Radnor Lake takes planning, cooperation and countless hours of hard work by the ranger staff and volunteers. With more than 1 million visitors a year, the trails literally take a beating.
Mulching trails at Radnor began years ago with the Lake and Spillway trails. In the past 10 years, the project has expanded to include the Access, South Lake and Valve-House trails and parts of the South Cove and Ganier Ridge trails.
We mulch the trail system for a variety of reasons like reducing impact on our most heavily used trails and minimizing sedimentation and runoff into the streams and lake. A freshly mulched trail defines the path and helps to prevent wet spots.
When muddy areas develop, visitors walk around them to avoid muddy shoes, but this causes unintended problems. The long-term effect is the widening of the path and destruction of wildflowers and native plants as they are crushed. Multiply that times thousands of visitors weekly and you end up with a pig path instead of a trail. Maintaining the trail system with a gravel base topped with a thick layer of mulch helps to prevent this from happening. This often keeps the trail width narrower and creates a better hiking experience that minimizes the effect of high visitation on the trails. It also simply looks better.
The mulch used on the trails must be free of litter. Sharp objects such as wire and string could be detrimental to wildlife and create hazardous conditions for visitors. We never want to introduce manmade items into the natural area.
Keeping fresh mulch on as many of the trails at Radnor Lake as possible is a taxing job. Because the park staff consists of no maintenance personnel, rangers must depend on volunteers to help get the job done.
Trees to Trails
If you’ve ever hiked at Radnor Lake in January, the aroma of cedar might have reminded you of the holidays. That’s because every January the ranger staff and volunteers begin mulching the trails with recycled Christmas trees.
Trees to Trails is a partnership among Radnor staff, the City of Oak Hill and Clean Earth. The program allows Oak Hill residents to leave their trees along their road frontage where it will be picked up, chipped and delivered to Radnor Lake. There is also a tree drop-off option for three to four weeks in January. Residents can bring their trees to the natural area where they will be chipped by Clean Earth.
Taking this program a step further, Radnor staff and the City of Oak Hill expanded the partnership to include the brush and tree limbs downed from storm damage or removed for safety issues. This refuse would have been destined for a landfill, but now it’s chipped and delivered to Radnor Lake as mulch.
Ranger staff and volunteers take it from there, loading wheelbarrows one pitch fork at a time with the freshly chipped cedar mulch. This successful partnership comes at no cost to the natural area, reduces landfill use and benefits everyone involved.
Thank you to the City of Oak Hill leadership and residents, park visitors, the ranger staff and volunteers whose efforts make Trees to Trails a huge success and help Radnor staff maintain one of the best trail systems in Tennessee.
Due to damage from the flood of 2010, the bridges along the Lake Trail could only handle regular foot traffic, unable to support equipment to haul gravel and mulch. Thanks to the generous support of Friends of Radnor Lake, the family of Ken Levitan and funds obtained from Peter Frampton’s Benefit for Radnor Lake Concert last year, two of those bridges have been replaced and are now able to withstand the weight of the trail-mulching equipment.
There is one more bridge to rebuild, and when it is finished, the entire Lake Trail can be mulched utilizing equipment, rather than just wheelbarrows. Volunteer and staff hours now can be concentrated on other trails to continue improving our trail system.
To everyone who has contributed to our trail maintenance…thank you!
We Love Our Volunteers
Volunteer days, which began 11 years ago with a few folks showing up to help, has snowballed into a program that has become a phenomenal resource for getting things done.
Every fourth Saturday of the month, volunteers gather to help park staff complete much-needed projects that range from building and maintaining trails to removing exotic plants. Since the 2010 flood, we have had an outpouring of support to get the natural area and its trails back to top condition. The most recent projects completed by volunteers include building two bridges on the Lake Trail and the construction of the Historic Valve-House Trail.
For two years running, we have received financial support from several people through Friends of Radnor Lake to support our volunteer program by providing bottle water, gloves, insect repellent, T-shirts and/or lunches for the volunteers.
Once again this year, we have received another grant from our partners at REI in Brentwood. REI awarded Friends of Radnor Lake a $5,000 grant to fund our volunteer support efforts.
Not everyone can physically do the work, but there are other ways to pitch in as park visitors Rick and Dana Short did. For the past three years, the Shorts have donated numerous cases of bottled water toward our volunteer efforts simply because they appreciate the natural area and the efforts that go into it on a daily basis.
I received a note last year that I would like to share from the Shorts:
“Dana and I wish we could do more, but physical ailments prevent us from doing the labor necessary. The water is Dana’s idea, but we are happy to do anything to help with the volunteers and the rangers. She has been doing this over a three-year period and is very proud to do it. We both enjoy this park very much. Thanks to the volunteers and staff for providing a safe and beautiful place to walk.” — Rick Short
This is just one example of the kind of support we receive from our visitors and friends at Radnor Lake. Whether it is volunteering your time, providing financial support to our volunteer efforts and/or organizing a group to come help out, it is appreciated. However you choose to do it, thank you in advance for helping us continue to protect Radnor Lake.