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Trail Work at Dunbar Cave

 

Dunbar Cave seen from across Swan LakeDunbar Cave State Natural Area and Port Royal Historic Area is lucky to have four summer workers this year, in addition to the regular staff. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds the workers through the Summer Youth Work Program of WorkForce Essentials, Inc.

The workers are Teenagers Brooke, James and Kevin; and Scott, who is twenty years old. They have been at the parks since early June and will work through July. They have done everything from cleaning bathrooms and picking up trash to mowing and weed eating. All are working hard and hopefully having fun as well.

Brooke in particular impressed us during her first week on the job when she came upon a copperhead, and not only did not scream or run, but calmly picked it up and moved it off the trail using the “trash grabber” she was carrying.

A Northern Copperhead

A Northern Copperhead

The workers have also completed or are currently working on three large projects involving improvements to the trails at Dunbar Cave. According to Park Manager Bob Wells, “this trail maintenance is long overdue because it is extremely labor intensive, and having these extra workers has allowed the staff to make these improvements to provide a better experience for our visitors who use the trails.”

Trail Reconstruction

An example of erosion on an old section of the trail

An example of erosion on an old section of the trail

The first project relocated the beginning section of the Short Loop and Recovery Trails, which had major erosion problems. If you have walked the trails in the last few months, you probably noticed that there was a big gully down the center of the trail, caused by water runoff from the street above. This gully got wider and deeper each time it rained. To correct this, the trail was moved away from the problem area. A new section of trail was laid out, trees and vegetation removed, the ground leveled and the section joined to the older trail system. The old section was blocked off to prevent visitor access, and the gully filled in with rocks.

Walking Bridge constructed

Walking bridge

The Walking bridge

The second project was a bridge built by David Britton and Joe Smiley, park employees, with the help of the new workers. This bridge spans an area of the trail, in a low spot, that gets extremely muddy after heavy rains. Visitors, trying to avoid going through the mud, were widening the trail to an unacceptable level (a trail that should have been two feet wide was becoming six to eight feet wide in places) and were also trampling the vegetation, including rare flowers, on both sides of the trail. Having this bridge will stop this damage to the trail and to the surrounding ecosystem.

Erosion Control

The third project, under the supervision of Seasonal Interpretive Ranger Tim Smith and Mr. Britton, with the assistance of Seasonal Interpretive Ranger Michael Fulbright, involves replacing old erosion blocks and placing new blocks where needed. These blocks, which are installed across steep areas of the trail, are designed to divert water that runs down a trail after a rain (on a trail all vegetation that would stop the runoff has been removed), and prevent the soil from being washed away. This helps to stop erosion of the trail such as the gully mentioned above. Some visitors, rather than stepping over the blocks, walked around the ends, widening the trail and eventually removing the vegetation to the sides, which caused the water to run around the ends instead of being caught and stopped by the blocks as intended, leading to more erosion. Our workers have spent many hot hours and continue to work at removing old blocks and digging out the ground, placing and reinforcing the new blocks.

We invite you to come to the park and check out the new additions to the trail and to meet our workers.

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