Monday, August 5, 2019

Collaboration, Community, Construction

By Beth Sullivan
A few months ago, I wrote about the power of water and some of the damage one of our beautiful trails had endured due to flooding conditions over several months last winter and spring, found here
The Pequotsepos Brook Preserve is home to several beautiful stone bridges which cross the brook. The bridges have been in existence for generations as old solid farm trail crossings. They are on the yellow blazed side paths off the main purple/yellow marked trail that runs from West Marine at Coogan Boulevard down to Mistuxet Avenue. Avalonia preserves the center part of this complex with a main access stairway and bridge off Maritime drive. The southern portion is Denison Society land.
The Connecticut College group got the effort started.

The Trails Team divided duties. This group used equipment to move bigger rocks into place.

A popular preserve

The preserve is well used by a wide variety of people: tourists staying nearby and visiting Old Mystic Village, and employees and families affiliated with Pendleton Health Care. Groups from the Aquarium hike through and monitor the wetlands for amphibians, and residents from the Stone Ridge community access the trails right from their back doors. When the main stone bridge trail became badly flooded, the power of the water over-washed and removed soil, plants, and small rocks. What remained were roots that were easy to trip on, and the huge old stones from the bridge itself. Footing was hazardous.
So we hatched a plan and got proper approvals and began a collaboration to get the job done. First, we were able to determine that there were plenty of rocks available from the quarry on site. Pretty lucky to have that resource. At the end of April, the students from the Goodwin Niering Center for the Environment at Connecticut College, had a work party and managed to haul several cart loads of rocks from the quarry to the work site. It was not an easy task as it was quite a distance, over muddy areas, narrow passages, and a couple of wooden bridges.
Next step: we needed bigger rocks to anchor the trail and break the forces of the water as it washed downstream. Avalonia’s new Trail Team leader Neil Duncan came out to evaluate with another volunteer who has a small tractor. They tagged a few good rocks, and on a hot sticky Saturday, about six members of the team and a few other volunteers showed up to place many of the smaller rocks and help position the bigger ones once the machine was able to extract them . Having the right equipment and many hands makes all the difference. By the end of several hours, we had a good portion of the washed-out area filled with rocks, stable enough to walk on, several larger rocks to serve as step stones and water breaks, and one flat tire. Seems no good deed goes left unpunished. We couldn’t do any more big rocks. Though we got a lot done, there was a lot more to do.
By hand the team placed the rocks to be as even as possible for stability.

More rocks moved and unloaded.

This group placed the smaller rocks to create a more solid trail base.

Pine Point School joins in

Enter Pine Point School and teacher Jon Mitchell who is Director of Social and Environmental Responsibility there. He was working with a dedicated group of teens in a summer program involving hiking and trail work. In an effort to help them really understand what it takes to maintain a trail system or do repairs, Jon contacted Avalonia to request some stewardship projects that would have a positive impact on the greater community. Jon himself was part of the earlier trails team effort on the Pequotsepos site, so he knew what our goals were and what the challenges were. On yet another hot sticky and rainy summer day, Jon and his team of teens added their energies to the project. They hauled more loads of rock from the quarry, and with patience of those who do jigsaw puzzles, they pieced and placed the rocks into a more solid trail base. They walked the walk to test for stability too.

The following day the remnants of Hurricane Barry dumped inches of rain on our area. It was torrential. I just had to go check on the trail work. Before I got to the bridge, I could hear the low roar of the rushing water. As I rounded the corner I could see that there was flooding upstream. The water was as high as the stones in the bridge. The overflow piled up and washed across the trail-but not over it, through it. The rocks stayed in place and allowed the flooding water to run through the porous layer and exit the other side, without washing away. It worked!

This is a great example of how community collaboration works. We are an organization of somewhat graying stewards, but with our experience and ideas, and ability to engage with students of all ages, we can get work done. We can teach the next generations of conservationists how important our work is and let them know how much we value their input and effort. Our Preserves will be in good hands when this next generation steps up.

Thank you to all who helped with this effort. I am sure all our hikers will be grateful.
A job well done.

As the water rose after the storms, it flowed through the rocks and didn't wash away the trail.

Photographs by Jon Mitchell, Phil Sheffield, and Beth Sullivan.

No comments:

Post a Comment