Dirt, water and gravity. Backslope, outslope, brushing, grade reversals, and tread. McLeods, picks and Pulaskis.
When you are hiking a trail, how much attention do you pay to the actual trail? If a trail is well built, the engineering of the trail likely never crosses your mind. As it should be. The purpose of a trail is to allow people to be in natural surroundings, soothing their psyches, stimulating their senses and challenging their bodies. If the trail is poorly designed or if you have experience building a trail, the engineering of the trail may very likely be foremost on your mind.
Building a trail requires training, surveying, planning, mapping and lots of physical effort to achieve the goal of keeping water off the tread and people on the tread. This is where the Central Texas Trail Tamers come in. Since 1993, the Trail Tamers have worked with public and private non-profit groups on hundreds of projects both large and small to plan, build and maintain sustainable trails to ensure that current and future generations will have access to nature.
Recently, the Trail Tamers (TT) teamed up with Ecology Action to build a new trail in Ecology Action’s Circle Acres Preserve. The TT taught an introductory class covering the basics of trail building and safety and took the class out to apply the principles in the field. Circle Acres is ten acres of former landfill that has been successfully restored as one of the most diverse wildlife habitats in the City. Circle Acres is surrounded by Roy G. Guerrero Park and backs up to the Montopolis neighborhood. The Montopolis neighborhood, while rich in history, is now isolated, under-served and socioeconomically disadvantaged.
The new trail, built on January 11-12, 2020, allows residents of the neighborhood to directly access the park. It reduces walking time to the park by 25 minutes. The trail building efforts met with challenges. When I-35 was constructed, the cement from the demolished East Avenue was moved to make an enormous pile on the edge of what would become the preserve. Sand was dumped on top of the detritus and plant life grew up among the debris. Over the years, this land was used as a quarry, then as a landfill by the City of Austin and later, when the landfill was decommissioned, it was used as an illegal dump site. When Ecology Action acquired the site they removed over a four-foot deep layer of garbage from the hillside on which the trail was built. Remnants of an old social/game trail existed but it was seriously degraded and long closed off for safety reasons. The steep hillside and the unstable soil allowed the group to practice many principles of sustainable trail building. The trail still needs some finishing touches but residents of the neighborhood are already using it and giving the trail a thumbs-up.
The motto of the Trail Tamers is “Get Dirty, Build Trails and Have Fun!” They are currently seeking people to join them on their next mission to the Nature Conservancy’s 33,075-acre Davis Mountains Preserve. They will perform maintenance on the Madera Canyon and Tobe Canyon Trails which they built and which are very popular among hikers. No experience necessary as training will be conducted for persons new to the business of trail work. The trip will run from 4/19/2020 to 4/25/2020 and the TT are seeking both trail builders and support staff for the event. For more information or to register, click here.