Tag Archives: trail maintenance

Cutting the switchbacks: Bitterroot Forest trail crew’s work undermined by errant hikers

Coal Ridge, July 21, 2018 - W. K. Walker

Coal Ridge, July 21, 2018 – W. K. Walker

Hikers and bikers cutting switchbacks is a problem just about anywhere trails climb steep terrain. Here’s a timely reminder, originally posted to the Ravalli Republic, of why it is a bad idea . . .

A hiker’s decision to save a few steps by cutting between switchbacks may be endangering the future of some of the Bitterroot National Forest’s most scenic trails.

Last summer, the Bitterroot Forest’s five-person trail crew spent a day and a half building a rock wall and hauling in forest debris to cover the user-created trails between switchbacks on the popular Blodgett Overlook Trail west of Hamilton.

Nearly all of that work has been undone by new trails created this summer by hikers who opt to head straight down the mountain rather than staying on the trail designed to keep erosion in check with a walkway that’s safe for public travel.

Read more . . .

Alert: USFS Northern Region invites public to help identify priority trail maintenance work

Moran Basin Trail (Trail 2) in Flathead NF, July 2014 - W. K. Walker

Moran Basin Trail (Trail 2) in Flathead NF, July 2014 – W. K. Walker

This press release by the U.S. Forest Service, Northern Region came out on March 14, but no one noticed it right away. Needless to say, we’ll be following up on this.

Short version: The public has until April 5, 2017 to submit ideas and comments “to help identify trails that will be part of a U.S. Forest Service effort with partners and volunteers to increase the pace of trail maintenance.” It looks like Kent Wellner at kwellner@fs.fed.us or (406) 329-3150 is the primary Northern Region point of contact for this.

Here’s the full text of the release . . .


Release Date: Mar 14, 2017 Missoula, MT
Contact(s): Scott Fenimore, 406-329-3047, Kent Wellner, 406-329-3150

Partners, volunteers integral to addressing maintenance backlog

MISSOULA, MONT. – The Northern Region is inviting the public to help identify trails that will be part of a U.S. Forest Service effort with partners and volunteers to increase the pace of trail maintenance.

Nationwide, the Forest Service will select nine to 15 priority areas among its nine regions where a backlog in trail maintenance has contributed to reduced access, potential harm to natural resources or trail users and/or has the potential for increased future deferred maintenance costs.

The Northern Region manages more than 28,000 miles of trails enjoyed by residents and visitors alike and includes opportunities for year-round motorized and non-motorized trail use of all types. In the Northern Region, volunteers and partner groups contributed approximately 112,000 hours of service maintaining trails in 2016.

”We’ve already received some ideas from our partners,” said Northern Regional Forester Leanne Marten, “and we’d like to hear more. Our volunteers and partners help make this Region great and are critical components to the trail maintenance program. We look forward to hearing from additional organizations and individuals in the coming weeks.”

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Behind the scenery: ‘99% Invisible’ talks trails

Moran Basin Trail (Trail 2), mile 2, Flathead NF, July 10, 2014 - by W. K. Walker

Moran Basin Trail (Trail 2), mile 2, Flathead NF, July 10, 2014 – by W. K. Walker

This was an interesting find. “99% Invisible” is a professionally produced podcast “about all the thought that goes into the things we don’t think about.” Recently, they focused on the U.S. national trail network.

This a two-part article. Links to both segments are below . . .

The U.S. National Trails System‘s 30 Scenic and Historic routes alone span over 50,000 miles, longer than the entire Interstate Highway System. Extending across all 50 states, the National Recreation Trails network contains over 200,000 additional miles of public pathways. A person could walk these trails continuously for years and still experience only a fraction of the total system.

Sustaining public trails throughout the nation is a herculean task coordinated by various federal agencies (including the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) as well as state-level organizations, like the California Conservation Corps (or: CCC). In turn, these agencies rely on a huge number of paid and volunteer workers to create and maintain both federal and state trails nationwide.

Read more . . .

Also read part 2 . . .

National Trails Day in the North Fork! – Sat., June 4

MCC Trail MaintenanceLove Trails? Join Us to Get Outside & Give Back!

Join the Pacific Northwest Trail Association, Montana Conservation Corps, and the North Fork Trails Association for a day of outdoor fun, stewardship, and community on the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail!

– Tell me more!: After meeting at Polebridge Mercantile in the morning, we will carpool to the Hay Creek Trailhead, hiking while removing trail brush and obstacles. Be sure to bring your own pack with warm layers, rain gear, and plenty of water and snacks! Long pants and sturdy footwear are a must!

– I’m in! But is there food?: Barbecue lunch provided by Polebridge Mercantile and the Pacific Northwest Trail Association.

– How do I get there and back?: Meet at Polebridge Mercantile @ 9:15am or take a MCC shuttle to Polebridge from Columbia Falls’ Super 1 leaves @ 8:15am. Shuttle back to Columbia Falls from Polebridge leaves at 2:30pm.

For more information contact Stephanie Campbell: scampbell@pnt.org or 765-465-9891.

**If you plan on attending, please RSVP to scampbell@pnt.org.**

2016 NTD Hay Creek Flyer - thumbnailView/download the
National Trails Day
event poster
(JPG, 411KB).

Check out the ‘National Trails Day on the Pacific Northwest Trail’ Facebook event page.

Forest Service backs off (for now) on reductions in Montana trail maintenance funding

Trail 2, mile 2, Flathead NF, July 10, 2014 - by W. K. Walker

Trail 2, mile 2, Flathead NF, July 10, 2014 – by W. K. Walker

In the face of some angry senatorial blow-back, the Forest Service has restored full trail maintenance funding in Region 1. For now . . .

The U.S. Forest Service has dropped its proposal to reduce funding for trail maintenance in Montana. The agency originally planned to reduce appropriations for Region One, which includes Montana, by 30 percent over the next three years. This included a potential loss of $1 million to Montana’s federal trail budget this year.

U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester criticized Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week for failing to prioritize trail maintenance in Montana. The agency proposed revising its formula for funding trail maintenance across the U.S. with an added emphasis on higher population centers. In Region One, there are 28,000 miles of federally managed trails.

The agency on Friday said it would reconsider the formula change and withdrew the proposal.

Read more . . .

Also read: Forest Service backs off planned cuts in trail maintenance in Montana (Missoulian)

We don’t need no stinking chain saws

A few of us took ‘Silky’ saws up Trail 4 last Saturday to test them against this past winter’s collection of blow-downs. They’re not as fast as a freshly sharpened chain saw, but they are surprisingly effective — more than good enough for routine trail maintenance. The biggest ‘Silky’ folding saw (pictured below) weighs in at just over 2.5 pounds (1.2 kg), roughly one-tenth the load-out for our smallest chain saw, with accessories and fuel. We also carried a smaller, lighter ‘Silky’ (less than a pound, 0.45 kg) that worked just fine for most obstructions.

Trail Clearing with a 'Silky' Saw

Trail Clearing with a ‘Silky’ Saw

Unless you’re facing a substantial clearing job, a high-end, light-weight folding saw is a perfectly good alternative to a much heavier and more costly chain saw. In fact, these folding saws are so handy that a number of us are starting to include them in our standard backpack inventory.

Trail Clearing with a 'Silky' Saw

Trail Clearing with a ‘Silky’ Saw

Trail 4 hazard reduction

On July 25, several folks showed up to perform hazard reduction along the ridge top section of Trail 4. A few perilous spots on the upper switchbacks were fixed up and considerable blow-downs removed.

There were five of us in this little party…

Trail 4 Crew, July 25, 2014

Trail 4 Crew, July 25, 2014

From left to right: Randy Kenyon, Jerry Costello and Jan Caldwell. Not shown: Bill Walker (behind the camera) and Greg Evans.

Coal Ridge — Hay Creek tour

July 3, John Frederick and I took advantage of a nice day and open Forest Service gates to do the tour of the Coal Ridge — Hay Creek drainage area. We went perhaps a quarter-mile up Trail 4 with the big chain saw, did a little clean up and  then drove to the Trail 3 trailhead at the west end of Hay Creek Road.

Trail 3, most of which is old roadbed, is in excellent shape for the first mile (and likely for at least another three after that). It offers a broad vista of the west end of the Hay Creek watershed, including the Whitefish Divide.

Trail 3 - looking west

Trail 3 – looking west towards Whitefish Divide

Moran Basin Road (Road 5241), the last stop on our tour, has problems. We encountered a bad slide about two miles in where a collection of trees had slid down the bank, roots and all, spilling across the road. I cut out the first pile, but we encountered two more about a quarter-mile farther up the road. Until the Forest Service cleans this up, Moran Basin Road is navigable only by ATVs and bikes. Update: By July 8, the road was open. Someone (not the Forest Service) had removed enough debris to allow passage by regular vehicles.

Slides on Moran Basin Road - July 3, 2014

Slides on Moran Basin Road – July 3, 2014

National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act aims to improve trail maintenance

This is interesting, especially in view of our own goal to increase volunteer trail maintenance activity in the North Fork’s portion of the Flathead National Forest.

Mind you, there’s no extra money here. Instead, the bill instructs the Department of Agriculture to come up with policies to encourage and increase volunteer assistance to relieve the public trail maintenance backlog. Still, better official support at the top of the food chain for our trail concerns can’t hurt . . .

A bill encouraging the U.S. Forest Service to improve its trail maintenance received widespread support from Montana outdoors groups this week.

The Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, The Wilderness Society and others heralded the introduction of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act by Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyoming, and Tim Walz, D-Minnesota. The bill would expand the use of volunteer help on trail maintenance and codify how the Forest Service prioritizes its maintenance backlog.

Read more . . .

Further reading:
Press release from Rep. Cynthia Lummis’ office
Full text of the National Forest System Trails Stewardship Act of 2014