Keep Your Hiking Shoes Handy — Making Progress On Trails

By Trail Manager Jason Bies

It’s difficult to describe just how devastating the derecho was to our woodland trails. Without “before” pictures, you’ll have to trust me when I say they were completely wrecked. Due to the debris, in many cases it made more sense to reroute new trails than try to dig out old trails from underneath the rubble.

Just shy of a year later, we were finally able to reopen a majority of our trails, including a portion of the woodland trail — the new “Cedar Overlook” trail.

Those familiar with our woodland trail will notice a new path up the hill, and once at the top, surrounded by jagged white pine trunks scraping at the sky, hikers can now gaze down through the woods to see across the river valley and even catch glimpses of the Cedar River through what remains of the canopy.

For now, the rest of the woodland trail remains closed as work continues on clearing dangerous limbs and damaged trees, as well as creating new paths through debris we’re deliberately leaving behind for the ecology of the forest and the wildlife that lives there. That work is nearing completion and the new woodland trails are set to open soon. Stay tuned for further updates.

The new trails will take users past some familiar sections of property like the “ancient bog,” as well as explore new areas such as the highest point of our property. Keep your hiking shoes handy — we hope to see you in the woods soon once we give the all clear.

Speaking of clear… You may have noticed some serious work going on in a field on Otis Road west of 44th St SE. The land team has been hard at work removing honeysuckle and other shrubs and trees from this former farm field in preparation for a prairie reconstruction. This three-acre site was identified last fall and clearing work started in March. A significant portion of that work has involved piling debris, which will be burned later this fall.

When I walked the site last October, I envisioned it as open ground. A field of tall grass spotted with purple and gold blowing in the wind. It’s getting easier to see it now.

As with all of our work at the Nature Center, none of this would be possible without volunteers. Sometimes they come with chainsaws, sometimes with heavy equipment, and sometimes with nothing but their two hands and a ready-to-work attitude. I can’t thank them enough for their hard work.

This week we say “happy trails” to Trail Manager Jason as he embarks on the next adventure in his career. We wish him the best of luck!

This means we are also currently hiring. See the open Trail Manager position & apply here

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