The following is a version of the article I wrote for the March 2011 Pumpkinvine Trail Talk regarding trail maintenance. It is just as relevant today.
Even though the creation of the trail has taken 20 years from purchase to settling legal issues to funding the development, we have always known that managing it once it is done would be as large a challenge as creating it. Management and maintenance is a day-to-day, month-to-month, indeed year-to-year proposition. There’s no vacation for park managers.
There are trail projects that have the good fortune to be near enough to a population base that there are enough volunteers to staff a trail without professional help. The Cardinal Greenway from Muncie to Richmond, Ind. is one of those trails, but most trails eventually end up as city or county parks. Although we have wonderful volunteers who give generously for trail work and the Pumpkinvine Bike Ride, we do not have enough to do all the work needed to perform maintenance on a 17-mile trail.
The park departments have the expertise to manage a park that we lack. The problem in 2011 is that in these tough economic times, parks are some of the first government agencies to have their budgets cuts. Legislators don’t see parks as essential services. It is, to my way of thinking, a shortsighted viewpoint, but it’s the reality.
What does trail maintenance involve? Here’s a partial list.
§ Mowing the shoulders.
§ Surface cleaning to remove fallen branches and leaves.
§ Planting wildflowers and native grasses.
§ Tree pruning and removal
§ Invasive species removal
§ Empty trash cans
§ Repairing cracks and potholes in the asphalt or ruts in the limestone.
§ Patrolling the trail.
§ Removal of illegal dumping
§ Repairing fences,
§ Inspecting bridges
§ Fixing signs, benches, fences and gates.
How do the Friends of the Pumpkinvine Nature Trail, Inc. and our supporters fit into this phase of the trail’s life? What will our role be? How can we make the best contribution?
That’s part of what our board and the Pumpkinvine Advisory Committee will help clarify in the next few years. In my mind, the creation of this trail is not like a relay race in which we (the Friends) hand to baton off to the next runner (the four local agencies) to manage the trail. Instead, it is a partnership in which we work alongside these agencies.
How might that work? We can supply some volunteers, like we did last year after the June 17, 2009 storm that toppled dozens of trees onto the trail. We could also help fund a staff position that would greatly enable management of the trail and take pressure off the local managing agencies.
But questions remain: Will our supporters be willing to “tax” themselves through membership dues toward such a goal? Will the annual bike ride continue to flourish and provide income above expenses to the Friends? Will sponsors be as generous five and 10 years after the trail is open?
It is our responsibility to make the case for that continuing support.