More than three months have passed since approximately 20 miles of the North Shore Trails at Clinton State Park were damaged April 18 during the Free State Trail Runs.
Ninety-seven days later, the trails remain in a state of disrepair, albeit not for a lack of trying.
The Kansas City Trail Nerds, who put on the Free State event, worked with the Kansas Trails Council to coordinate trail maintenance training days so trail-runners could learn the skills necessary to repair the damage (as well as to volunteer at other trails in the area).
The Lawrence Trail Hawks, whose home trails are at Clinton State Park, also organized a trail maintenance course with the Kansas Trails Council. The Trail Hawks also have moved their two most recent races – the Shoreline Shuffle and the Night Hawk 50K – to alternate courses to avoid creating additional damage.
Both groups, whose membership largely overlaps, have organized numerous official trail repair days to try to repair the damage. Almost every single one of those work days has been canceled due to rain.
Few folks have had more success than Danny Loental, who has organized multiple trail repair days that have been rained out, but who also has organized a few small groups mid-week who have made valuable improvements to the trail. Westar Energy’s “green teams” have had multiple work days, too, and repaired portions of the trail.
Clearly, efforts to repair the damage have been made, and every little bit counts. The rain has simply been relentless, though, and it has hijacked the good intentions of many folks in our community.
According to research on Weather Underground, Lawrence has received rain on nine of 14 weekends beginning with race day at Free State. Of those five dry weekends, four experienced trail-drenching rain on the preceding Friday.
Thunderstorms are approaching the area as I type this, which will move the count to 10 rainy weekends out of 15 if the clouds unleash their fury.
Putting it another way, Lawrence has experienced precipitation on 55 of the 97 days going back to Free State.
And now, the worst damage to the North Shore Trails is not from trail-runners; it’s from the oversaturation of the ground. The Red Trail was completely submerged at one point, and when the water subsided a good portion of the trail had washed away.
There’s even a portion of the Blue Trail that literally collapsed into the lake when the saturated ground gave way.
In addition, the nearly constant rainfall has turned the woods into a jungle of overgrowth.
There’s a lot of work to be done, but we haven’t forgotten about it.
Lisa Ball, Mike Grose and Gary Henry of the Trail Hawks trimmed back the overgrowth on Sanders Mound on Thursday, freeing it up for runners to do hill repeats.
Weather permitting, a trail maintenance day will take place tomorrow – Sunday, July 26.
Gary Henry is the official organizer, and he is rounding up volunteers to meet at the Corps of Engineers trail head parking lot at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. The group will carpool into the state park and repair the trail from 9 a.m. to noon.
There will be two work crews. Gary will take a crew on the White Trail, and I will take a crew on the Blue Trail. Neil Taylor, trail steward for the Kansas Trails Council, will be on hand to provide guidance and ensure the trail repairs meet expectations. Overgrowth will be trimmed back from the trail. Mike Warner and Colinda Thompson will lead the effort to saw and remove fallen trees.
A well organized, team effort is planned for Sunday that will hopefully bring some healing to a large portion of the North Shore Trails.
If only the rain will stay away tonight …