Conserving Carolina’s Trail Crew builds, maintains sustainable trails

Every Wednesday, the Trail Crew convenes to create and to improve Conserving Carolina’s extensive network of trails in the Hickory Nut Gorge, under the direction of Conserving Carolina’s trails coordinator, Peter Barr.

“Our crew is now fondly called Conserving Carolina ‘Rock Crushers’ Trail Crew, because we hand made so much gravel,” says Peter. “We make gravel to harden the tread surface—or underneath the surface—of trails, which makes them more sustainable. Rock lasts forever, and boots that step on rock instead of soil or mud don’t disturb or dislodge any soil, eliminating erosion and impact to the natural resource.”

Earlier this month, the crew improved the Bearwallow Mountain trailhead by spreading and compacting 40,000 pounds of gravel and installing parking signs.

Creating and maintaining what may seem like simple paths through the woods is actually quite complex. Much like Conserving Carolina’s work to permanently conserve our lands and waters, trails must also stand the test of time while minimizing impact to the natural resources through which they traverse.

When creating new trails, Peter seeks to achieve physical, ecological, social and managerial sustainability. These four components respectively address level of upkeep as well as care for the land, flora and fauna, and trail users.

“Sustainable trails are a science,” says Peter. “A well thought out and skillfully constructed trail won’t damage the land long-term while also offering an enjoyable and deeply impactful experience to all those who follow it—now and forever.”

With these principles, the “Rock Crushers” typically focus on special projects such as building stairs, installing grade reversals, solving drainage issues, installing trailhead kiosks, clearing debris and deadfall after the Party Rock fire, supporting professional trail contractors in their construction process and monitoring Bearwallow Mountain’s summit—removing discarded trash and fire rings from illegal camping.

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