Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trail over "Sunset Hill" closed for erosion control

Rising to a breath-taking altitude of 79 feet, "Sunset Hill" is one of the highest places in Hawksnest State Park.  A trail over the top didn't exist when the park was established, but it soon became a favorite route of equestrians and off-road vehicles.

The trail is useful, because it links Round Cove Rd. with Nathan Walker Rd.  But to provide that link, it doesn't have to go over the hilltop.

Recently, Friends of Hawksnest secured permission from the State to detour the trail away from the top of the hill.  One of the equestrians was consulted, and agreed to use the new route.

Erosion control required the change

Since the park began around 1970, the upper parking area has gradually eroded.  As much as six feet of soil has eroded, transforming the parking area into two little basins.  One channels stormwater towards the pond; the other towards incoming Round Cove Rd.

View from the end of Round Cove Road, across the upper parking area, towards the trail.

Recently, the trail over Sunset Hill has started to erode.  It now feeds stormwater into one of the basins.  Without action, the parking area and the end of the road will become unusable--not to mention pollution of the pond.

The trail is especially steep as it descends away from Round Cove Rd, NW towards Black Pond.  This portion is eroding as well.

Tools of good management

When erosion starts from overuse, the best tool is to protect vegetation by closing the area--especially if there are no funds for other measures.  Sometimes, a temporary closure of a few years is enough for vegetation to recover.

Another concept of good management is to reduce conflict between different user groups.  If there's conflict, it can be resolved in favor of the most appropriate use for that site.

The trail over the hill creates several kinds of conflict.  First of all, trail damage indicates ATVs come over too fast.  This isn't a good idea on a blind hilltop, and it isn't safe for a trail entering a parking area.  Likewise, it's not a good idea to route horses through a parking area.

Erosion can pollute the pond.  So use of this trail harms the interests of swimmers.

Finally, there's a lovely grassy clearing at the top of the hill.  It's great for quiet relaxation, yet still close to the parking area.  It doesn't make sense to route through traffic of horses or hikers past this fragile spot.

The new route... designed to cross the hill at an angle.  That way, stormwater won't follow the trail for a long way.

If you are headed for Nathan Walker Rd., simply turn left from Round Cove R. at the lowest point in the road, before you approach the upper parking area.

If you are coming from Nathan Walker Rd, take a sharp right just before you would have gone up the steep hill.  The new route is the quickest way to the beach at Hawksnest.

Twice, illegal ATV riders have removed logs blocking the old trail.  You can help protect Hawksnest by replacing the logs if they are removed again.

Please respect the ropes or branches blocking the old trail! 

They are designed to maximize enjoyment for everyone, and to preserve the area for your grandchildren.

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