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Streamweaver
01-30-2004, 17:33
I read some posts on another site that kinda concerned me a bit,but before I reply I Thought I would get some thoughts from folks here. The poster was recommending a pair of ultralight pruning shears for those doing their part with a little trail maintenance while they were out on the trail hiking. To me that doesnt sound like such a good idea ,the thought of people however well meaning going around snipping and cutting any branches,weeds or whatever that they feel shouldnt be there.It didnt seem to me that these folks were trail maintainers but just some hikers that felt it would be helpfull to pitch in on their own.It seems like a nice gesture but it also seems like it could get outa hand without experienced trail maintainers deciding what needs to be trimmed and what should be left alone.Any thoughts on this?? Thanx,Streamweaver

Cehoffpauir
01-30-2004, 17:46
I personally would leave things be. Nature has a way of caring for itself.

I would save my efforts for a week of volunteer work.

DebW
01-30-2004, 17:53
I agree with you, Streamweaver. There are standards for the way brush should be cut (where to make the cut relative to other branches, how to disperse the branches for least esthetic impact) and how wide and high the trail corridor should be. There are also times when a maintainer will deliberately let certain areas grow and prune others to force hikers to walk on the stepstones or bog bridges, or just to minimize erosion. Another very important consideration is rare and endangered plants that grow near the trail in places. Maintainers are given information about what plants to watch out for in their section and when to prune to minimize impact. I suggest that if anyone wants to clip vegetation while they hike, that they talk to the local maintaining club first, or better yet, sign up on a work trip with the club and help with the projects that the club has put priority on.

Streamweaver
01-30-2004, 17:57
Thats what I was thinking too because some spots have rare plants or flowers or something that could accidently get clipped by some well meaning hiker. Some of us just plain like it on the wilder side! Streamweaver

Brushy Sage
01-30-2004, 17:57
As a member of a trail construction and maintenance crew, I offer my thoughts. The trail maintaining clubs along the AT have working agreements with the Appalachian Trail Commission and the forest service and park service agencies up and down the trail. The maintaining clubs are granted special access to these public lands for purposes of construction and upkeep, and there is ongoing coordination between the clubs and the agencies. Every section of the AT is assigned to one or more regular maintainers whose job is to walk their section of the trail at specified intervals and take care of small maintenance jobs such as clipping back bushes that have overgrown the trail, moving off small trees that have fallen across the trail, etc. For heavier jobs, trail crews from the AT clubs, or specialized crews from the ATC are brought in. In my opinion, people who undertake to do trail maintenance on their own might be engaging in illegal activity. I remember one man who was clipping back bushes along a trail (not the AT) in Maryland, when the park rangers came along and said he had been reported by a jogger who had passed by while he was working. He explained that he was the appointed trail maintainer for that section (by Potomac Appalachian Trail Club), and the rangers left him to do his work.

Spirit Walker
01-30-2004, 18:00
It depends on where you are hiking, really. A trail that gets regular maintenance (most of the AT) probably won't need your assistance. But I've hiked a lot of trails that get very little maintenance, so every bit of assistance is welcome. Many trails have no maintaining organization, just occasional volunteers that get out on a section every few years. Even trails with a maintainer my have a hard time keeping up with the overgrowth and blowdowns. In some areas trails can get overgrown very quickly. I know I wouldn't object to a kind volunteer helping out on my section of the Mid-State Trail if they felt that the briars were growing into the trail. On the PCT, because of the distances between roads, there were areas that only got cleared every 3-5 years. There were definitely times on that trail that I wished I had some loppers with me.

That said, doing maintenance would slow you down a lot. Even moving downed branches can slow you up, though it is something that I do regularly. Clipping an overgrown trail can make a 5 mile hike an all day excursion. But it can be worth the effort.

Bottom line, in my opinion, if you know a trail tends to be overgrown and doesn't get frequent maintenance, and you don't mind spending the time, why not help out? At the least, you can always move branches off the trail, maybe help clear a filled in waterbar, break off branches that cross the trail at face level, etc. It's not difficult to help. I am always surprised when I run into small branches that have been left lieing in the trail that are obvious trippers (i.e. knee height) and that are easy to move -- but hikers just stepped over and around them without picking them up and tossing them off the trail. Since the hurricane, we usually hike with a small saw to cut off small branches that have fallen into the trail. It has been used often.

Saluki Dave
01-30-2004, 20:21
Those trail maintainers must all be 5 foot nothing then, 'cuz I get slapped in the face regularly by low hangers. I'm not above taking them off with my poles either. One of those things could take a hiker's eye out some day.

On the topic of trail maintenance, I was up in the Smokies last August and the maintainers had just been through. The trail was covered with hemlock cuttings for miles. It's rocky and slippery enough as it is, without having to guess what's underfoot.

Rants aside; thanks to all the volunteers for the good work you do. If I b*tch about it, I might as well sign up to help.

Brushy Sage
01-30-2004, 22:16
Those trail maintainers must all be 5 foot nothing then, 'cuz I get slapped in the face regularly by low hangers. I'm not above taking them off with my poles either. One of those things could take a hiker's eye out some day.

On the topic of trail maintenance, I was up in the Smokies last August and the maintainers had just been through. The trail was covered with hemlock cuttings for miles. It's rocky and slippery enough as it is, without having to guess what's underfoot.

Rants aside; thanks to all the volunteers for the good work you do. If I b*tch about it, I might as well sign up to help.

I know from my own hiking experiences that the quality of trail maintenance varies from place to place. I still think it is not a very good idea for people to carry loppers or other clipping tools with the intent of cutting back unruly growth wherever they see it. And I hope you will become active in a maintaining group; you'll probably like it a lot, and will meet some very good people who do care about the trail.

snuffleupagus
01-31-2004, 02:19
Those trail maintainers must all be 5 foot nothing then, 'cuz I get slapped in the face regularly by low hangers. I'm not above taking them off with my poles either. One of those things could take a hiker's eye out some day.

On the topic of trail maintenance, I was up in the Smokies last August and the maintainers had just been through. The trail was covered with hemlock cuttings for miles. It's rocky and slippery enough as it is, without having to guess what's underfoot.
IMHO, unless you are not trained in herbaculture or plant pathology you donít have any need to make cuts into or out of any living plant along the trail. At home we prune, we rake, we cut down, to improve upon or achieve a certain look within the boundaries of aesthetics. What makes the Appalachian Trail so aesthetically pleasing is that the plants that grow there have been growing there for millions of years. You are there only as necessity would allow it to get from point A to point B. Am I right? By cutting or pruning without prior knowledge of what you are cutting or pruning, are allowing infectious pathogens to pass from one species to another, unless there is some aseptic procedures available now for pruning plants and trimming trees that I am unaware of. Entire forests have been devoured by the introduction of both man made and existing disease causing pathogens.

You can divide the disease cycle into five steps:

1. Contact: A pathogen in some form comes in contact with the plant.

2. Entry: The pathogen enters the plant. (through an open cut or wounded plant)

3. Infection: The pathogen begins causing disease in the host plant.

4. Dormancy: The pathogen survives harsh conditions in a dormant state.

5. Spread: The pathogen moves to other plants.

This means without the knowledge of a trained person to assess the cutting, pruning, or removal of any plant along the trail, the disease cycle begins with the person making one cut after another to maintain a clearly visible trail. Not even a trail maintainer should be allowed to make a cut into any living plant for that matter. Unless he/she has the training to do so. Plants must already fight to live with unwieldy hacker downers of all sorts. Care should be taken when hiking in areas of the trail congested with foliage as not to disturb any plant life. Hence the term leave no trace. To move a plant limb out of the way to make it possible to pass by, well I would have to say itís just as easy to walk around the plant or duck under as not to injure or introduce man made pathogens to said plant for conservation sake. Doesnít anyone remember that wicked old tree in Bly Gap. What happens when someone decides that this tree is in the middle of the trail. I guess we wack it down with a hatchet.

Now in the matter of removal of dead wood. Maybe we should classify this as Trail Sanitation rather than Trail Maintenance. Dead wood is exactly that right. Wrong. How many small animals; birds, mice, lizards, earthworms for that matter belong to that fallen spruce tree laying in the middle of a hikers path. Does that mean chop it all to heck with a chainsaw. I donít think so. By natures law it should be left there to decompose in a manner seen fit by nature. Why canít a trail maintainer be responsible for building over it. Not hacking through it.

Now as for the maintenance issueís. We all have a responsibility to maintain the trail. To maintain is exactly that, and in my thesaurus to maintain is to preserve. Overgrown or not. The trail is there. Whether you see it or not. Over the years of hikers stomping, and clomping, and wacking, and hacking away at every little detail, we are taking away from those properties in which Benton MacKaye had envisioned. Do you truly think Myron Avery or Earl Shaferís brought with them a pair of scissor pruners and said I canít get through all this crap Iíll wack it down that way people will know I did my part in the preservation. Leave the pruners at home. Hike your hike. Take home with you the vision that the great men and women before us took home with them. A pristine view of what nature has allowed for all of us to walk upon. To think upon. To ponder. The beautiful wonder of nature itself.

Peaks
02-02-2004, 10:31
The question was how about doing some brush clipping as you hike along. I'd say, go for it. Just understand that's it's going to slow your hike down.

Before hand, know how they want things clipped (no coat hangers).

But, if you don't want to bring along clippers, there are other ways to help with trail maintenance. Try moving fallen branches off the foot path. Use your heal to clean out a drainage ditch. So forth. These small efforts don't take much time, and make the walk that much nicer for the next person coming along.

Doctari
02-02-2004, 12:13
I agree with the posts that say leave the trail maintnence to those whos area it is. As a former maintainer of a local trail, I have seen much of my work: to reduce erosion, route the trail for safety, etc. undone by some well meaning hiker with a pair of pruning shears or worse.
Also, My advice is to Stay ON the trail, no matter how muddy, this confines the erosin to a manageable area. And please, whenever possible, do not step on the water bars (wood or rocks angled across the trail to reduce erosion) I have had to repair or replace so many of them before their time because of hikers stepping on &/or removing them.
I am a trained trail maintainer, and I would NEVER work on a trail without prior aproval, and have helped a few times on the AT & other trails while hiking but only when I meat a group or person who is doing maint. on His/Her section, then only after asking if help was needed. One person did say no, I thanked him for his efforts & continued on my way without ill will.

Doctari.

Mr. Clean
02-05-2004, 12:57
I'm also a trail maintainer, and about the only thing that I'd recommend doing would be to kick the leaves/sticks out of any clogged drainages you may come across, and to kick branches off the trail. A clogged drainage can cause trail-trouble if the maintainer doesn't get out for a while, and kicking branches out of the way just makes people stay on the trail rather than going around. I'd leave the clipping to the maintainer.

tribes
02-05-2004, 17:13
I maintain 4 miles of the AT and 4 miles of other trails in NJ with the New York New Jersey Trail Conference. They are very organized and have somewhat strict guidelines for maintenence in order to make it efficient for maintainers to maintain and to minimize any unnecessary impact other than the trail itself. I agree with most others in this post by saying that trails that are already maintained should be left to the maintainers. Like someone else said, clearing branches or minor obstructions from the trail is fine, but leave the clipping of branches, clearing or blowdowns, blazing, rock work etc... to designated maintainers and the clubs they represent. If the trails you are hiking on have no maintenence club taking care of them then I guess it is ok to do some work if you are so inclined. Just make sure you are not on private property if you are doing so.

bearbait2k4
02-06-2004, 02:22
Why don't these people just volunteer for trail maintenance?

If there are, in fact, sections on the AT that really need work (I mean, do they really? Should we throw down some gravel as well?), then why don't they volunteer to head up a maintenance crew on these sections?

Kozmic Zian
02-18-2004, 20:50
Trail Croppers? I don't think so.....Do not crop, cut or prune The Trail, except to maybe kick some limbs over to the side. If you want to do this 'self-ordained' maintainence, don't. Leave it up to those who are appointed to do so. I know if I maintained a section, I be hoo-dooed if I came to my section to find it all whacked up. Like another poster said, Leave it up to those who're qualified. Now, you could clear a small branch pokin' your eye out, Sonny. But, that's 'bout it. Most maintainers take pretty darn good care of their sections. If they don't, 'write 'em a letter'. KZ@

Frosty
02-19-2004, 09:32
I maintain 4 miles of the AT and 4 miles of other trails in NJ with the New York New Jersey Trail Conference. They are very organized .... leave the clipping of branches, clearing or blowdowns, blazing, rock work etc... to designated maintainers and the clubs they represent.


If trail maintenance was so efficient, this topic would never have come up. I break off branches when they intrude onto the trailpath, especially those sharp dead pine tree branches.

I am appreciate of thoe who volunteer to spend time making the AT and all trails clear of obstructions, but sometimes (especially in Maine) I see saplings cut on the diagonal leaving a three to six inch long spear sticking out of the ground. One trip and fall, and it's off to the hospital, laddie.