by Natalia Dutt, AmeriCorps Member
This month New Historic Thomas had the pleasure of hosting a trail work day with volunteers from Adventure WVU. This is a program that allows incoming first year students to get acclimated to the area, explore outside, and gain skills that will help them in their college years and beyond. Part of this program requires the students to participate in volunteer days. Nathan Harlan, the Associate Director for Adventure WVU believes it is important for students to participate in service projects such as these because, “they develop more of a connection with these places and become advocates for them.” This opportunity was perfect to teach them basic trail building skills as well as share the beauty Tucker County has to offer this time of year.
The students spent their day split into two groups. One group on the trail and the other cycling Blackwater Canyon, and they switched midway through the day. Each group got to do work that was vastly different than the other. The morning group got to work on the tail end of the trail building. They spent three hours lopping through unnecessary roots, raking out the soil, naturalizing the back slope, and generally making these sections ready for gravel and tamping. They were able to see the before and after of an almost finished section. It was awesome to see a group of students get excited for a brand new type of work.
In contrast to the morning group the afternoon team got to work on a trail that isn’t even a trail yet. They had to follow a line of tiny colored flags of un-dug trail. They spent three hours moving various types of logs, branches, and sticks away from the trail line. It gave them a very rough outline of where the new trail will be. The students got to traverse through the woods like lumberjacks hauling things through untouched bits of woods.
It was neat to see two completely opposite ends of the spectrum of trails. One being almost finished, the end is in sight and you can practically imagine it being used. Seeing people zip up and down on their bikes, taking leisurely walks, and enjoying the natural beauty the Thomas city parks have to offer. The other freshly mapped out section is hard to imagine being something other than a natural wooded area. You see these flags twisting around in a very deliberate fashion, but are unsure how it is going to transform from what it currently looks like to a usable trail.
Perhaps to the students, doing only three hours of work seemed insignificant, but the work helped us by leaps and bounds. Days like this according to Harlan, “teach college students about themselves, each other, and the communities of which they are now a part.” The mastermind behind this project, Zach Adams, said the work accomplished on this volunteer day could’ve easily taken around three weeks for one person. As we are nearing the end of the beginner mountain biker trail we can’t help but be eager and excited to see the final project. We are so thankful for these students taking time out of their weekend to spend time out on the trail. We can’t wait to share the final product with you so soon!