When you use the official trails, you help to protect our park! A new project at Devil’s Lake State Park involves blocking off side trails and short cuts through the forests created by large numbers of hikers going “off trail.” These side trails, often called “Volunteer Trails” kill vegetation, compact the ground so new plants can’t grow and spread invasive plant species such as garlic mustard deeper into the forest.
The trail rehab project is a response to the many, many “unofficial” trails or paths that have scarred up the park in recent years. As more people visit the park and trample through the woods to cut off a corner or get to a favorite view, fishing or climbing spot, the worse it is for the park’s environment. Sadly, once these volunteer trails get started, they only get worse as more people see them and assume they are “OK” to use. In no time, the ground beneath these paths through the woods can become so compacted that it can literally take years before anything will grow and they become lined with invasives brought in on shoes such as garlic mustard which is over-running some sections of the park already.
Learning from the busy national parks out west, Nature Center volunteers are simply covering the trails with downed wood and putting up signs asking park visitors to use the official trails and give the land some time to recover. (In time we may have to do more to loosen up compacted soil and replant some areas as well.) It’s not complicated, it’s just the act of caring and bringing attention to the problem so everyone can do their part to keep Devil’s Lake the amazing place it is.
You Can Help!
The easiest way to help is to simply stay on the official trails here at Devil’s Lake State Park, Parfrey’s Glen, Pewit’s Nest and any other natural area you visit. If you have more time, then please sign up to volunteer at the Nature Center for our regular work days. We usually only spend a few hours a week out on the trails, but with a lot of volunteers we can do great things! Learn more about volunteering right here.