Between 30 to 40 people came to help with maintenance and clean up at Devil’s Lake State Park on Sunday. Volunteers & park staff worked together to clean up trash and work on various projects within the park.
Spring and fall clean-up days have been organized by Good Lands Guides, a Wisconsin tour company with a focus on giving back to the state and the parks we love. They deserve a lot of credit for doing the groundwork that makes these events happen. Their efforts brought a lot of folks together from all over the state this year to help do jobs that wouldn’t otherwise get done.
I worked with the East Bluff group, blocking social trails. With over 3 million visitors coming to the park, some trails are simply overwhelmed! On the East Bluff, hikers tend to go everywhere to get around the lines and find the “perfect” overlooks. Beneath their feet the ground cover is crushed to death, tree roots are exposed and the soil is compressed until eventually, everything dies. One of the worst locations is between the parking lots and the first overlook on the East Bluff Trail. Since this is one of the most popular trails, many people hike it up to the first overlook at the very least. Many turn around and head right back down from there, making this section more heavily used than most. For the moment we simply placed downed wood as barriers in the worst areas. In the future, these areas will need more involved restoration efforts. Until then, we just encourage everyone to stay on the trails as best as possible.
Over on the Tumbled Rocks Trail, there is an effort to make the first 3rd of the trail accessible again. Over the years tree roots have pushed up the pavement and made the trail impassable for wheelchairs or other folks with mobility challenges. Clearing these roots is a bear of a job and an equipment breaker! The guys hung in there though and were able to clear a good section of the trail which will now need new asphalt to be laid.
One of the worst jobs that need to be done at the park is carrying asphalt. It’s a slow, tiring and thankless job. That said about 10 volunteers labored away to carry buckets of asphalt up the hill between the park’s visitor center and nature center to surface the connecting trail.
These days when it comes to park maintenance, we’re left with few options. You either pay folks, get volunteers or let it fall apart. In the current climate, it seems we’re mostly teetering between the last 2 options. I think it’s pretty amazing that we can get as many people as we do to spend a cold, rainy November day doing this sort of work for free. They deserve a lot of kudos.
Oh, one last bit. With my East Bluff group, we had a dude with a chainsaw! Jake was an LTE maintenance worker with the park over the summer who was brought back to help this weekend. Since we were up on the trail, he took the opportunity to take out a few “hazard” trees along the way. These trees, many marked with a blue X some years ago, are dead need to be removed along the trails. Before we wrapped up for the day, Jake took one last hazard tree down. The trick was dropping the tree perfectly through a gap between all the other trees along the trail without getting it hung up. He knows his stuff! (See the video below)
Nice way to end the day!
**Just a reminder, DevilsLakeStatePark.com is owned by Skillet Creek Media and is not associated with the Wisconsin DNR in any way. My opinions do not represent those of the park or the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.