The all-volunteer team that’s been restoring the trail alongside the restored Linnean stream was back at it on July 2nd and 3rd, this time with a larger crew.
When I arrived, I saw a group of eleven working seamlessly together while frogs serenaded and a gaggle of young mallard ducks huddled, unperturbed, in a nearby pond.
The volunteers were digging, spreading gravel, moving heavy rocks and placing flagstones to rehabilitate the eroded and muddy trail.
Mitch Baer, the Soapstone Valley Trail supervisor for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, has been leading this effort.
He was joined on Friday, July 2nd by Janet Arici, an experienced trail supervisor for PATC working out in Northern Virginia.
John Burwell, who has been leading invasive species removal efforts at the nearby Broad Branch stream, brought some of his usual band of helpers. Members of the Student Conservation Association (SCA), led by Colin Hamilton, pitched in. And Xavier Brown of the DC Department of Parks and Recreation checked in.
It rained the previous night, creating some challenges, but the volunteers carried on with their tasks. They installed water bars.
They continued the work, which started in June, of clearing the channel under the footbridge.
The volunteers filled in an eroded section of the trail with gravel.
They installed stepping stones in two overflow areas of the trail.
And they attempted to shore up a steep section of the trail near the footbridge, using large and heavy rocks.
This section has seen a significant amount of erosion and it presented a challenge for Hamilton and the other SCA team members.
The Department of Energy and the Environment provided funding for materials. Also, David Cohen, who lives two doors away from the upper part of the trail, provided the electricity for drilling holes in the water bars for the rebar ground anchors.
Although trail work was concluded on Friday, volunteers who signed up for Saturday wanted to do more. So John Burwell returned the next day to lead the removal of invasive vines from trees and shore up the metal fencing that protects the young trees from the deer.
Not all the work was completed. The crew worked on installing a rolling grade dip on the soggy upper part of the trail near Broad Branch Terrace, but it did not hold. The ground was too saturated from the storm the night before.
Baer, the project leader, went out the next day to examine the trail, and determined that the rolling grade dip needs to be rebuilt once the section dries out. He explained in an email that the construction of trails is as much an art as it is a science, and that these are “the ‘natural,’ low-tech initial attempts to address this trail situation.”
“As such,” Baer wrote, “they need to be managed more closely initially and regularly maintained once in place.”
Indeed, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club performs regular maintenance of the trails along Rock Creek and tributaries including Soapstone Creek. And while the restored Linnean Stream and daylighted Broad Branch Stream were engineered to handle stormwater from small to large rain events – with water barreling down Fessenden and 32nd Streets from our downspouts, driveways, streets and sidewalks – the trails were not.