As they’d promised after work on the Soapstone Valley trail in May, the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club returned on Saturday, June 16th to do more repair work on the trail and creek crossings. On a Sunday morning walk, I noticed the difference right away. The trail had a new water bar.
And ruts created by heavy rainfall were filled.
The washout next to the stone steps leading to a crossing was filled in with large and small rocks.
At the next to the last crossing before you reach Broad Branch Road, where a muddy patch has turned into a new streamlet, the volunteers worked on creating stone steps and additional large rocks for the crossing.
At this spot, the stream bed is pushing toward the south side of the bed and is being degraded by the new streamlet.
But most of the change in the Soapstone stream bed comes at the last crossing. Here, just the past couple of weeks, the stream has begun bifurcating, with part going on the north side and part of the south side. The PATC was working in this area when they decided to stop.
I asked Alex Sanders, the district manager of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, to explain why:
“Upon our arrival at the work site, we heard loud machinery at the opposite side of the Park – probably in the vicinity of the Embassy of the Netherlands. One of our new trail overseers [Bern Smith] volunteered to investigate and identified a dark substance that smelled of oil in the water in the stream that runs into Soapstone Valley Branch. We talked to representatives of several agencies – NPS, the Park Police, and a DC city police officer – and all had different responses. Upon advice from NPS, we contacted 911 and notified them of a possible hazmat incident. At this point, we could see the plume in the water had drifted down Soapstone Valley Branch and was approaching Broad Branch Road.”
He also describes the impact of all the rain this spring:
“The rains and storms of this spring have caused significant damage to the trail, stream crossings and embankments in Soapstone Valley Park. We were not able to repair all of the damage to the crossings on Saturday, and we may need to re-route the trail away from eroding banks in at least one place soon. We intend to return to Soapstone Valley Trail later this year to continue the repairs.”
Before I exited onto Broad Branch Road, chorus of crickets caught my attention.
And when I got to Broad Branch Road, I saw a pristine sight. The accumulated tree trunk and limbs had been cleared away from the opposite side of the road. Both Ken Sands, a neighbor who frequents the trail, and I had put in a 311 request a few weeks ago.
This is what it takes to keep our trails and roadways navigable: a lot of work by volunteers and the city.