A New Crop of Trail Stewards

It was going to be hot and I suspected that only a couple of us regulars would show up for the clean and ride. Clean and rides are what Central Arkansas Trail Alliance, a local International Mountain Bicycling Association chapter, call a trail work day. Usually, we show up, do some trail maintenance maybe a reroute or whatever is needed, then we have something to eat, maybe a quick beer to cut the dust and then off for a trail ride. Sunday was different only in that it was organized with kids in mind.

Bruce Alt, president of CATA, had picked this past Sunday as a perfect day to get some kids out on an easy part of trail to help make a few improvements and then go for a ride, introducing them to the joys of trail stewardship. As it turned out, Bruce had picked one of the hottest days of the year so far and the work was scheduled to start at 2 in the afternoon.

Getting loaded up. More kids were coming.

Getting loaded up. More kids were coming.

As I pulled to the trailhead parking near the Isabella Jo section of paved trail at Cook’s Landing, I noticed that they were almost out of parking spaces. Parents were unloading bikes, CATA volunteers were loading up the trailer attached to an ATV with tools and there were plenty of kids. Before we left for the work location we had seven kids plus parents to help out. Besides the kids and CATA parents we had parents for the CARVE and Spokes mountain bike teams on hand. A group this size should be able to make short work of the project ahead but with so many kids you might have doubts in how much we could get done. The phrase, “herding cats” came to mind.

Loading up some of the material and tools.

Loading up some of the material and tools.

Bug spray and sunscreen applied, trailer loaded up, bikes ready, we rode as a group to the intersection of Isabella Jo and the Arkansas River Trail. Just before the intersection is a small spur trail which takes trail users from Pfeifer Loop toward Burns Park. It’s a nice bit of trail that allows the user to stay off the pavement a little longer. It has one small issue, water. A small drainage from Campbell Lake runs through here on it’s way to the Arkansas River creating a spot that is always muddy and rutted out. Recently, the North Little Rock Parks Department installed a small bridge over the drainage but it hadn’t been set in with ramps. This would be today’s job.

Getting the gravel.

Getting the gravel.

A small pile of gravel was placed nearby by the parks department for our use on the trail and the first order of business was getting some of the gravel in the trailer for use on the ends of the bridge. Some natural stone pavers were also available to armor the gravel ramps for the bridge.

Putting the bridge in place.

Putting the bridge in place.

Mike Mitchell, CATA vice-president, soon had the young troops in line and working, bringing shovel after shovel of gravel to the right spots. They were enthusiastic workers leaving the adults to just help guide shovel handles safely through the crowd. The kids didn’t just do the labor but were consulted at every turn by Mike on what the plan should be and how it was going. This was their project.

Working together.

Working together.

I should say here that back in the woods, the heat was not as bad as I thought it might be. Plenty of cold water was on hand to keep everyone properly hydrated and there were no unhappy trail builders that afternoon.

New friends.

New friends.

After making short work of the bridge project, we all moved down to another wet area of the trail and made the decision to armor it using a plastic honeycomb material the kids went to work first laying a gravel base over the muddy section, then placing the honeycomb on top and completing this project by filling the honeycomb with gravel creating a solid base for riding through this often wet area. (I might mention that this is a spot that I crashed out on once taking out the local International Mountain Bicycling Association representative who was following right behind me, it’s a special place.)

Before the fix.

Before the fix.

Adding some gravel.

Adding some gravel.

Almost done.

Almost done.

A little more gravel in a nearby low area, placement of the CATA/NLR Parks sign and the work was done. For a little added energy before our ride, Bruce had brought some ice cold watermelon to share with everyone. What followed was a fun ride through Pfeifer Loop looking for future CATA projects and just getting our ride in.

Finished!

Finished!

It turned out to be a great day of trail work and I think these kids understand that trails don’t just happen, it takes the work of local land managers and volunteers to keep these trails open to the public. If you’d like to join the CATA kids and maintaining, building and opening trails in central Arkansas, I encourage you to join today.

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Here are the shots of everyone enjoying the fruit of their labor:

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