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AmeriCorps group finishes trails at Gainesville nature preserve

POSTED: April 18, 2013 7:17 p.m.

AmeriCorps works on Linwood Trail

Tom Reed/The Times

AmeriCorps member David Cunningham, of Albertville, Ala.. smooths out a portion of Linwood Trail.

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For those who love to hike, they may think more about the trees and wildlife than the trail itself. But a group of young people visiting Gainesville is getting a newfound respect for the trail.

The AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, which includes 18- to 24-year-olds from across the country, is working to complete a trail system at the Linwood Nature Preserve off Springview Drive off Thompson Bridge Road.

The tight-knit group of nine arrived in Gainesville on Monday and will work through the middle of May to carve out a mile of trail, digging into the sloped land, tamping down the earth and cutting branches out of the way.

“... It just makes you more appreciative for when you actually hike on trails,” team leader Amy Ross said. “And you kind of look down and think, ‘Oh man, I know what it takes to make this. Somebody didn’t just walk through the woods.”

When completed, the trail system will include 2 to 3 miles crisscrossing the 30 acres of forested land, 14 acres designated in 2002 with Georgia governor’s green space funds and 15 acres of Gainesville Public Utilities Department property.

An AmeriCorps group that came in May 2012 completed some of the trail system.

The trail-building method is designed to be especially environmentally friendly, preventing erosion by slightly sloping the path so water doesn’t puddle when it rains.

The method is a lot of hard, repetitive manual labor, but when they’re done, the trails won’t require much maintenance, either, AmeriCorps member Mike Klecker said.

Many of the AmeriCorps members had experience with environmental projects, including trail building, but most had not used this particular method, called bench hill side trail construction.

Margaret Rasmussen, executive director of The Redbud Project, which is leading the efforts at the property, said she hopes the youths will take what they learn to other areas, too.

The Redbud Project applied for a grant to have AmeriCorps come do the work, and part of that included making the Linwood Nature Preserve a model for urban forest development. The Redbud Project is also required to provide training to the AmeriCorps members along with orienting them to the local culture.

She plans to convert the youths “to be environmental conservationists for the rest of their lives,” she said.

They’re learning about trail building but also about native and invasive species.

When the group leaves, the trails will be complete, but the park won’t be officially opened to the public yet.

Rasmussen said people aren’t discouraged from using the trails, though, because use actually helps maintain the paths by keeping the soil packed down.

“(It) also gets the people into the woods to see what we’re doing,” she said. “So we encourage the neighbors and city people to come on out.”


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