Elachee Reopens Hiking Trails

Thanks to the herculean efforts of Elachee’s volunteer trail crew who removed storm debris and downed trees, we are pleased to report the hiking trails of Chicopee Woods reopened to the public at dawn on Tuesday, October 3, 2017. 

 

7 Trails, 12 Miles, 22 Days, 35 Volunteers, 335 Hours of Hard Labor, Immeasurable Gratitude!

September 11, 2017, a vicious wind storm tore through the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve, leaving in its wake a trail of storm debris and downed trees. This created numerous hazards along the 12 miles of hiking trails crisscrossing this woodland, one of the largest protected greenspaces in Georgia. Ironically, just 10 days earlier, Elachee posted the blog, When Towering Giants Toppleand mailed out this article to supporters and members in the September Nature Mixed In newsletter. Had we but known what was to come. 

Dubbed ‘Irmageddon’ by many, the Nature Center fared better than others in the region in that Elachee suffered no significant facility damage. Elachee’s business operations had a three day interruption, phones were out for one week and public access to the hiking trails was closed for 22 days. 

Turning over a New Leaf

We at Elachee look with mixed emotions at the resulting storm damage. The havoc wrought was a massive debris field: hundreds of mature trees in the Chicopee Woods uprooted or snapped off. To a person, Elachee naturalists, volunteers and trustees examining the aftermath made similar comments. It wasn’t the little trees that fell, but the huge ones that came down, many taking out multiple other trees during their decent. Every hiking trail in the Chicopee Woods was impacted.

While not ‘lost,’ these trees, many of which are part of the National Old Growth Forest Network, have now entered a new phase of their lifecycle. They will become habitats and shelter for other creatures and plant life in the forest (see blog). They have already become invaluable teaching tools for children visiting this woodland. Consequently, these downed trees have opened up the canopy that will, in turn, encourage new growth on the forest floor.

Elachee Loves Its Volunteers! Elachee's volunteer trail crew put in untold hours to help clear the hiking trails in Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve of Hurricane Irma storm debris.

When the Chicopee Woods Area Park Commission closed the hiking trails in the Chicopee Woods Conservation Area in mid-September, Elachee issued a special bulletin with a call for volunteers to help with storm clean-up. Many long time trail crew volunteers joined with nearly three dozen new recruits to work tirelessly, day after day, to make the hiking trails passable and safe. In addition, Elachee requested donations to help offset costs associated with this unprecedented clean-up.

We are very grateful for each and every individual who gave their time, talent and treasure to help restore the hiking trails so others could resume their daily enjoyment of these natural woodland pathways.

These volunteers made it possible for Elachee to reopen the Visitor Center within three days. Limited trail access was opened and deemed safe by September 14, allowing Elachee to accommodate scheduled school field trips to the Nature Center with their corresponding guided hikes. As well, Elachee Nature Academy students were able to resume their daily outdoor exploration through guided hikes in Chicopee Woods.

Trail clean-up makes hiking pathways accessible, but leaves trees to decompose where they fall.Many trail crew volunteers worked multiple days during a three-week period, making incremental progress to clear the trails. They were also the eyes, ears, hands, legs and strong backs helping the Elachee preserve management team cut and remove trees, or on hand to provide clean-up assistance for the professionals brought in to tackle the more dangerous jobs. The ‘heavy lifting’ portion of this storm clean-up concluded the afternoon of October 2, making it possible for the hiking trails to reopen the next morning at dawn.

“Thank you, on behalf of everyone at Elachee, for your efforts in helping us to clear our trails after hurricane Irma,” wrote Amy Bradford, Elachee’s Community Relations Manager and volunteer coordinator in a note to these individuals. “We are so grateful for the outpouring of support and physical efforts that have been volunteered to us by those of you who utilize and love our trails as much as we do! We would not have been able to make the significant clean up progress that we have without your help.”

Questions? Please call 770-535-1976 or Contact Us.