Trail Preservation

Week in and week out, Elachee’s Volunteer Trail Crew works diligently to keep the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve hiking trail system safe and sound.

Tens of thousands enjoy the quiet beauty of the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve every day of the year. From students participating in a school field trip guided hike and Elachee Nature Academy students taking part in daily outdoor experiential learning, to campers exploring nature and avid hikers who know these trails like the back of their hands, Elachee's trails are an invaluable resource within the northeast Georgia region.

Elachee's Volunteer Trail Crew meets weekly to maintain hiking trails throughout the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve.Each week, Elachee Natural Resources Manager Lee Irminger gathers his faithful trail crew to tackle the priorities of the week. Whether natural debris from a trail, making progress on a long-term trail enhancement project or addressing a time-sensitive grounds maintenance issue on the Elachee Nature Science Center campus, this team plays a critically important role. Almost exclusively done with volunteer manpower, this incredible group is dedicated to preserving the 12 mile hiking trail network within the Chicopee Woods Nature Preserve for all to enjoy for years to come.

In recent weeks, the Nature Preserve has been blessed with significant rainfall as compared with other areas in the region that scattered showers have missed. Thanks to the proactive year ‘round trail maintenance that has been taking place for decades, Elachee’s trails typically suffer only minimal erosion.

Installing Drainage Dips

Erosion occurs along trails that are not properly shedding water immediately downslope and off the trail. If water is allowed to accumulate on the trails, this builds into an erosive force carrying off soil and thus destroying the trail over time.

The Elachee trails situated on hills are built cross-gradient to the overall slope. This allows rainwater to enter the trail from uphill and flow across and off the trail, and continue down the slope. Because water is on the trail for less time, this minimizes potential erosion.

Continuously evaluating older sections of trail that are subject to erosion, the Elachee Volunteer Trail Crew routinely installs and maintains drainage dips on these affected trails. As a result, hikers will encounter numerous drainage dips throughout the trail system. Drainage dips function to change the gradient within a 3-6 foot length of sloping trail to enable flowing water to collect into a drain, then travel to a dirt mound before finally being leaving the trail.

Before a highly-eroded ‘old’ section of trail can be closed, drainage dips must be installed to reduce erosion. This allows the old section to recover re-established soil and vegetation. These dips function to change the gradient within a 3-6 foot length of sloping trail to enable flowing water to collect into a drain, then travel to a dirt mound before finally being leaving the trail.

The Trail Crew also performs occasional maintenance on the dips to remove sediment that has accumulated within the drain and at the surrounding out-slope area. On steeper sections of trail where it’s not feasible to gather additional dirt, the Trail Crew will occasionally use logs to encourage the dirt to mound more on the downhill side of the drain.

Volunteering at Elachee

Check out all volunteer opportunities at Elachee Nature Science Center. To become a member of the Trail Crew, the Gardening Crew or to schedule a volunteer work day at Elachee for your group or business, email Lee Irminger or call 770-535-1976.