Volunteers tend Duluth hiking trails
Sharon Robertson of Duluth had planned to do some work in her garden Saturday morning. But instead of weeding or planting, Robertson was hacking into the muddy flank of a service road in Hartley Park. Robertson was one of dozens of Duluth residen...
Sharon Robertson of Duluth had planned to do some work in her garden Saturday morning.
But instead of weeding or planting, Robertson was hacking into the muddy flank of a service road in Hartley Park.
Robertson was one of dozens of Duluth residents working on trails in the city on a work day held to recognize National Trails Day, which is organized by the American Hiking Society to call attention to trails and paths nationwide.
While Robertson and others hand-dug stretches of ditch around clumps of willow (a machine would later do the rest), another group swept sand off a path on Park Point.
About 35 people in a third group worked at rerouting a mountain bike trail near Howard Gnesen Road. The trail had to be rerouted after it was discovered that a roughly 500-foot section of it was on private property, said Judy Gibbs, a groundskeeper and volunteer organizer with the city of Duluth parks maintenance department.
Gibbs led a smaller contingent of volunteers Saturday morning through the fringes of Hartley. Their plan had been to clear brush and debris, but the previous days' rains had turned the gravel service road just off the nature center into a small creek, so the volunteers switched gears and started hand-digging a new ditch instead.
"That's kind of how it goes in trail work," Gibbs said. "The problem presents itself and you go, 'Oh, I guess that's what we're doing today.'"
In some places, the road was under a thin sheet of water. In others, it was deeply rutted where rivulets had carved through its surface. Everywhere, it was the consistency of a melted candy bar.
"Put a road in a swamp and this is what you get," Gibbs shrugged.
Heather Krohn, an AmeriCorps volunteer at Grant School, said she used to hike through Hartley when she was a student at the University of Minnesota-Duluth.
"I feel it's important to maintain the trails," Krohn said, taking a break from clearing a splintered young tree out of the ditch. "Especially if you use the trails, it's important to give back."
Dave Plotnicky said he doesn't get through Hartley much, but came because he knew the park needed work -- the service road was built in 1913, for example, and is showing its age.
"This is an important area," he said. "It sees so much use. Maintenance isn't what's sexy, but it's what's been lacking."
Dwight Morrison and Randall Vogt have been working to make Hartley more handicapped accessible. They both said Saturday it's important for places like Hartley to be open to everyone.
Vogt, the former special needs director at the Duluth Public Library, said Hartley is one of the reasons he's still in Duluth.
"I wouldn't have chosen to stay in Duluth if I wasn't able to enjoy what Duluth has to offer," he said.