Posted by: ACRES Land Trust

  • 04/25/2024

The Challenge Of An Ever-Changing Landscape

By Evan Hill

As an avid hiker and backpacker, I love hiking trails, but as a natural resource professional, it’s also important that I keep an eye on where lines should be drawn on trail installation and upkeep. Having grown up a few miles from an ACRES preserve, I can attest to the potential outcome of introducing young children to the natural world. Trails are one of our best tools for cultivating and inspiring future generations of environmentally conscious individuals and new ACRES supporters.

Essential decisions are sometimes challenging about where not to construct trails, and when to retire existing trails. No decision on trail installation or removal is made lightly. With ACRES mission in mind, these decisions are made more easily when we observe obvious signs of degradation.

ACRES continually compiles information about its properties. When we find rare and sensitive plant communities in “inconvenient” places (such as growing alongside and in established trails), it is our responsibility to do what we can to limit our impact, usually by closing or rerouting the trail.

Many trail alterations and closures result from changes in the landscape, most exacerbated by climate change and land alteration in and surrounding our floodplains. The most common reason for closing or rerouting a trail system is to avoid increasing both the rate of erosion, and ultimately, sedimentation in our waterways. More frequent and intense high water events, degraded/minimized floodplains and less water retention in a landscape fraught with drainage tile and ditches result in a lot of impassable trails in areas where water likely would have been much less common when the trail was originally installed.

In an ever-changing landscape, ACRES continues to learn from its properties: the often subtle changes we observe help guide us in making difficult decisions. If you come across a trail closure this year or in the future, please keep all these reasons in mind as we strive to provide a balance between our access to nature, and the health of the natural communities themselves.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2024 ACRES Quarterly, mailed to members each season. The 20-page Quarterly features ACRES news, stories and events. You can subscribe by becoming an ACRES member with a donation of $20 or more. Click here to learn more!

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