Jan's Blog

The Mad River Trail Project: Phase One

September 8, 2012

Dan Newton, President of WVAIA (Waterville Valley Athletic & Improvement Association) provides an update on trail repairs following the devastation from last year’s tropical storm Irene…

Phase one of the restoration of the Mad River Trail, funded by the Town of Waterville Valley, and implemented by the Waterville Valley Athletic & Improvement Association [WVAIA], was completed during the first two weeks of August.  A five man crew, led by Jed Talbot, of Off the Beaten Path, a professional trail building company employed by the WVAIA, worked on several areas of the trail that were affected by tropical storm Irene.

During the first four days of the project, the damage to two stream crossings [roughly adjacent to Osceola and Mad River condominiums], was addressed. The crossing that had a small log bridge, which Irene flushed downstream, was replaced with three stepping stones, and the crossing below the timber steps, which had been eaten away by the flood waters, was improved with larger stones that will resist future high water events. Additionally, 17 timber steps were constructed in the area below the existing timber steps, just above the aforementioned stream crossing. This area had suffered significant erosion as a result of the storm.

Work over the following four days was focused on the section of the trail that was washed away completely. Rather than rebuild this section of the trail in the same vulnerable location [across from the dirt road that leads down from High Country condominiums], the trail was relocated, so that, instead of skirting the outside of the river’s turn, it cuts diagonally through the woods at a safer distance from the water. This process involved cutting the trees in the treadway, bending them out of the ground with a winch, so that the roots could be cut and dug out, then digging out the top layers of organic soil [a dastardly maze of roots and duff], and replacing it with mineral soil, so that the treadway remains free of new growth, and is firm under foot. It was quite a job. Another set of stepping stones was installed in this area, as well.

The last two days were devoted to restoring the treadway of 10 eroded spots along sections of the trail that are right beside the river, patching the existing timber steps with five new steps, and building a log bridge over the stream crossing below the stone stairway on the southern end of the trail.

Phase two of the project entails the placing of giant stepping stones over the Mad River’s West Branch crossing, at the north end of the trail, the former site of the forty-five foot footbridge that also fell victim to Irene’s wrath. This will take place sometime in October, due to Department of Environmental Services permitting delays.

Phase three will use the remaining funds to make improvements along the existing trail. Projects will include rebuilding a four-step section of a stone stairway, constructing stone cribbing to reinforce the treadway, and fixing some basic trail erosion and drainage issues.

The ninety-six foot bridge behind the Tyler Spring condominiums, which not only provides access to the Mad River hiking trail, but also for the Mad River X-C ski trail, is slated for completion in November. This project, not a WVAIA job, will be a joint effort funded by the WV ski area and FEMA.

In September [the exact date to be announced], the WVAIA will conduct a “walk/talk” guided tour of the work that has been done, and what it took to accomplish it. Unlike “level-one” trail work [clearing blowdowns, cleaning-out waterbars, and cutting back encroaching forest flora], “level-two” work [bridges, stairways, new trail construction, erosion control and more], involves a great deal more work and know-how than the average hiker would imagine, and should interest anyone who loves to hike our famous trail system.

And don’t forget our next, and last, Trails Day of 2012: Saturday, September 29th. We’re working on the Kettles Path, which will figure heavily in the new USFS plan for the Greeley Ponds/Flume project. The beginning of the trail is plagued by the fact that it is in a wandering flood plain of the Avalanche/Slide Brook tributary of the Mad River; and so, in partnership with the USFS, we’ll build a “bog bridge” [or two, depending on the turnout], so that this trail will be functional at all four seasons of the year. This is a fun “level two” project that requires a certain measure of conditioning, and will be somewhat more demanding than our customary “level one” projects.

Dan Newton

About Jan Stearns

I've been living in and loving New Hampshire's White Mountains for most of my life. I moved to Waterville Valley in 1981 and quickly realized why it was dubbed a Yankee Shangri-la. Once you’ve experienced Waterville Valley, you’ll want to call it yours. The great team of Realtors at Waterville Valley Realty can help you find a Waterville Valley home that fits your lifestyle and budget. 1-888-987-8333.

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