Earlier this month, the Idaho Conservation League, local volunteers, and Ridge to Rivers crew members set out for two separate days of trail maintenance on ICL’s adopted trails. By social distancing outside, we were able to gather safely and respectfully, while making an impact on our trails in the Hillside to Hollow Reserve. With our boots back on the ground, a sliver of normalcy returned.
As ICL’s first in-person volunteer day of the year (and the first since before the COVID-19 shutdown in March 2020), we assembled in masks at the Ussery Trailhead. All of us were handed McLeods (which look like a short, coarse rake on one side and a wide hoe on the other), shovels, and buckets as Ridge to Rivers crew members gave instructions and prepped us on our mission for the day.
We were guided up through the foothills and given a quick but thorough demonstration on how to construct and clean drain dips. Using our tools, we scooped out dirt from the side of the trail to create a bowl that helps pull water off and prevent erosion on the trail. At first, digging into the soil was challenging, but once we got comfortable and learned how best to use our McLeods, cleaning out the drain dips turned fairly easy and we were able to reconstruct and clean up around 20 drain dips that day.
During the spring, the soil is still malleable and is easy to work with. Ridge to Rivers crew members mentioned that once the summer heat sets in, the ground dries out and becomes tricky to work with.
Later that week, we met up with a new group of volunteers and Ridge to Rivers staffers at the Harrison Hollow Trailhead. This time we used our McLeods to work on leveling and smoothing out the trail. Over the years, the trails in the foothills get worn down and become uneven, which makes them harder for outdoor recreationists to safely use. Throughout the afternoon, many hikers and mountain bikers acknowledged our work and expressed gratitude for our efforts as they passed us on the trail.
As we worked away in the afternoon sun and continued cleaning up the trail, we were rewarded by the sight of bright yellow and green patches of Arrowleaf Balsamroot.
A big thank you to all of our volunteers who helped make a difference for our local trails this spring! We had a wide array of trail maintenance experience levels from our staffers to our volunteers. Both trail maintenance days ended with celebratory drinks, sandwiches in hand, and some socially distanced chatter at the base of the trailheads. Everyone did a phenomenal job and was able to walk away knowing that they made a tangible impact to help protect our public lands.
With the outdoors providing a safe refuge during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ridge to Rivers trails have seen an incredible uptick in the number of users. Mountain bikers, horseback riders, and hikers galore, have been taking advantage of their downtime to fine tune their outdoors skills and activities. However, the impacts of increased use can be witnessed first hand on every single trail. Trash, doggie bags filled with waste, and eroded trails sadly have been left behind.
It’s up to us to keep our trails maintained so we can all safely enjoy them. Next time you wander into the Boise Foothills be sure to check out Ridge to Rivers’ helpful guide on trail etiquette.
If you would like to volunteer with ICL in the future, make sure you sign up through our volunteer form. Remember to also check out the Ridge to Rivers website to learn more about the Boise Foothills trail system.