Jack Kirkman jumps back into a Bobcat and starts filling the side of the MKT trail with boulders, adjusting the rocks and piling them to recreate the base of the trail washed out from last weekend’s storm.
“From two to three feet of the side of the trail have been washed away completely,” said Kirkman, the city’s forestry groundskeeper. Some areas had been washed away, others were covered in dirt and debris. Kirkman said the last repair work on the trail would likely be finished over the weekend.
The storm caused more than $10,000 in damage to the MKT, Bear Creek and Hinkson trails. City crews have spent most of the week repairing the damage. Kirkman said there were too many washed out spots to count.
Once portions of the base of the trail are restored, smaller rocks of different sizes are used as fill. The layers of rock are leveled and compacted then topped with surface rock, Kirkman said. The void in the trail Thursday appeared to be from four to five feet deep.
Park Services Division Manager Mike Griggs and his crew explored the city trails Monday to assess the damages from the storm. No trail has been closed.
“I’ve been working for forestry since 1995 but this is the worst damage I have ever seen,” Kirkman said.
“We needed to ask extra help from our forestry division since we only have one person assigned to routine maintenance,” Griggs said. “We have started the repair work with the most damaged and the most popular trails.”
He predicted the work would last until the summer.
Crews are first focusing on repairing trails near Providence Road and Stadium Boulevard toward Twin Lakes on MKT, around Grindstone Park for Hinkson Trail and from Creasy Spring to Cosmo Park on Bear Creek Trail, Griggs said. Moreover, “smaller loop trails from 42 neighboring parks have been damaged in various degrees,” Griggs said.
The crews have been focusing on four specific problems: erosion of the trail rocks, debris and trash left by the flow of water, inches of mud built up in the parking lots and damages to physical structures, such as uprooted trees, signs and holes in bridges, Griggs said.
The repair costs will come from the general park repair fund, Griggs said.
“We traditionally carry out repairs on the rock of the trails every spring, so we will rely on these funds first,” he said. In case further expenses are necessary, Griggs said cuts on other activities will be made. The Boone County Public Works Department and the Park Services Division are hoping to receive refunds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, but the process will take some time.
But the repairs cannot wait.
Chad Herwald, a city forester, said eight workers have been sent out to take care of the trails. They have been focusing on the MKT Trail since Monday and have just started on Bear Creek Trail.
The situation is worse in Valley View Park, where some sections of the trail have been washed out to the dirt or to the 3-inch rock stratum. Tractors were used to clean and grade the trail, which is now walkable by hikers, but work is still needed “to restore its quality to match the city standard for trails,” Herwald said.
The crews are planning to get most of the repairs completed on Bear Creek Trail by the end of next week.
Some extra help will be provided by the TreeKeepers on the upcoming “Cleaning Columbia” event on April 10. Herwald proposed this collaboration to focus on Bear Creek Trail, removing the trash and woody debris from 8 a.m. until noon.
“Originally the volunteers were scheduled to pick up the trash along the trails. Now they will devote the entire morning to collaborate with the park and recreation staff who will provide tools and supervision,” said Leigh Nutter, volunteer coordinator for the city of Columbia. So far, 21 TreeKeepers have signed up.
“I think it is a really great idea to provide some tangible support and adapt to the current emergency situation,” Nutter said.