I ran the rails to trails Monday evening. Boy, was I amazed at the rapid erosion of the trail, especially at the western-most end of the rtt. I stopped and snapped a few pictures not believing how much deterioration can occur from one week to the next!
Last Friday, Michelle Daniels, Adrian Daniels, Merriam Haines and I attended a Chatham County meeting where we voiced our concern for the dramatically eroded RTT to our county officials. Michelle spoke eloquently and I arranged a slide presentation show-casing the tidal impact on the trail.
My interpretation of the meeting was that the county officials were shocked at the massive erosion of a trail that just three years ago (back in 2009) had cost $350,000.00 to restore. All of that money one could say was wasted because the trail is in worse shape now than it was before that last restoration effort. I’m not so sure I would go as far as saying that it was a complete waste because for three years I, personally, have enjoyed the trail tremendously and have logged thousands of miles on it before it decayed to it’s current state. And, I know many others that logged equally as many if not more miles on that trail the last few years. Also, in the past three years I befriended a good number of people on this trail, – people that love this trail and want to see it restored to it’s former glory and beauty. So, to me, it hasn’t been a total loss but I do believe the county does need to re-evaluate how to restore the trail and perhaps this time around take a very long term approach to restoring it.
On the western side, the erosion begins approximately a quarter of a mile in. At that point a stretch of about 100 yards has become heavily rutted but the trail is still standing. Ping-pong ball sized rocks cover this stretch of the trail making it very uncomfortable to run on. So basically, I run to this section and then walk the eroded segment and then, continue my run beyond this rocky, rutted part of it until almost the end of the western section. The area of the trail just beyond the rutted, rocky part of the trail has remained relatively unscathed by the effects of the tidal surges…that is until you cross the only bridge on the western section of the trail which is approximately around mile 2.5-2.7 section of the trail.
It is around this 2.5 to 2.7 section of the trail where the worse of the erosion has taken place. The trail has literally washed out dramatically in several sections beyond the bridge and the trail is only on solid footing at the very end of it as you approach the shrine where the prayer flags are at.
I only ran the western section of the trail this week but I can tell you that the eastern section has started to show serious erosion as of late. I ran the eastern section last week and was quite surprised at the amount of erosion at about the first quarter mile of the trail. At about one third of a mile into the run a palmetto tree has literally fallen into the river due to erosion with it’s shallow root system totally exposed.
So, what can be done?
Well, a few of us have started a grass roots effort in hopes of getting the county and community rallied behind restoring the trail. So far, everyone we have talked to seems very much into doing something to get the trail restored. The county officials we testified before last Friday were all eager to find a solution and they all noted the importance of the trail to the community. That is a good thing! The problem of course, is money! There just is not enough money to go around for all of the many things the county has to manage and maintain. The rtt, although, important, is certainly not the most important pressing issue our Chatham county officials have to face.
So, what can we do as a community to help out with the restoration of the trail?
Not a whole lot at the moment, I’m afraid. The truth is that unless the county gives us it’s blessing we cannot go around fixing up the trail signs and filling in the eroded sections of the trail with dirt or any kind of artefacts. Now, I’m pretty sure that no one will object if we were to go about the trail picking up garbage and hauling it away. That is something we can definitely do and should do. We could also and probably should contact the county and media regularly and voice our concern for the trail. The county at some point will have to do an environmental impact and engineering study conducted of the trail. Consideration of regular and seasonal tidal surges should be heeded, I think. I can tell you that Spring and Summer tides tend to be stronger than Fall and Winter tides. Storm surges also need to be considered. And, I believe a realization has to be made that water is very difficult to control unless you hoover dam it! Of course, you cannot build a dam out there, damned it. But, a heavily fortified trail with those big concrete drainage pipes placed strategically through-out the length of the trail may help alleviate the erosion as water will be allowed to go where it wants to – the other side of the trail! The water can then return to sea when the tide goes down and the trail will be in harmony with the tides. Let’s make it a feng shui kinda trail, eh?
In the recent past I have run the trail during a summer high tide that had water up to my shins. Tide is our nemesis. Either elevating the trail or allowing passage ways for the water is what’s going to resolve most of the erosion problems, I believe. What do I know, though. I’m not an engineer. I just run this beloved trail and, want to continue running it for many more years. If we don’t do something soon, though, I fear there may not be much of a trail to save.
Chatham County, let’s get this ball rolling, please! You have a community behind this project! So many of us are ready to pick up shovels and work!
Please check out our Save the Rails to Trails Savannah Facebook page and join it! The more people we can get behind this project the quicker we can begin working toward a solution.
Also, here is a slide show of the deterioration of the trail that I put together: Save the rails to trails slide show
Thank you all for stopping by.
All the very best to you and yours.
Take care and God bless.