It has been one heck of a week! I am so glad that it is Friday. This past week everything seemed a challenge…my health, my work, running, race directing and it all started with a run at the McQueen’s Island trail this past Saturday. A friend of mine, Jason Edenfield, met me at the mid-point of the RTT and we ran westward on the trail toward what is known as the Shrine and also, the prayer flag project. I had a handful of prayers on flags that I’ve been needing to hang back there for over a month. And finally, the opportunity presented itself to take care of this. So, we hit the RTT and I was quite shocked at the degree of erosion of this magnificent trail! Dear Lord, the erosion has gotten significantly worse since last month when I ran the trail! I could not believe how much damage this trail had endured in just one month!
We made it to the end, though, even with the threat of a witch’s curse written for all to see on the wooden barricade the Chatham County employees had erected two years ago at the end of the western-most bridge of the trail. Upon the other side of the barricade the witch’s curse became obvious because the erosion beyond that point is disheartening. I fear that soon, those of us that want to reach the prayer flag project may have to wade through brackish water or swim to the hamlet where the flags are at. There just isn’t enough raised earthen path to hold back the incoming tides any longer. We made it to the end, though and, I hung my prayer flags and, Jason got to see the prayer flag project for perhaps the first time. If you haven’t gone to the prayer flags I highly suggest you do so soon because you may not be able to if it’s up to Chatham County.
Here comes the complex part.
Upon finishing our run last Saturday, I took pictures of the highly eroded sections of the McQueen’s Island trail and, perhaps, made the bad judgment of sending the pictures to one of the big shots I know working for Chatham County. The following Tuesday, a meeting was called about the trail conditions and county peeps were sent to investigate further. The outcome was dire, as anyone would expect who has been out there recently. The trail has been breached just east of the midway point parking area off of highway 17. What that meant is that Chatham County can now be held responsible if anyone is injured on the trail. And, what that means is that a decision has been made to close off most of the McQueen’s Island trail.
Last Tuesday, I got a call from a county employee saying that the trail would most likely be closed from the breached section just east of the midway point parking lot all the way to the western end of the trail. What that means for the Ledesma Sports Medicine Rails to Trails 25k and 50k is that we are losing 6 miles of trail! And now, I have to figure out how to make up that mileage deficit. It hasn’t been easy!
Okay, let’s fast forward to this past Thursday. I woke up sneezing like a banshee! All day Thursday, my nose ran, I sneezed incessantly and generally felt like a big turd, a big, sick, smelly turd. I made it through a day of work, having filled my waste basket with sneezed upon, goobered up toilet paper. I bought some cold/flu meds at Target on my way home, took Mr. Gypsy for his daily walk, cooked his dinner and mine and after all of that was completed I fell into my bed by 7:30 pm. And, after a long cold-sweaty hap-hazard night of sleep I arose from the dead alive and well! This was the good part. Now, it’s about to get kind of bad, I’m afraid. So, reach for your kleenex about now.
Friday morning, 11:00 am, Michelle Daniels and I meet with Ft. Pulaski National Monument folks to discuss the upcoming LSM R2T Ultra with the minus 6 miles scenario. At this point, I had a back up plan! My back up plan was simple, extend the course westward on Cockspur island where it is gated off from public prying eyes and, push a little here, push a little there and, we’ll get there! Then, the curve ball came and I was completely unprepared for it! The good folks of Ft. Pulaski had been informed by Chatham County folks that the McQueen’s island trail was going to be closed almost entirely! We’re not talking about the 6 miles on the western end! We’re talking almost the entire trail! Upon hearing that news my gut reaction was to grab a hold of that large oak conference table we were sitting around and hurling it through a wall…but I chilled! My inner-Wolverine held back. Focus…focus…take a deep breath and, focus. “Come again, Ma’am?”
Yeah…Yeah. I heard correctly. Almost the entire trail may be closed due to erosion and more importantly, closing it because of the liability of leaving the trail open and someone busting their head open and suing Chatham County. God forbid.
Of course, I have many bad words to say here about this but I will not! I will not rise to that occasion. I’ll just say that, had Chatham County’s Public Works department done their job responsibly say, for the past four years, the trail would not be in a condition where it is now unsafe to maintain open. That they are concerned for public safety, I commend them. That they have been sorry-ass stewards of the park and trail systems of Chatham County I say, shame, shame on you! We are at this dangerous point because of your slack-ass short-sighted mentality! The truth is, that the McQueen’s Island trail should have never been allowed to erode to such a degree that it is now a hazard to walk, run, hike and fish on. This problem has been ongoing for four years. How did they not see it? Why did they not do anything about it when the problem was small and very fixable and not to mention, inexpensive? I don’t know.
Let’s go back to the Ft. Pulaski meeting this morning…
That wasn’t the only bad news. New expenses…unseen, new expense were presented to us. This second time around, we will have to pay for a Ft. Pulaski employee to be with us the entire day of the race and the costs of this is approximately $440.00. And, where we only paid $5.00 per car that entered the park for the first rails to trails ultra this past January, – we will now have to pay, $5.00 per person that enters the park for this race! That’s right. If three people are in a car and are coming to the race we will have to pay $5 for each of those people. I know times are hard, – especially for our national park employees but this seems a bit excessive to me.
So, I now find myself in a very rough spot. Where do I make up this mileage deficit we suddenly have for the 25k and 50k? The new costs of the race are going to hit hard. This time around we do not have many monetary sponsors. So, the majority of these costs will be covered almost exclusively by race registrations. Please don’t worry! The price of the registration is set and will not be changed at all! We will not raise the rates again from where they are now. We have to put our thinking caps on and find solutions! That’s how I live my life. Problems will always arise but the solutions will also be found if we remain calm, smart and think creatively.
The money that we’ll gather from the 2014 race will probably pale in comparison to this past January’s amazing $10,000.00 take but, it will be there and it will make a positive impact. Just as we made it happen in 2013, we will make it happen in 2014. Just think about it for a minute. Look at what we all did on January 12, 2013. We, as a community of runners gathered together and made such an impact that not six months later the Chatham County Board of Commissioners voted to budget $325,000.00 for the restoration of the McQueen’s Island trail! That was amazing, was it not? You all made that happen! You all should be very proud of what you did. You all came, you ran, you kicked ass! That’s how it should be done! If only our local government was as efficient and kickass like all of you!
We’ll figure this thing out and, have one hell of a race come January 11, 2014. With all of you guys at our back I am completely convinced that Michelle Daniels and the rest of us will make this thing happen and it will be one amazing event! We will save the Rails to Trails and, we will show our local government that when the people speak they better listen and stop being slack-asses.
Here ends my rant.
Stay strong & make shit happen!