Spring cleaning for Barksdale’s east side
By Senior Airman Joanna M. Kresge
2d Bomb Wing Public Affairs
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Trail restoration volunteers clear the trail head picnic area of the Big Tree Hiking Trail. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joanna M. Kresge)
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Trail restoration volunteers remove overgrown vines from a bridge along the Big Tree Hiking Trail. The bridge is over 580 feet long and weaves through swamp areas along the trail. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joanna M. Kresge)
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Trail restoration volunteers rake leaves from a bridge along the Big Tree Hiking Trail. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joanna M. Kresge)
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A trail restoration volunteer rakes leaves from the path of the Big Tree Hiking Trail. The trail is a total of 10 miles in length, volunteers hand raked the entire trail.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joanna M. Kresge)
BARKSDALE AIR FORCE BASE, La.,, April 2, 2009 —
Volunteers gathered on Barksdale's east side March 28 and 29 to participate in a spring-cleaning project.
The cleanup project took place over a weekend, with 18 base personnel and their families volunteering to help restore the hiking trails on the east side. Volunteers spent their time clearing the pathways, cutting back trees and cleaning the bridges along the trail.
The east side of the base provides Barksdale's community with 10 miles of trails that can be used for hiking, mountain biking and running. There is a seven mile trail with an optional three mile loop.
The trail, which is called the Big Tree Hiking Trail, was made in 1994. It boasts a number of historical markers throughout its length entertaining hikers as they walk.
However, in recent years, use of the trail has dwindled due to its condition.
"We'd like to restore it back to the way it was like four or five years ago," said Nathan Cost, 2d Civil Engineer Squadron, electrical engineer and trail restoration volunteer. "It used to be so popular I don't think that many people go out there anymore -- the conditions are just so bad."
Natural disasters such as hurricanes can quickly devastate an area like the hiking trails on the east side, knocking down trees and washing away clearly marked paths. The natural growing seasons can also affect the integrity of the trail if regular maintenance and cutting back are not performed.
"There are always people willing to come out and fix it up," said Chris Marien, 917th Wing Maintenance Group, powered support systems technician and trail restoration volunteer. "But there is always something else, a hurricane comes and everything gets messed up again."
The volunteers hope that by restoring the trail now, they will be able to better maintain it in the future.
"All we are trying to do right now is get it to where we can manage it again," said Mr. Cost. "Then we can get a regular maintenance schedule and it'll be easier to keep up with it."
Many of the tools used for these projects belong to the volunteers who come out to work on the trail, however, 2d Force Support Squadron's Equipment Rental has helped contribute to the cause.
"The personnel at equipment rental have helped a lot, they've always been really supportive," said Mr. Marien. "They've let us check out chainsaws, blowers and trailers for the project and haven't charged us."
With the season's first restoration project behind them, the volunteers look to the future and hope the trail will continue to interest the Barksdale community throughout the years to come.
"With the new housing area going in out here on the east side, there's going to be hundreds of extra people out here," said Mr. Cost. "They are going to be looking for something to do."
Mr. Marien agrees; "The housing area is in a good location for use of the trail, people can just walk down from the housing area and do the quick three-mile trail, or even walk down to Flag Lake and back."
Once the trail has been returned to its original condition, the volunteers would like to get the trail added to Department of Defense maps to draw in more people to use the trails.
"We would like to get this trail mapped with the DoD," said Mr. Marien. "Right now it's like this trail doesn't exist because it can't be found on any map."
The volunteers have many ideas for the future of the trail, but one thing remains clear, they have come together to make sure the trail is remains usable for the community to use.
"When you come out here, you will feel so relaxed," said Mr. Marien. "It's like you are in your own little world. There might be a few bombers that fly over, but otherwise it's so quiet and relaxing and that's why we are out here maintaining it."
The Big Tree Hiking Trail is located on the east side just after the Flag Lake spillway.
To volunteer to help restore the trail in the future, contact Mr. Marien at 470-8647.