Great Falls River Trail Maintenance
The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park will be undertaking some trail maintenance along the River Trail. This trail begins above Lock 20, approximately 400 feet upstream from the Washington Aqueduct intake platform and observation deck. The trailhead is accessed from the towpath. The trail is one mile and length and terminates at Cool Spring Branch. Hikers exit on the towpath. There is no signage at the trailhead. The trail has not been blazed, most likely due to its linear course and absence of turns. There is currently no Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC) leader assigned to this trail. The park has received complaints regarding the condition of this trail. The trail is described on the park map as a GENTLE STROLL but this description is not accurate at this point. Vegetation overgrowth has obscured the trail in many places. In some areas, the vegetation is chest high and completely blocks the trail. The trail head has a low area that would benefit from stepping stones. Finally, the trail should be blazed to clearly mark the trail.
The trail will be rehabbed using established trail maintenance methods. Blowdowns will be cleared and brushing will take place. Vegetation will be cut back one foot on either side of the trail. A trail width of four feet will be established. The vegetation will be cut to within 2-3 inches above the ground. Overhead vegetation hanging over the trail will be pruned to clear an area approximately eight feet in height. Any downed timber will be hand cut using bow saws. Larger downed timber will be referred to the park tree cutting crew.
There is a wide, low area just past the trailhead. It is bare of vegetation due to hikers going around this area. Stepping stones will be placed across this area using stones that are available nearby. This will allow passage in mildly wet conditions.
The trail has braided into 2 sections to the point that there is now in reality two trails. This is caused by wet conditions that have forced hikers to take the higher ground. It is proposed that the higher trail be maintained and the lower trail be allowed to return to its natural state. The alternative would be to close the trail during wet periods in order to keep hikers from cutting out a higher unofficial trail. The deadfall would be used to close of the unofficial part of the trail.
The trail would then be blazed with blue paint using established PATC guidelines. The result would be one clear trail. The alternatives include no blazing at all, which could encourage the establishment of social trails. Plastic tags and nails could be used instead of paint, however, paint is the preferred PATC method.
This project has been reviewed for impacts to natural and cultural resources by the park's Interdisciplinary Team. The project does not pose any serious or long-term effects to environmental, historical, cultural, archeological, or visual resources. It meets Categorical Exclusion #C.3 - Routine maintenance and repairs to non-historic structures, facilities, utilities, grounds, and trails.
For further information about this project, please contact David Tune, Volunteer Coordinator, at 1850 Dual Highway, Suite 100, Hagerstown, MD 21740.