Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) State Forester Ellen Shultzabarger announced that DCNR is seeking ideas and comments from the public to inform a sustainable trail system project in the Michaux State Forest in Cumberland County.
Comments can be made on the trail system website through an interactive mapping tool or an online survey that are part of a public engagement initiative to learn how the area is used, and to gather ideas for improving the outdoor experience for different types of users and protecting water quality and vulnerable species and habitats.
“This area of the Michaux is very popular as a destination including hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding,” Shultzabarger said. “We’re hoping to engage trail users and the public about how they currently use this area, why it’s special to them, and to gather some ideas on how to make it both a better experience for users and more sustainable.”
The project focuses on about 6,000 acres of the Michaux around Mountain Creek. The Mountain Creek area is a high-quality watershed, supporting natural reproduction of eastern brook trout, and sensitive habitat areas for numerous bird, reptile, and plant species.
The project seeks to enhance and stabilize the trail system to allow both volunteer and management resources to be invested as wisely as possible in the long-term sustainability of the trails, habitat, and user stewardship engagement in this area.
The interactive map hosted by the Shippensburg University Center for Land Use Sustainability includes key features and trails in the Mountain Creek watershed.
It allows users to drop pins with important places, trail issues, ideas, access points, conflicts, and comment on existing markers or vote them up and down.
The current trails in the Mountain Creek watershed have evolved over the past century out of old logging or charcoal hearth roads.
An inventory of the area, including permitted and unpermitted trails and roads, has been completed.
Preliminary research on the watershed done by Harrisburg University has found that impacts from unplanned stream crossings and trails include erosion, reduced biodiversity, and the spread of invasive species. Clearing vegetation for trails impacts sensitive plant sanctuaries.
Improvements being considered include trailheads and parking; a signage plan that improves navigability and management; trail construction and rehabilitation by both managers and volunteers; and the elimination of unsustainable trails including minimizing impacts to streams and streamside areas.