By Madalyn Neff, Communications Specialist, Wissahickon Trails. Photos by Tom Voter.

Wissahickon Trails recently completed a trail reroute at Briar Hill Preserve in Ambler, PA. This preserve is comprised of both young and mature forest and meadow habitat. It is part of 230 acres of connected, protected open space in the Prophecy Creek Corridor with more than 7 miles of trails. A short, 10-yard section at the head of the well-loved Turtle Trail was perpetually muddy and becoming eroded. The conservation team decided to reroute the trail to just yards away, on higher ground less likely to remain saturated after storms. Clearing this new path to connect with the main trail required the removal of non-native, invasive burning bush (Euonymus alatus), but otherwise didn’t disturb the flora in the area. A wooden boardwalk that had spanned a portion of the muddy section of the original trail was moved to the new section, to further prevent future erosion. To discourage use of the old, muddy trail, and encourage habitat regeneration, we planted native silky dogwood trees (Cornus amomum) and added brush piles, both of which will also provide habitat for wildlife.

In the grand scheme of things, this trail reroute is a relatively small project. But one of the major considerations when prioritizing projects is their impact, and sometimes it’s these “small” projects that can make a big difference in a person’s experience when visiting the preserves. Staff, volunteers, and trail users are in frequent communication to identify places along the trails and on our preserves where we can improve the experience for visitors as well as support biodiversity and enhance natural habitats. Whenever possible, we reuse materials and consider the most efficient, low-cost ways to make improvements. This approach allows us to maximize our staff time, engage with volunteers, effectively manage over 750 acres of land, and be conscientious stewards of the dollars we receive to do this work.