Trails for Everyone! (By, Mr. Michael Cocquyt)

Greetings from the Army Corps of Engineers, Visitor Use Survey team here in Cumming Georgia. We have been hard at work these past two weeks with our surveys and gaining all sorts of insight into the public use of Army Corps Of Engineers’ recreation sites. In our off time and conservation work days we have been even harder at work, getting involved with the local community and parks. On my drive down to Georgia from New York I stopped by a beautiful site known at Tallulah Gorge. The sites at the gorge took my breath away, as did all of the amazing rock climbing and bouldering available. My only problem with being trained in trail construction is you can never hike a trail without seeing work to be done and I sure saw a lot of work that needed to be done on the climbing trail at Tallulah Gorge. After gaining insight from the park and local climbing community, I got to work on a previously abandoned trail. It was in desperate need of re-blazing and when following the trail I found in many places social trails had developed due to obstructions from years ago. With a great deal of care I re-opened the original trail, covered social trails. I also blazed the trail carefully, and made sure to keep a primitive back country look to this spectacular climbing site’s approach. Clayton was hard at work this week with the American Chestnut Tree restoration project at Allatoona Lake. They are working hard to protect the trees from viscous predators like the infamous white tail deer. Ok, so not the most dangerous of beasts, but they can sure chomp down on young trees. So Clayton worked hard at putting up nets to protect the programs young trees and the future of the American Chestnut Tree as a species. In other updates the garden is growing nicely and both Michael and Clayton have had an easy week of maintenance due to good design there are no weeds to pluck and lots of rain has made for little watering to need to be done. Leah has been hard at work as our program manager, Alex Olsen, visited our site for mid program evaluations. While getting Alex up to speed about everything we have been doing, she also managed to set up a great conservation work day we could all do together. On the Chattahoochee River two enormous trees fell on a hiking and mountain biking trail. We came on site armed with chainsaws and rigging equipment ready for action. To our surprise the trees were much bigger than expected and suspended by a stump 10 feet in the air. Talk about safety hazards, we had to pull out all the tricks to make a safe area of this trail and not jeopardize our own safety in the process. With some fancy chainsaw work courtesy of Clayton’s experience in the desert restoration corps, and some unique rigging courtesy of Michael’s leader team experience in Lake Tahoe we were able to help the park staff and SCA intern Justin and very knowledgeable volunteer Lynn, drop cut and move those trees off the trail in just one day. We thank Justin and Lynn for the opportunity to help the community and all of the skills we learned from them about tree removal and poison ivy control (some of us are still a little itchy despite best efforts though). We look forward to our next conservation projects and more surveys as the weather continues to improve here in Georgia, the recreation is increasing as well. Hot, busy, and getting rained down on by pollen… we will send another update soon on our adventures with The SCA.