After our hike last week, I was really curious about how the maintenance along the trails is done so I contacted Sandra Friend from this website.
Sandra sent me an email with a link to the Florida Trail YouTube channel that has several videos, that further piqued my interest and curiosity – as well as a link to the Central Florida – Highlanders Meetup page. When I looked at the Meetup page I saw that they were planning on doing some trail maintenance starting at the same trail head that I was at last week. I thought “what better way to learn about how they do what they do than to volunteer to help ‘em out?” I’m glad that is exactly what I did.
We started the day at 9am with Rachael (she’s the one with the papers in the middle of the photo) making sure that everyone had their safety equipment and explained all of the job assignments. She broke us up into two teams – one team went to the Lockwood trail head, and the other team started at this trail head. The plan was to meet in the middle and then head back to where we started.
Most of the folks there were regular members that do this all the time, but there were also a few newbies like me. There were two guys there who were in charge of mowing the trail. If you can zoom in on the mower, you’ll see that it is similar to those used by residential lawn mowing services, but there are some differences. There were also a couple of guys armed with chain saws. The rest of us were given “loppers” or branch trimmers and told how we were to trim the plants along the trail. (Basically the goal is to keep the walking trail about 18” wide, and then clean up the branches and vines for a 4’ wide area).
As we headed down the trail, I was thinking that this was going to be pretty easy. I won’t kid you, this was hard work, but was also fun to get outside and work with new friends. We made it about a mile down the trail before it was time to head back for lunch, and I think we did a pretty darn good job!
I did ask how they do maintenance on the foot bridges, and it was pretty much what you would expect. They carry all of the materials and tools by hand to the spot where they’re needed unless a trail is big enough to allow a motorized vehicle.
When we got back to the trail head, it was time for a cold drink and a rest. Everyone brought their own lunch, but Rachael also had a cooler of cold sodas, fruit and cookies to relax with. We talked about some of the upcoming jobs that they have planned – on Wednesday they’re going to be cleaning up the trail along the northern path. I told them about the tree that had fallen across the path and showed them a picture… I think they might need a bigger chain saw for that one, but I’m sure they’ll figure out how to attack it.
If you’ve ever thought about joining these folks to help out with maintaining the trails that we all enjoy, I would really recommend it. They are a great group of people and a lot of fun to work with. You’ll definitely walk away at the end of the job with a sense of accomplishment, as well as a new appreciation for the work that they put in to keeping the Florida Trail enjoyable for everyone!