A small group of young adults is hard at work in a few of Iowa’s state parks again this summer. The Americorps trails crew, comprised of 11 current undergraduates or recent college graduates, is working with Iowa Department of Natural Resources staff on several projects.
Whitney Davis, Trails Program Coordinator for the DNR, says the Americorps employees are paid a “modest living stipend” for some very difficult and dirty – but ultimately rewarding – work. “We pride ourselves on using a lot of hand tools and manual labor to accomplish things that might be done with a machine if we brought in a contractor,” Davis says. “We do have some machines of our own that we use…but we can finesse things a lot better by hand.”
The crew has moved into Springbrook State Park near Guthrie Center as they work to stabilize a trail surrounding a lake and bring back a pathway from the trail, up a hill, to a park. “There are railroad tie stairs that go up to it, but they haven’t been used for quite some time and they’re in disrepair,” Davis says. “The trail crew is refurbishing that staircase. It’s pretty long and takes you up to a nice picnic area.”
Other projects on the trail crew’s agenda this summer include improvements to equestrian trails within Lake of Three Fires State Park in Bedford and work in Bellevue State Park along the Mississippi River. Davis says the Bellevue project involves construction of hiking trails. The workers are also scheduled to attend the 5th annual Iowa Trail Summit in Cedar Falls that features more than 20 panelists speaking about the future of Iowa’s trails.
Last year, according to Davis, the trail crew’s most significant projects took place at Brushy Creek State Park, Bellevue State Park, and Stone State Park.