A first step: Building a sustainable trail at Turkey Mountain

Some of the more than two-dozen volunteers who showed up to cut and build a new trail at Turkey Mountain.

We hinted about this during the winter, but last weekend it finally came to pass: The first project to close a bad trail and replace it with a good one at Turkey Mountain.

A crew of more than two dozen volunteers with the Tulsa Urban Wilderness Coalition grabbed tools and marched a mile or so into the woods to carve a new path that the River Parks Authority (the land manager for Turkey Mountain) hopes will be an enjoyable – and sustainable – trail.

At the same time, the trail it replaces – one that goes straight down the slope of the ridge and has been prone to severe erosion – is being closed off so it can grow over and heal.

This is the first of what could be a number of trail reroutes at Turkey Mountain. The park is criss-crossed with trails that were created by mountain bikers and hikers decades ago. Some of these trails are great. But others were made more for the aesthetics of the moment, only to fall into irreparable disrepair. Volunteers have spent the previous several months identifying “rogue” trails while other established routes are being evaluated to see if they can be managed and salvaged, of if they’ll need to be closed off and rerouted.

The finished result of a new section of trail on Turkey Mountain.

The final product of last weekend’s work is solid. It lengthens the route and provides some switchbacks to ease the climbs while also making the trail surface more durable. It links a popular spot we call “Rock City” to the Westside YMCA camp on the western edge of the park.

Many hands made for light work, and within a little more than three hours, hikers, cyclists and runners were already using it.

I know that some people might not like seeing some of their old favorites go away, but this has to happen if we want to keep the trail system and the forest around it healthy. In the long run, the experience will be improved for Turkey Mountain’s users.

Proof that I wasn’t just leaning on a shovel while others did the real work. 😉 (Laurie Biby photo)

Another plus: These volunteer days are bringing together a wide spectrum of Turkey Mountain’s users. Volunteers from the group represented pretty much everyone who treads these paths, and everyone involved is not only able to put in some sweat equity, but learn the thinking behind trail building, not to mention the skills that work involves.

More work like this will be done, along with maintenance on existing trails (plenty of trouble spots have been identified) and trash cleanup. Looking toward the long term, work at Turkey Mountain will hopefully get us closer to realizing the ideas behind Turkey Mountain’s master plan.

After a good number of hours at work, a bunch of us did what all good trail hounds do: We hung out in the parking lot, enjoyed a few refreshments, and had a can crushing contest. I did not win.

There is something special about being involved in creating something new, and I imagine more opportunities for that are on the way. Stay tuned.

Bob Doucette

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