Maintaining Fontenelle Forest’s Trails
Our trails are here for members and guests to enjoy, but visitors may not realize how much work goes into maintaining them for public use. With over 24 miles of hiking trails at Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods Nature Reserve, it’s crucial that we have staff and volunteers dedicated to maintaining our trails.
Without regular upkeep, the trails would fill with vegetation and “go back to nature.” However, it’s not just about keeping them clear for hikers. Trails are essential for protecting the environment and ecosystems in the Forest from being disturbed, while also allowing hikers to connect with nature.
Simply walking on the trails does not keep them healthy. In fact, traffic on the trails can actually have the opposite effect, especially during the muddy season.
So, what are the main factors that affect the physical state of our trails and how do we keep them healthy? How does the condition of our trails affect the health of the Forest? We answer all of these questions below.
How does Fontenelle Forest maintain our trails?
A majority of trail maintenance consists of keeping the trails clear for hikers to use safely. Some trails can be mowed with a tractor, while others require staff and volunteers to use brush cutters to trim overgrown vegetation. Additionally, trees and branches that fall onto the trail are removed by cutting the tree into more manageable segments with a chainsaw.
Why do we reroute trails?
Erosion is the biggest factor when it comes to rerouting trails. Rainfall and snowmelt carry away soil and can create ditches or ruts on the trail. Some trails were created in unsustainable locations, like routes placed straight down a hillside or trails on flat terrain, which do not easily dry out after rain or snow.
How do we create or reroute trails?
Trails are created both by hand and by machinery. Staff and volunteers will use hand tools (shovels, hoes and axes), as well as equipment like a mini-excavator and plate compactor, to dig and compress dirt.
Why are trails sometimes closed?
Trails are sometimes either temporarily or permanently closed due to potential hazards, severe erosion or other safety concerns. Please follow all trail signage and closures for your safety and check our website for updates regarding trail closures.
Have we inspired you to get out on the trails and explore them? We were hoping so!
Click the buttons below to view trail maps for Fontenelle Forest and Neale Woods.
Questions about the trails?
As always, our Visitor Services team is available to provide suggestions on which trails are best suited for the experience you are seeking, as well as answer questions about trail updates and closures. Stop by the Fontenelle Forest Nature Center or call 402-731-3140 to speak with our Visitor Services staff during Nature Center hours.
Additionally, should you encounter anything concerning while out on the trails, members and guests are encouraged to report all concerns to Visitor Services, who will pass the information on to the ranger on duty. Happy Hiking!