Park maintenance is never dull. One day our staff may be repairing a broken toilet and the next we’re laying sod at the dog park. Then there are days when Mother Nature decides what we will be doing. This was definitely the case this spring.
Everyone expects a little bit of rain in the spring, and as goes the saying, “April showers bring May flowers.” Most of the time the showers are just that – nice long showers that produce a steady rain over several hours throughout the day. But at the end of April, those showers turned into thunderstorms and downpours spanning a 36-hour period of time. Here at Miami Whitewater Forest, the combination of rain, geographic location and numerous creeks intertwining the park resulted in a clear display of the awesome power of nature.
The Shaker Trace bike trail is located along the Dry Fork creek, which feeds into the Great Miami River. The trail crosses the creek in two different areas and runs parallel to the creek in close proximity in several places along the trail. The map below shows the trail’s inner loop (pink) and outer loop (orange). When rain impacts our area or areas north of us there is high likelihood of flooding and flood damage in three areas along the trail. The first area to flood is the Mt. Hope road underpass, followed by the New Haven road underpass and subsequently the Willey Road underpass.
When these areas flood, the aftermath is typically a lot of debris and silt left on the trail surface, large logs and debris piled on the banks and significant damage or complete loss of the split rail fence used as a barricade in the curves of the underpasses. The task of cleaning up the mess is both arduous and time sensitive. Some of the equipment we use to assist in the cleanup include a gasoline-powered trash pump to supply the water to clean off the trail, a skid steer with a bucket, shovels and pure human muscle. We do our best to prioritize the areas based upon the water receding, foot/bike traffic and trail conditions. It is a long process, but the crew works tirelessly to try and get the areas opened back to the public as quickly as possible.
So next time Mother Nature dumps 5.5” of rain in less than 48 hours, we know exactly where we’ll be and what we’ll be doing. There’s never a dull moment!
Andy Grau, Park Manager, Miami Whitewater Forest