AmeriCorps crew helps Pikes Peak State Park after flood damage
Written by Becca Habegger, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
CLAYTON COUNTY (KWWL) -
Portions of Iowa's most northeast corner continue to recover from flood damage, after three days of heavy rain in June impacted everything from homes and businesses to roads and parks.
At Pikes Peak State Park in Clayton County, near McGregor, flooding caused erosion along several miles of the popular trails there.
"I've been here for 15 years, and there's been two or three other heavy rain storms that have hit Pikes Peak," park manager Matt Tschirgi said. "This tops as one of the worst ones."
Starting Monday, a crew of four AmeriCorps volunteers with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources started repairing and bettering the paths that flooding damaged.
Rob Carey is the leader of the trail crew, which worked Monday under a sunny blue sky filtering through the forest's thick, green canopy. He said he loves working outdoors.
"I got stuck at a cubicle for a week, and, man, I just about went crazy," Carey said, describing the week of training he went through in Des Moines for the AmeriCorps job.
His crew set to mending the more than four miles of trails that experienced flood damage, two miles of which are in such bad shape, they're closed.
"It is important to get the trails open," Tschirgi said. "The trails are one of the most popular things here at the park. Pikes Peak doesn't have a lot of developed roads or a lot of sidewalks. It's mostly rugged trails, and that's what people enjoy up here. To have some of those closed, it's hurting, impacting our usage. People are wishing that they could hike those trails."
Tschirgi said he hopes to see all the trails fixed and opened back up in two weeks. Damage ranges from heavy erosion along the path to whole sections washed out.
More than simply repairing the trails, however, Carey and his crew are preparing the park for future flooding by studying the runoff.
"If you just put a Band-Aid on it and it's a problem that keeps coming back, all you're going to do is waste more money and more material and more rock, and it just keeps washing away," Carey said. "What you need to do is spend time and do it right, and then it's sustainable for longer."
For example, to prevent water from cutting a rut all the way down the slope of a path, the crew Monday built up humps along the trail that act as drains, diverting water off the trail and into the forest.
AmeriCorps members may only serve four terms. Eventually, the 21-year-old Carey will complete his time with the organization, and he's considering his next step.
"A disaster relief crew would be fun, and go out and travel the states and do some disaster relief," he suggested. "And the other thing I was thinking about is maybe a fire crew somewhere, out west."
Whatever the job, he said, he hopes it comes with some of the outdoor office space he is enjoying this week at Pikes Peak State Park.
The Iowa DNR continues to make flood-related repairs elsewhere, including at Backbone State Park and Yellow River State Forest.
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