Text and Illustrations by Craig McArt
Have you ever followed what looked like a trail only to end up at someone’s back door? Or gone out for a quick walk in the woods and ended up wandering around for hours? Does trying to find your way on hiking trails that are missing trail markers frustrate you?
The Eastman Community Association’s (ECA) Woodlands and Wildlife Committee is overhauling its method of marking trails to improve the situation. Painted blazes will soon replace the blue plastic markers nailed to trees, resulting in a more effective and sustainable system.
The decision to do this rather than simply tacking up more plastic was prompted by realization that the markers were being sheared off over time by growth of the trees—an unstoppable force against immoveable objects. The use of painted blazes on trailside trees is favored by most trail-maintenance organizations, and the fact that it is the least intrusive method was an important consideration for the committee.
Since painting blazes is a labor-intensive process, it will take time to make the conversion on all of Eastman’s trails. The first trail to receive attention is the much-used Lake Trail that is crossed by many shorter trails from houses to the shore of Eastman Lake. With missing or inadequate marking, it’s not unusual for hikers to mistakenly wind up near someone’s doorstep. Also, when the trail is covered with leaves in the fall or with snow in the winter, it’s easy to unintentionally wander off the path.
Conversion to painted blazes on the section between West Cove and North Cove has already been completed. Besides adding the blazes, committee volunteers have posted signs at the various coves and spurs along the way to identify the trail. However, Trail 6, the wide section between South Cove and West Cove, is not included since it is a walk/ski trail maintained by the Common Properties Committee and ECA’s Recreation Department, and marked with ski trail signs.
After much deliberation, the committee chose colors for the blazes: blue for the main trails; red for connector trails between the main trails; and yellow for trail spurs. Semi-gloss latex was purchased to paint crisp two-inch wide by six-inch tall blazes on living trees, spaced so that the next blaze along the trail is within sight, but not so close as to be unnecessarily obtrusive.
The trails in Heath Forest present a special challenge to the system since they are named for colors: Red Trail, Blue…Yellow…Green…Orange…and Pink. Ribbons of colored flagging tape tied to trees—a temporary solution at the time—have been used in Heath to mark the trails ever since they were created. Permanence has not been their virtue, and many have been shredded by the elements of weather and time. Fading turned red ribbons to pink, and other colors suffered as well, requiring replacement on an almost annual basis. Still, the color names for the trails have been established in minds and on maps, so what to do? What seems to be the logical solution for Heath Forest is to retain the names and paint-blaze the trails accordingly.
The 2016 Eastman Community Survey indicated that satisfaction with walking/hiking trails has improved significantly since 2010 when a previous survey was done. This is a tribute to both the ECA staff who maintains the walking/ski trails, and the Woodlands and Wildlife Committee members and volunteers who monitor and maintain the hiking trails. We know, however, that there is always room for improvement, and we hope this initiative will contribute toward that end.
In addition to volunteering on the Woodlands and Wildlife Committee, Craig McArt has also served on Eastman’s Walk and Bike Steering Committee.