Over the last few weeks, volunteers from American Hiking Society (AHS), AmeriCorps St. Louis, and the Ozark Trail Association (OTA) completed much-needed and intense trail restoration on the Turkey Creek Trail and the Courtois section of the Ozark Trail (OT) on Mark Twain National Forest. The dedication of these volunteer groups has led to major trail improvements for Forest visitors to enjoy.

The AHS Volunteer Vacation group brought five volunteers to perform a reroute on the Turkey Creek Trail, contributing over 90 volunteer hours. Volunteers for AHS traveled to the Forest from Indiana, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Ohio. The trail reroute was a part of the Turkey Creek Day Use Improvement Project. The half-mile section of the trail in need of the reroute would frequently flood and was too steep, which had caused significant soil erosion and scouring.

The Turkey Creek Trail is moderately challenging, open to hiking and mountain biking, and features igneous rock outcroppings and views of the St. Francis River in late fall to early spring. The newly rerouted section is located above the floodplain and follows contour lines to ensure long-term stability. It includes several design features to maximize water drainage and minimize soil erosion, such as grade reversals, climbing turns and drain dips. The old trail segment has been decommissioned and restored to a natural condition.

The Forest Service truly appreciates the work of these volunteer groups. Jon Breithaupt, Mark Twain National Forest Wilderness and Trails Manager, stated, “I’m always impressed with the work output of volunteer groups who join us on American Hiking Society Volunteer Vacations, because they come ready to work and are physically capable of accomplishing challenging jobs in often unforgiving terrain; and I look forward to working with AHS again next year!”

Recently, the Forest Service Eastern Region provided funding to Mark Twain National Forest to implement the Ozark National Recreation Trail Deferred Maintenance Mitigation Project to ensure this very special trail gets the care it needed. The OTA and AmeriCorps St. Louis worked to restore the Courtois section of the OT to repair damages caused by off highway vehicles (OHVs). A lot of work on the trail tread had to be done on a quarter mile of the OT to mitigate the unauthorized OHV use. Erosion control structures were installed to minimize soil displacement and increase trail stability. This segment of trail is expected to be fully restored to Forest Service standards within one year thanks to the volunteers’ high-quality work during this project.

The Mark Twain National Forest sections of the OT are only permitted to be used by hikers, bicyclists, and equestrians. OHVs are not allowed on the OT, because they cause trail damage to

this trail which is not designed to withstand OHV use. OHVs also can be disruptive to Ozark Trail users that are seeking to get outdoors and enjoy nature in a place not designated for motorized use. Unauthorized OHV use also creates unsafe conditions for trail users not expecting to encounter vehicles.

Breithaupt expressed gratitude for the continued efforts of OTA and AmeriCorps volunteers. He explained, “OTA, AmeriCorps, and our other committed volunteer groups fill a vital role in supporting the Forest Service to provide outstanding trail experiences for Forest users, and we simply could not do the work without them; and I just want to say thank you to all of them for their hard work and dedication!”

It is important for visitors to do their part by staying on designated trails. Creating new trails, whether by hikers, bikers, equestrians, or OHVs, can cause erosion, loss of wildlife habitat, and other natural resource damage. Trailheads are marked to show what type of use is legal on that trail to decrease erosion and keep everyone safe.

When enjoying these recently improved trails, or any other part of the Forest, remember to pack out your trash, share your itinerary with a trusted friend, drink lots of water, and take frequent breaks. When finding your next adventure within Mark Twain National Forest, check out our website ahead of time to discover which trails you want to explore https://www.fs.usda.gov/recmain/mtnf/recreation.

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