A big step has been taken by FOHW to make the red trail--the main trail route in Herrontown Woods--fully usable year-round. In the past, trails in the preserve would dry out in summer as the trees pulled moisture out of the ground, then cold weather would harden the ground in winter. But as rains have increased in New Jersey, and mild winters often fail to freeze the ground, the season when trails are soft and muddy has expanded. Though volunteers have laid hundreds of stepping stones along trails in Herrontown Woods, a 500 foot section in the northwest corner of the preserve has long seemed beyond remedy. A reroute two years ago on what appeared to be drier ground quickly turned to mud, as foot traffic broke down the delicate root structures that had held the highly organic soil together.
Friday, January 29, 2021
Red Trail Now Fully Reopened
Hearts-a-burstin (Euonymus americanus), a native shrub common in Herrontown Woods but rare elsewhere along the Princeton ridge. Though this native shrub can grow up to ten feet tall, in Herrontown Woods it seldom rises more than a few inches above the leaf litter before being nibbled down by the deer. This aggressive browsing is an example of how deer prefer to consume native plants, while leaving the closely related but nonnative winged Euonymus to reach maturity and spread its seeds.
It's a relief to have a workable trail through the wettest section of Herrontown Woods. We'll see how it performs through the heavy spring rains, when the preserve plays the role of a giant sponge, absorbing water and slowly releasing it into Harry's Brook.
Working on trails can be considered an alternative to going to the gym, and at Herrontown Woods there will be no end to opportunities for exercise. Stepping stones and boardwalks are to these trails as research is to science--more are always needed.