Trails that have been shut down for more than two years are slated to reopen Saturday, Aug. 8 at Pattison State Park.
Roughly a mile and a half of Little Manitou and East Beaver trails, which bring hikers directly from the park campgrounds and picnic area to Little Manitou Falls, will reopen. They have been closed since the Father's Day flood of 2018.
“This is an extremely popular trail, so it’s certainly going to affect thousands of people,” said Kevin Feind, natural resource property supervisor.
The Black River rose 10 feet in the flood, Feind said, creating new rocky islands, washing out boardwalks and scouring some portions of the trail down to bedrock.
“So not only was the trail gone, but the ground under the trail was gone, too,” he said.
The State Building Commission in 2019 authorized $1.05 million for the trail reconstruction project. Park staff and engineers spent more than a year planning it. The work involved a close partnership between the Department of Natural Resources and Department of Administration, Feind said.
Because some sections of the trail were gone, they took the opportunity to move the trail uphill in spots out of the floodplain and make it more sustainable.
“One of the really cool features that we added was a 70-foot span pedestrian bridge that goes over a creek that is a tributary to the Black River,” Fiend said, to replace a bridge that washed out in the flood.
The bridge deck is wide enough to accommodate emergency vehicles, as well as the ATVs and UTVs park employees use to maintain the trails.
The trail incorporates culverts, grade reversals, new boardwalks, armored embankments and other unique features. The surface is graded with three-eighths inch crushed rock to create a smooth path.
Hikers will be able to pass by the Twin Pines, a popular picture spot, and cross the Civilian Conservation Corps pedestrian bridge that was built in the late 1930s. Water in the river rose as high as the second railing, Feind said, forming a logjam that loomed 6 feet above the bridge. The path beside the structure was scoured down to bedrock, but the footings held.
Visitors will also see an oak tree that got a second chance. The tree was initially slated to be cut down, but Feind worked with engineers to move the trail above the oak to preserve it. The change allowed designers to take advantage of a natural grade reversal and send the trail through a close trio of trees — the oak and two birch trees.
“I think it adds to the feature of the trail,” Fiend said. “It was a wise decision.”
The trails offer a river view, a walking path to Little Manitou Falls and peeks of wild flora and fauna.
“It’s been a lot of work, but that’s part of park work, you create something that you hope people enjoy,” Fiend said.