• Grant funds restoration of floodplain trail

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  • Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
    Ever since the Great Flood of 1993, the floodplain of the Missouri River has been covered with tree overgrowth and shrubbery making it almost impossible for anyone to hike through the trail to the river. However, thanks to a $20,000 grant from the Forestry Reserve Account, there are now two miles of 20-foot-wide open trail that leads straight to the Missouri River from Chief Joseph Loop.
    “Fort Leavenworth has about 15 miles of trail in total out in the floodplains,” said Neil Bass, natural resources specialist for the Department of Public Works. “These are multi-use trails open to horseback riding, mountain biking, hiking (and) trail running. It allows horseback riders to get down in the floodplain where there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity in the past (and) allows easy, more readily available access to this huge contiguous forest and some really unique birding opportunities and outdoor recreation.”
    The Forestry Reserve Account expands across every military installation — Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps — that has a forestry program, Bass said. Each installation raises funds throughout the year to use on forestry projects. At the end of the year, any money not used goes into the Forestry Reserve Account reserved for large projects on the installations.
    “Some installations are 100,000-plus acres and they raise millions of dollars a year for their forestry programs. So, the (Forestry Reserve Account) allows us to use the money from other installations that make a lot of money but can’t spend it all,” Bass said. “In 2016, I had written up the request through the FRA to clear this trail and open it up.”
    Though it took almost two years from the initial request to get the trail cleared, the actual clearing process took less than a month, Bass said.
    “(The contractor) just used a big dozer, came through here and pushed it all,” Bass said. “The soil is hardly disturbed. I was surprised.”
    Bass said there are several sites and wildlife to be seen along the trail including deer, coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, turkeys and flying squirrels.
    “It gives about a 4.5-mile loop that a person can take and walk out into the floodplain forest and to the Missouri River. It allows miles of continuous activity where you don’t have to see the same thing twice,” Bass said.
    “What is really neat and unique about that area is Fort Leavenworth has the largest, contiguous track of riparian forest left on the Missouri River. This is very important for natural resources (because) it is an important stop over point for neo-tropical migrant birds. It also provides habitat for several species that are rare in Kansas because Kansas is not a heavily forested state.”
    Page 2 of 2 - To further add to the appeal of the trail, Eagle Scout candidate Nathan Waugh of Troop 366 will help seed the bare ground with native grass and clover for his Eagle Scout project, Bass said.
    “(It) will help cover the path and help stabilize it so it doesn’t erode as much,” Bass said. “We will also provide greens for turkeys and deer that live back in the forest. The clover will be really beneficial and is good for native pollinators because it will flower and they can come through as well.”
    Waugh said he chose to do the project because he thought it would be fun.
    “We get to work in a remote part of the floodplain most of us have never seen or experienced before,” he said. “It’s important because it helps expand the trail system and allows more people to enjoy and use that portion of the floodplain. It also helps provide food for local wildlife.”
    While there are several benefits to the trail opening up and being cleared, Bass said one of the main reasons is for safety.
    “While this isn’t an awesome road, it does allow some vehicular access if someone were to get hurt back here,” he said.
    “The most important thing (when on the trail) is to be aware of hunting seasons and knowing when there is an active season. Be sure to wear hunter orange (and) be careful with your footing,” he said.
    For hunting season information on Fort Leavenworth, visit http:// ksoutdoors.com%20hunting/When-to-Hunt.
    Bass said he was pleased with the final results.
    “I’m very pleased (and) it exceeded my expectations for the project,” he said. “I’m really excited about it because it could provide opportunities for more people to get out and enjoy the floodplain forest which is so unique to the Midwest.”
    For a map of the bottomland trails, contact Bass at 684-8979 or e-mail michael.n.bass.civ@mail.mil or see the online version of this story at www.ftleavenworthlamp.com.
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