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Building Bridges

Houston cycling clubs repair, improve Huntsville park trails.

By Jennifer Nalewicki

Two Houston-area cycling organizations have joined forces with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to further develop and maintain Huntsville State Park’s multi-use trail system.

The Greater Houston Off-Road Biking Association (GHORBA) and Northwest Cycling Club (NWCC) are constructing several boardwalk-style bridges, enabling park visitors to cross the park’s swamplands. The groups also help with the maintenance of the park’s 10-mile-long trail system.

The ongoing project is being funded by various sources, including NWCC, which donated $1,500 to GHORBA in April, and REI, an outdoor goods store. NWCC’s contribution is going toward the construction of a bridge.

Huntsville State Park volunteer trail stewards look at the trail system as a whole when deciding what parts need repair and what parts don’t. They conduct a series of walkthroughs, in which they assess the amount of traffic each trail receives, note the effects weather and erosion have had on the trails and look for ways to reroute damaged trails.

They then report their findings to GHORBA, which holds monthly “work parties” to make the needed repairs. At the parties, volunteers do everything from shoveling dirt to constructing bridges to transplanting trees and bushes in order to cover up trails no longer in use. Local food stores join in as well, donating food and drinks to the volunteers.

“It is part of GHORBA’s mission statement to do volunteer work [maintaining the trails],” says Kelly Strader, vice president of trails for GHORBA. “Huntsville is a good place to recreate.”

The park, located an hour’s drive north of Houston in Sam Houston National Forest, attracts cyclists, runners, hikers and nature enthusiasts alike.

The trails, which are all dirt save for the wooden bridges that cross over the area’s swamplands, are designed and constructed so that wildlife and birds are observed in a natural setting.

“Huntsville is pretty keen on keeping a natural look, sort of like a game trail that deer travel on, only wider,” says trail steward Jimm Schroeder. “We try not to make it look too manmade.”

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