Summer Billy Clay Work Weekend

By Walt HammSaturday August 22, 2015 was this year’s maintenance work day at the preserve. A year ago members refurbished the parking lot (see Volume 16, Number 4 of the Karst Chronicle) and this year the accumulating deadfall was the primary focus of our efforts. While Tom Metzgar and I had cut and removed fallen branches from below the trail occasionally over the last few years, this just put a small dent in the huge amount of deadfall accumulated since we acquired the property in 2000. A much larger effort was required, so plans were made.

I missed the meeting time for a survey trip into Dill Cave on Friday due to construction delays on RT 219—so I decided to head over to the preserve in order to get a head start on Saturday’s work. I used a string trimmer around the sides of the parking lot and trail to the entrance, and then manually removed several dozen upstart weeds that had forced their way up through the landscaping screen and stone in the parking lot. After two hours or so it looked good so I drove over the mountain to Cass.

At the cabin in Cass, Kerry Speelman, Jeff Jahn and Mike Schirato were already back from their trip into Dill. I also met Johnny Motto and Dave Field there, while Carl Pierce, who had arranged for the lodging, arrived a little later.

Saturday morning we drove to the preserve and parked off the lot so that Carl could position the large towed rental chipper. (Carl donated the rental fee. Thanks Carl!) Then we started what would be many trips up and down the hill above and below the trail dragging or picking up fallen branches to feed the machine. Carl and Dave did most of the feeding, while Johnny used a chain saw to cut up the bigger diameter pieces (the chipper took up to five inch diameter material.) The work came to an abrupt stop after the first twenty minutes—broke? I had visions of having to leave the huge pile of branches that we had accumulated at the start of the trail, but after borrowing some tools from a friendly neighbor, and some disassembly, a jam was removed and we were back in business!
Over the course of the next few hours the entire hillside was cleared and a wood chip pile nearly five feet high was created. The trail was then covered in chips using a wheel barrow, still leaving plenty for several future applications. The preserve never looked so good!