The days are getting longer! Well, that could be taken several ways so I will rephrase and say we are getting more hours of daylight every day. Although snow is not out of the picture, we are starting to see some warm days and it will not be long until things start to green up. We have had some warm days to just sort of dangle spring in front of us and make us start to think about getting out, but I’m sure ol’ Mother Nature has a Kansas surprise waiting sometime in the next few weeks.
The restrooms are still closed, but we plan to open them in mid April as normal. The entire trail is open from Ottawa to Iola so travel is possible on the entire trail without any side road detours.
With the wet weather we have had, the trail surface is a little soft in the rural areas, especially after a rain or snow. It is not much a problem for walking, but it does slow you down considerably if you are on a bike. The nice thing about the trail surface though is that it does dry out and firm up rather quickly after the sun comes out.
For the trail staff, spring has already started as we have been getting equipment ready for summer mowing and the start of our burning season. Any day now we will start our routine use of fire in controlled burns along the trail at selected locations. These controlled fires help to stimulate flowers and prairie grasses and to also help with the amount of wildlife diversity along the trail. Take note of the areas and it is often in these burned areas where the best flower diversity can be seen later in the season.
With a Kansas spring we will undoubtedly have wind and storms. These storms can blow limbs onto the trail surface, so as you travel be aware of changing trail conditions. If you find a branch on the trail, don’t be afraid to throw it off the side of the trail. We try to monitor the trail after storms but there are a lot of miles.
In 2009 we had a significant windstorm and many trees were blown down on the trail. We were very pleasantly surprised when we got up to the area south of Ottawa to find a couple of our regular riders had cut a path through some of the limbs with handsaws they carried in on their bikes.
Remember that this is the time of year that weather can change quickly, so be ready and watch for changing weather conditions..
Don’t just plan to get outside more this year than last year. Start today and make it a habit.
Trent McCown, Prairie Spirit Trail Manager KDWP