Green Living: Peter and Ann Harrison hike and maintain trails throughout the Monadnock region

1 month ago Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

On Jan. 24, around noon, Peter and Ann Harrison parked at the start to the Evans Flats Trail in Peterborough. They both wore backpacks and snowshoes and carried tools.

They were in the woods for more than 2 1/2 hours working on the trail. They trimmed back tree branches that were hanging in the trail, pulled fallen trees to the side and had to clear sections where branches weighed down by heavy snow had made parts of the path impassable.

Peter started hiking 56 years ago and moved from Australia to Peterborough 36 years ago. He’s an avid hiker and has been volunteering to do trail work for more than 30 years.

“I just like to do it,” he said. “It’s something that has to be done, so I just do it.”

He and his wife hike and work all over the region – Monadnock State Park, Miller State Park, Harris Center trails and the Fremont Trail are some of the paths they regularly work on.

“Any trail that we’re on we’re always flicking branches off,” said Ann as she grabbed a handful of frozen twigs that Peter had trimmed ahead of her.

Despite the recent snowstorm, Peter said this year has been consistently wet.

“This year, I’m seeing much more water than normal,” he said. “We shouldn’t have running water. Not to this extent.”

Flooded trails can cause erosion, and the wet snow brings down branches and trees, which sometimes fall into trails. On Evans Flats Trail, the birch trees were bent way over, and not far into the walk, there was a section where branches were weighed down all the way to the ground, blocking the path completely. Peter pointed to the footprints that had taken a route around the blockage.

Peter put away his tree-trimmers and pulled out his handsaw. He said it is a model that’s made in Japan, and although it’s small, he said it’s mighty.

When it gets warmer and the ground isn’t frozen, Peter will clean out water baths and drainage ditches on the edges of trails. He said this takes a lot of time. If they aren’t cleaned, they can overflow and can cause additional trail erosion.

Peter said he certainly doesn’t do the job for the recognition. He has been working on paths when people have passed and they haven’t said anything.

“Few and far thanks,” he said. “It’s a little discouraging, but we’re not going to stop doing it.”

And there are special moments on the trail. Last year, he saw a mother bear with three cubs.

“It was really, really incredible,” he said.

On the Evans Flats Trail, Peter and Ann pointed out a rusted set of wagon wheels that were left from when the area was farmland.

During the pandemic, Peter noticed a huge increase in usage of trails.

“[People] were everywhere,” he said. “It really increased the number of people on trails.”

And he noticed more damage to trails. Peter said people walked off-trail and left dog poop bags in the woods. Now, the numbers of hikers have slowed down.

In addition to clearing trails, Peter will take trash out of the woods when he finds it.

“When I first started going to Miller State Park, I was bringing two bags of trash out,” he said.

Once they started locking the gate at night, he said he found much less trash.

Peter’s advice to hikers is, “Pick up a branch. If you’re walking just pick up a branch and take it off the trail.” He said it’s easy to do and will help keep the region’s trails maintained and in good shape for future hikers.

“It’s a service to the people who are hiking the trail,” he said.

Peter said he plans to continue to “clear the trail, take trees off and have fun,” for as long as he can.

He also hopes to grow the trail work volunteer community in the region, and he particularly hopes to get young people involved.

“It would be good to have some more people to help,” he said.
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