The volunteers at Blockhouse Point Conservation Park in Potomac toiled on eroded trails in the warm autumn weather ahead of the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.
“It’s nice to get outside,” said Kristen Emilio, 19, as she helped dig a “chuck steps” that she and her friends installed to combat erosion on the park trails.
Victoria Winch and Emilio were two of the half-dozen volunteers working at the park last week, one of a dozen projects being carried out throughout the area as part of Montgomery County’s Community Service Day.
Winch, of Rockville, along with Emilio, Nate May and Caitlyn Maczka, all of Damascus, participated in the program in part to fill the 16 hours they must complete as participants of the Montgomery College Scholars program.
“I thought it would be much more interesting than being inside doing office work,” said Winch, who is studying international relations and economics at Montgomery College’s Rockville campus.
May, 19, is studying fire protection and engineering. “This at least gets me in that area,” he said.
Two Poolesville high school students joined later on. Niko Michaels and Holden Hegmann, both 17, dug drainage dips to fulfill a requirement of Poolesville High School’s Global Ecology Study Program.
In total, the half-dozen volunteers dug ditches and packed debarked hardwood logs into five chuck steps that slowed runoff and ameliorated erosion. They created two drainage dips to redirect water off of the trail’s path, said Jim Corcoran, volunteer coordinator for Montgomery County Department of Parks.
It was the fourth time the students had done volunteer work with the parks department, they said. Usually they work for three to four hours, they said.
“When I do this, I don’t have to go the gym,” Victoria Winch said, wielding a pick axe she’d been using to carve out the hard-packed soil.
Corcoran said that volunteers are a critical part of keeping Montgomery County’s parks safe and clean.
“The trail work is endless, so there’s lots and lots of work to be done.”
Big weather systems like Hurricane Sandy don’t help he said, because they “affect the trails greatly in terms of erosion.”
Volunteers map trails and identify damaged areas in Montgomery County’s 140-mile network of natural surface trails that need repair and maintenance, Corcoran said.
“Volunteers are a very important component of maintaining our natural surface trails,” he said. “We rely heavily on volunteers for trail maintenance and some new construction,” he said.
To learn more or volunteer at the park, contact Corcoran through www.montgomerytrails.org.