Around fifty hardy souls braved cool, windy and occasionally rainy weather to clear state and city park hiking trails, to repair and paint state park facilities, and to hang bat and owl boxes during mid-November’s Master Naturalist fall work day. North Central Arkansas Master Naturalists (NCAMN) worked most of the day on a variety of projects, frequently accompanied by mascot Hank Hartzler, a black and tan fiest mix who’s also a companion to Wildflower Team leader Marty Hartzler.
First of course, volunteers fortified themselves with hot coffee, tea and juice, as well as a variety of fruit/nut breads, including apple, zucchini, and lemon, plus bagels and muffins, baked or bought by the food committee, who also provided a hot lunch at noon.
Hidden Trail, a short but lovely little path nestled near the campgrounds in Bull Shoals/White River State Park (BSWRSP), features a wide variety of wildflowers and other native plants. Volunteers Rebecca Coble, Ric Criss, Gerald Garrison and Pat Thompson reinforced a bridge on the trail that morning, and Garrison and Nell Doyle later did a bit of lopping and chain-sawing to clear the trail corridor.
After repairing the Hidden Trail bridge, Coble, Criss, Garrison and Thompson, joined by Dianne Mongno, turned their attention to replacing rotten timbers and hinges of the projection screen of the outdoor amphitheatre and then repainting the doors and screen. Somehow only one person managed to step in the paint.
Meanwhile at the Roy Danuser City Park in Bull Shoals, Trail Patrol workers continued work on the newly constructed “red” trail that NCAMN has been building in the last year. The new trail, somewhat more strenuous than the existing “green” and “blue” trails, has opened new areas of the park to hikers and connects with the nearby state park visitor center trail. Sherry Finley, Anita Hayden, and George Popoff wielded loppers, while Lee Argyle, Tom Kennedy, Ed Metcalf, Lee Swezey and Phil Thompson used pick mattocks and other equipment to level and build up the tread. Beth Kennedy headed down the “green” trail with her trusty backpack blower, clearing leaves and other debris.
Other Trail Patrol volunteers focused on clearing an emergency exit from the state park’s Lakeside Trail just below Bull Shoals Dam. The “Dueling Pams,” Pam Cook and Pam Phillips, used loppers to clear the upper part of the exit corridor off the trail, while Ron Beasley, Jim Kouns, Carol Perciful, Bob Verboon and Hugo Woods utilized stump pullers, loppers and saws to clear the other end of the exit near Highway 178.
Yet another group of trail workers cleaned up the state park’s Heritage Trail and the interconnecting trail to the Danuser City Park trail, including Ellen Chagnon, Vicky and Rick Lucas, Mike Moore and Roy Stovall.
The “walking wounded” among other volunteers, Tina Cole (broken foot), Terri Argyle (broken toe) and Dianne Quinn (torn ligaments), were nonetheless on their feet—and level ground—painting parking lot barriers in the state park’s day use area, assisted by able-bodied Vicky Martin.
Meanwhile back at the pavilion, Dwan and Gerald Garrison worked with a gifted crew of chefs who prepared a hot lunch for the volunteers. Vicki Martin and Marty Hartzler grilled chicken, beef and venison kabobs that Dwan and Anne Criss had assembled the day before, while Dwan cobbled together blackberry, blueberry and cherry desserts in Dutch ovens. Side dishes included cole slaw, pasta salad, sweet potatoes and beans and sausage. Others who contributed dishes and breakfast food included Joan Barker, Carol Beasley, Anne Criss, Anita Hayden and Linda Moore.
During lunch BSWRSP assistant superintendent Jeff Shell displayed two plaques the state park had been awarded in 2013, including top regional park of the year and overall best park of the year. In a brief but spirited presentation, Shell observed that the state park could not have won the recognition without the many hours of work that NCAMN provides every year.
After lunch several trail crews returned to their work, while others finished repair projects on park facilities.
However, perhaps the most spine-tingling project was the last: installation of two screech owl boxes in the state park’s three-acre wildflower meadow and two bat houses near the campground entry. Accompanied by Wildflower Team leader Marty Hartzler and mascot Hank, Rebecca Coble, Ric Criss and Gerald Garrison prepared the boxes for attaching to tall trees, but it was Rebecca who climbed to the top of the ladder to actually mount all four boxes, cheered on by Anne Criss, Nell Doyle and Vicki Martin.
As the now-weary souls gathered tools, stowed them away and headed for home, the always-threatening rain finally began to fall in earnest.
(photo credit: Anne Criss)