Open to students in any grade, Michael Stratton’s Active Trail Building class began in the fall of 2022 and has grown in popularity. Using primarily found and surplus materials, the students are building trails and structures like benches for hikers and ramps and jumps for mountain bikers. “We’re trying to make it more accessible to school and community at large,” says Stratton. The trail work also has a benefit to the natural environment. “We actually chopped down a lot of invasive wisteria that was killing trees, so the woods are going to be healthier.”
Students apply interdisciplinary lessons in geography, environmental science, land management and sustainable forestry. Step one in the trail design process is to find places that won’t erode from bad weather. “Instead of going staring down a hill, you try to find a spot that will withstand water erosion,” says Stratton. “So we’re designing it in a way that works with the land.”
“At first I thought it would be tough getting kids to work, but I’ve had kids ask to come on the weekends,” says Stratton, noting that each semester a new group of students taking the class will take over the project, with the goal of adding one mile of new trail per year.