April 2020 – Lisa Kiley
Mud Grid Trail Installation at Alum Creek State Park
April showers…you know the rest. While we do need the rain for our gardens, as horse owners, rain is more likely to make us think of mud. With a rather mild winter we never really got away from mud through the winter season. This series will address some of the issues with mud, look at different options on how to fix some muddy situations and help with some suggestions on how to prevent mud from occurring. In this first installment, we will discuss how one group of trail riders decided to take advantage of an easy solution to fix a section of trail that had become nearly un-rideable.
Back in February, we ventured out to a stretch of trail known as Winterhawk West in the Alum Creek State Park in Kilbourne, OH. It was a mild day, and although you could tell it had not been ridden on recently, the stretch of trail was already holding water just waiting to meet four hooves and become a mud puddle. The area quickly becomes hock deep in mud and different efforts to re-route the trail only created another muddy area in a less desirable place to ride. Because the section is well shaded, it often remains muddy long after other areas of the trail have dried.
Bobbi Arters and Mary Chmielewski, both active members of the Delaware County Chapter of the Ohio Horsemen’s Council, were kind enough to show us this problematic stretch. They, along with other members of the Delaware OHC work tirelessly to maintain the trails of Alum Creek. The devotion that this group of riders has for preserving and maintaining the grounds is something that anyone who enjoys the trails, from riders to hikers, should appreciate. The efforts of this volunteer organization have a definite positive impact on the improvement of the trails.
The group had been looking for a solution for the affected area and were planning on adding wooden boardwalks to several sections of trail. However, this project would be labor intensive, and the area was not easily accessible by truck or ATV. Using fill material in this section would also be difficult to complete because of accessibility and because the area was often covered in water, it would only be a matter of time before the fill would wash away.
This is when the Cashmans Horse Equipment Team proposed a product that could provide a great solution. The mud grids create a trail that would go right on top of the mud while providing a strong anti-slip surface that wouldn’t sink. As long time supporters of the Delaware Chapter of the Ohio Horseman’s Council we decided to help make this project a reality. Once the organization approved the project and with help from state grant funding for trail improvements, we were able to start planning the trail project.
Beyond the fact that mud can create a dangerous situation for your horse, there is also the environmental impact that mud exacerbated by horse hooves can have on the ground long term. With heavy traffic, it can lead to deep mud that isn’t good for you, your horse, or the environment. The mud grids provided a quick solution on this muddy section of trail. The environmentally friendly grids are made of 100% recycled plastic, need only minor preparation, do not require back fill, and will help prevent erosion.
After measuring the area and determining that we wanted to try and make the path as straight as possible. The trail maintenance crew set out to clear some of the areas so that we could maximize the length of the trail rather than use additional grids for turns that weren’t necessary. The preparation involved cutting back brush and removing some stumps out of the way of the new path.
On a bright day in early March, we were able to complete the project. The pathway, which was just over 200 ft, utilized just under 300 grids. We were able to wheelbarrow the grids straight to the worksite and carry them by hand to the muddy areas. The grids easily fit together, and we could apply them right on top of existing mud. There were a few areas where we dug out roots or moved a little bit of ground to make them lay flatter, but overall, the surface prep was very minimal. Because of the weight of the grids, they did not need to be secured into the ground. The surface is textured for anti-slip traction which is so important for the safety of the riders and horses. From start to finish, we were able to complete the project in under three hours, this included the time it took to get the product to the area of trail where we were working.
Hopefully drier weather is around the corner and we will all be able to hit the trails or ride on the rail at our favorite parks and showgrounds. Mud can be difficult to deal with, but there are opportunities to mitigate, prevent and eventually solve issues associated with it. I look forward to sharing some of these insights in the coming months.
Lisa Kiley is a lifelong horse enthusiast who has worked in the equine industry and shown horses for many years. As a proud member of the Cashman’s Horse Equipment Team in Delaware, OH, she enjoys educating consumers on products that put safety first to benefit horses and the humans that love them. Cashmans Horse Equipment has been providing top quality products to the equine and agricultural community for over 40 years, with a commitment to sourcing environmentally conscious merchandise and items made in the U.S.A.