Keeping 125 Miles of Trails Healthy: The TRAILS FOREVER Fund

By Guest Blogger Julie Schuler

“Many hands make light work.” 

This saying is especially appropriate when reflecting on the work as a result of the TRAILS FOREVER Fund at the Conservancy. 

“We couldn’t maintain our trails without the help of our volunteers,” said Kristen Forshey, trails volunteer coordinator for the park

NPS Ted Toth

Behind the volunteer labor is the funding TRAILS FOREVER provides to assure the hands working the trails have the materials, tools and equipment needed to get the job done. Although the National Park Service does provide trail maintenance funding, it alone isn’t enough to maintain the hundreds of miles of trails in the park.

Throughout 2018, TRAILS FOREVER funding has assured key projects move forward.

“We have so many miles of trails in this park and TRAILS FOREVER gives us the funding we need to put our volunteers to work,” Kristen said. “Park visitors see us working hard while they’re out there using the trails. They realize the labor and time that goes into this. It’s incredible the amount of support these projects provide.”

Here are just a few of the critical initiatives TRAILS FOREVER has helped fund in 2018:

National Trails Day Work

TRAILS FOREVER provided $5,000 towards the purchase of materials for the June 2nd National Trails Day, including trail aggregate (a mix of gravel, sand and dirt), flat stone, and “rip rap” (small boulder size rock), as well as lumber, safety equipment, and hand tools. The funding made it possible for 165 volunteers to work for a combined 738 hours on seven trails throughout the park, including East Rim, the Ledges, and Buckeye trails.

“That alone would be months of work for the limited people we have on staff,” Kristen said.

New Equipment: MultiOne Tractor 

Imagine going into the office and working on a typewriter instead of a computer… or cutting your grass with a hand mower instead of a gas-powered self-propelled one.

Modern-day equipment is equally critical for the Park Service, yet limited funding often makes the latest technologies out-of-reach. This year, $25,000 of TRAILS FOREVER funds went towards the purchase of a new, multi-use trail machine that will significantly increase maintenance productivity on the trails for years to come.

“It is a lot safer for the visitors and our staff,” explained Jeff Pettigrew, trails volunteer coordinator and work lead for the park. “The design is compact, so equipment can be easily transported, and it’s perfect for various projects on narrow trails, making it safer to use around visitors. We’ve been wanting this piece of equipment for years, and the TRAILS FOREVER funding finally made it possible.”

The equipment’s primary use will be for Towpath mowing, but it is much more versatile. With over 100 different types of attachments, this tractor can be used for trail work such as trenching, digging, excavation, cleaning trail drainage, landscaping and trail construction.

Towpath Trail Maintenance Project

There’s no question that maintaining the Towpath is a priority for many who contribute to the TRAILS FOREVER campaign. Whether you enjoy biking, walking or jogging, we can all appreciate the Towpath’s versatility and value. Yet there’s more to maintaining the trail than just recreational value.

“The Towpath Trail Maintenance Project is important because it protects the historic cultural value of the canal and the Towpath, as well as the physical resources of the canal and the river, while also making the Towpath Trail safer and more accessible to visitors,” Kristen explained.

In 2018, the Conservancy contributed $25,000 towards this project, which includes resurfacing 26,400 linear feet of trail. The project is still in progress, but as of the end of August, 17,965 feet have been resurfaced. Kristen expects to exceed the 26,400-foot goal by the end of the season. The main project focus is the three-mile section of Towpath between Brecksville Station and Fitzwater Rd.

To volunteer to work on the trails, visit 

To donate to the TRAILS FOREVER campaign, visit