The trails at the Eastwood Recreation Complex have gotten a facelift thanks to the effort and volunteerism of members of the community.
Ravenswood parks and recreation superintendent Katrena Ramsey said volunteers have made numerous improvements to the trails and are rebuilding the walking bridges.
The trails are located next to Ravenswood Grade School and already had been established by the time the school was opened in the late 1970s.
The property on which the trails are located was – and still is – owned by the Jackson County Board of Education. The city now leases the property for a nominal fee.
There were shelters and bridges, and the trees were labeled with markers identifying their type.
“I was a student there the very first year the school opened. We would go out, hike the trails, and learn about the trees and plants,” Ramsey said.
As the years went by, the trails fell into disrepair due to the lack of an established maintenance program. One of the shelters had collapsed and the bridges needed to be replaced. The tree makers are no longer accurate because many of the trees are no longer there, Ramsey said.
But the core of the trail system remained.
“And that’s what’s making it easier to resurrect,” she said.
The restoration was the brainchild of Joe Marra and Jeff Weiss, who are both members of the Ravenswood Board of Parks and Recreation Commission.
“They are avid mountain bikers and they both live in town,” Ramsey said. “They were looking to have a closer place to do some trail rider.”
With the closest public trails located about 45 minutes away, Marra and Weiss approached the Board of Education about leasing the trail system.
“After about a six-month process, this came to fruition,” Ramsey said.
The city began leasing the property for $1 a year as of Jan. 1. New trails were blazed and the walking bridges are being repaired – two have already been rebuilt, with a third set to be finished in a couple of weeks. Much of this is thanks to funding from friends and family members of Major Kevin Klegg, a Ravenswood native, and military hero.
“I had this family who was really wanting to invest in the community and these two guys who wanted to make everything happen. It just came together perfectly,” Ramsey said.
Clegg’s friends and family funded the new trails and new signage that’s being established. All of this is being done by volunteer labor. Many of these volunteers are trail enthusiasts who want to create something to benefit the entire community, Ramsey said. One of those, Workman Construction was responsible for rebuilding the bridges, through donations of materials and labor.
“How do we find our volunteers? Well, lately people have been finding us. There are certain apps like Map My Ride that have allowed people to come together,” Ramsey said.
The project is bringing the community together. Not only will hikers and bikers be able to use the trails, students at the school will be able to go on nature hikes once again, Ramsey said.
“The cross-country teams will be able to use it,” she said. “We’re also working on a 5K out there also.”
The trails are generally beginner to intermediate in level. Most of the trails have some hills; the creek trail is flatter, but all would require a full-fledged mountain bike. There are loose dirt, rocks, and creek crossings. Park patrons should use common sense, good judgement and, most importantly, know their own limitations before embarking.
The project is truly something every resident of Ravenswood can benefit from, Ramsey said.
“The beauty of this is everyone now co-owns this 170 acres together for their recreational use,” Ramsey said.