Treading better on ditch trail

Runners and bikers work to improve a favorite, but worn, trail

Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2001

Runners and bikers are about to smooth out the Treadwell Ditch Trail.

Volunteers from Southeast Road Runners and Juneau Freewheelers will work with Trail Mix on July 21 to repair 10 bridges and stream crossings along a portion of the Douglas trail.

Over the years the Treadwell Ditch Trail has become an obstacle course. Between flat stretches of tree-shaded trail and muskeg meadows, runners dodge roots, jump streams and slog past mud holes capable of swallowing mastodons.

"It really beats you up by the time you get to the end of it," said Southeast Road Runners president Ken Maas.

Still, the Treadwell is a favorite among Juneau runners, tying with Perseverance Trail in a recent online poll the Road Runners held. Because it is flat and long - 17 miles - the Treadwell is great for marathon training, Maas said. He runs it about 10 times a year, always with a group of other runners.

Maas estimates about 30 runners frequent the trail. More would join them if the trail weren't regularly interrupted by stream channels and fallen bridges, Maas said. More than 20 work sites were identified on the trail between the Dan Moller trail intersection above Blueberry Hills and Bonnie Brae. Wooden plank bridges have fallen into disrepair and need to be removed, small streams need to be channeled into 18-, 24- or 36-inch diameter black plastic culverts and some ditch diversions need to be improved.

"I know a lot of people who aren't crazy about Treadwell because of the condition it's in, and if it were in better condition they'd run it," Maas said.

Despite their name, the Southeast Road Runners really love sprinting down a trail, Maas said.

"To a lot of runners, trails are better than roads because they don't tend to grind the body down like pavement does, plus it offers more of a challenge because you've got to stay alert," Maas said. "Running on trails and listening to birds is much better than running on roads and listening to cars."

Mountain bikers also enjoy the Treadwell Ditch, until they hit a stream gully.

"At least once a month I hear of people trying part of it," said David Ringle, president of Juneau Freewheelers. "What makes it tough are when you have big washouts or you've got little rivers that become bigger rivers."

About 50 mountain bikers use the trails in Juneau, but few trails are suitable, Ringle said. The Treadwell is a tricky ride, but has less climb than most other trails.

"It's a good technical ride for guys who find they can stay on their bike and ride easily over obstacles," Ringle said. "It has some great views and some great downhill runs too."

This will be the first time either group has worked to maintain the trails they use, Maas and Ringle said. Other volunteers are also welcome.

Volunteers should meet at the newly constructed trailhead at the top of Blueberry Hills at 8:30 a.m. Saturday. They will be organized into teams of five working with a Trail Mix crew leader. Volunteers should bring food and water and be prepared to work hard.

For more information, call Ken Maas at 789-5119.

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