Helping to build a trail

Community members, Boy Scouts and cross country teams help Trail Mix to complete new Jensen-Olson Arboretum Trail

Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2009

In volunteering to help build a new trail near the Jensen-Olson Arboretum, retired Juneau resident Steve Davis, 63, didn't realize how labor intensive the project would be. So he did what any normal avid runner would do - he enlisted the help of some hardy high school cross country runners.

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Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

"While working on the project, which consisted of pushing a wheel barrel up an incline, I realized I was getting quite a workout," Davis said. "The thought then occurred to me that this would be a good workout and team event for one of Juneau's sports team."

Because JDHS cross country coaches Guy Thibodeau and Merry Ellefsen are his friends, Davis approached them with the idea. They agreed and suggested one of the inservice days to do the work.

"Knowing Guy and Merry, I was pretty sure they would be for it, because their styles of coaching," Davis said. "They're really great coaches. ... (They) extend beyond the athletic field, encouraging other positive activities for the kids they coach and mentor."

In all, 18 kids volunteered for three hours Thursday afternoon to move, rake and compact about 10 cubic yards of gravel material for the new trail, which is located just past the arboretum driveway. Trail Mix provided all the tools, materials and guidance.

"They really did a great job!" Davis said. "We were blessed with a great day weather wise, and had an excellent turnout, with many of the team member's parents showing up to give a hand. We had a great meal and real team spirit after some very physically demanding work."

The group worked with Trail Mix project coordinator Garret Goodman in providing a work party for the kids at the Shrine of St. Therese lodge after the laboring. Cross country assistant coach Linda Mancuso and Davis' daughter, Jennifer Davis, cooked up a storm in the kitchen.

"Steve rented the shrine for the dinner, made five trays of lasagna, a big vegetable salad and a large fruit salad for the event," said Davis' wife, Debbie McBride. "It really was a group effort all the way around. Sounds like it was quite successful."

"It was really successful, and we really had fun," Ellefsen said. "This was group of young people who play as hard as they work, so there was a lot of laughter."

Ellefsen was thankful Davis coordinated efforts between Trail Mix and the cross country teams.

"That was a great community collaborative effort," Ellefsen said. "I think it's really important, because we love the trails, and we're probably the number one users in the community. You gain that appreciation when you work in partner with the community organization that's in charge of taking care of trails and then take some responsibility for building those."

But according to Goodman, the cross country team was not the only group that helped. Trail Mix hosted two volunteer days in which 18 community volunteers worked a total of 72 hours. Fourteen Boy Scouts worked 112 hours to build stairs, and Trail Mix crew spent a total of 24 hours over two days.

"A lot of hard work went into this trail," Goodman said.

The trail, which is approximately ½- to ¾-mile long, running from the entrance of the arboretum to a point on the water, will most likely be dubbed the Jensen-Olson Arboretum Trail when it is finished.

"The only thing that we've got planned left to do with it is one stair that the crew put in that I'm going to go back and re-do next week, but aside from that it's done," said project coordinator Goodman.

"The groups did a fantastic job," Goodman added. "They were all highly motivated, raring to go, got right to work and had a great attitude throughout the whole thing. I would definitely love to work with them again."

"It was a very positive experience to be around some really spirited and upbeat young men and young women," Davis said of the experience. "And as a runner, I am constantly using the excellent trail system we have here in Juneau for recreation, so this was just a little giving something back for me."

• Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at 523-2272 or

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