Trail Rescued from Vines

Miami, FL | January 2014 | By National Recreation and Park Association

FL Miami Trail Rescued Vines 410

An ailing economy meant fewer resources for pathway upkeep along Miami-Dade County trails. One trail system in particular that became overgrown and impassable meanders through a 50-acre natural hardwood hammock preserve — a canopied forest unique to Florida — within the 116-acre Kendall Indian Hammocks Park, a regional park located in a densely populated area.

“Within a highly dense, concrete area we have this wonderful nature preserve,” says Joanne Case of Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreation and Open Spaces in Florida. However, many of the hammock’s trails had become overgrown with invasive vines. Supported by a Great American Trails grant from the Darden Foundation, the department has been able to restore a portion of the trail and offer visitors access to the hammock once again. Grant dollars opened up about 1.5 shaded miles of a larger 7-mile trail that had become engulfed in invasive plant species over many years.

The Great American Trails grant paid for exotic plant removal, cutting back of the overgrowth, trailhead improvements, and signage. Signs included interpretive signs to identify various wildlife species, directional signs to guide users, and a trailhead sign that highlights hammock ecology and includes a map of the trail system. Grant money also went towards other trailhead improvements, such as native species plantings, mulching, and a bench.

By partnering with LongHorn Steakhouse, the parks department was able to stretch funds even further than anticipated. “They put feet, hands, back, and sweat equity into their community — not just in dollars, they went in and were passionate,” says Case of the LongHorn volunteers.

When the LongHorn volunteers came to help with the trail project, the department asked a local biologist to teach about invasive species identification and removal. Volunteers learned the most effective methods for cutting, pulling, and bagging vines. The LongHorn group visited multiple times to help clear the trails with loppers and clippers. In addition, they helped to mulch and plant native species near the trailhead. As they worked, LongHorn volunteers set a community example: They were paired with high school students, who were impressed to see adult volunteers at work to help their community.

Now, the 2,000 visitors who visit the large regional park each weekend can easily explore the new natural hammock trail. The grant also helped to make the trail accessible to people with disabilities. The local disability services were so impressed, Case says, that they plan to start a nature program for autistic children and adults. “It opened up so many avenues for additional recreation,” Case says.

Even after the trail collaboration, Case has continued to reach out to the LongHorn staff by inviting them to community events and volunteer work days. Says Case, “We were so impressed with who they were and what they brought to the table.” -