Though hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders may not give much thought to how nature trails stay so clean and tidy, keeping the trails walkable in nature’s constantly changing landscape requires tremendous dedication to labor involving path repair, fallen branch removal, and even fixing damage caused by vandals. That’s where the Yucaipa Trails and Open Space Committee comes in, and they do all of this for free. On Saturday, June 1—National Trails Day—23 volunteers went to work maintaining the trail in Wildwood State Park. The California State Rangers also joined the effort.
Without the volunteers’ work, the trails would be impossible to walk through. “Last time we had to bring clippers for plants that were overgrown from the rain and blocking the trail,” said Jack Richardson, one of the volunteers.
As a state park, Wildwood is a protected area that is meant to retain its natural beauty. This makes the area more rugged than, say, Yucaipa Community Park, which has meticulously kept fields, public restrooms, drinking fountains, and other amenities. According to Reserve Deputy Sheriff Dan Lynch, the lack of budget for maintenance in Wildwood State Park means that trail upkeep depends upon the service of volunteers, who are vital to all of California’s state parks.
At 85 years old, Ray Pocta has faithfully been maintaining the trails and horseback riding in Wildwood State Park for about fifty years. Lynch described Pocta as “a legend.” Members of the Trails and Open Space Committee credit him for extensive improvements to Wildwood trails over the years. Yet Pocta, humble and soft-spoken, never mentions his own achievements, so all of this must be learned second-hand.
“We don’t even know half of what he’s done to improve this trail,” said Lynch.
Pocta warned about bogs in the park, similar to quicksand, where horses might become stuck. He described horses sinking in the bogs all the way to their shoulders in the past.
“Everything dried up in the drought,” said Pocta. Yet with the recent heavy rains, he is concerned that the bogs might form again.
President of Trails Christine Mohler encourages new members to join the Trails and Open Space Committee for volunteering and monthly hikes. In addition to trail maintenance, the committee meets the second Saturday of every month for “Take a Hike,” group hikes in Wildwood State Park and other beautiful trails around the community.
For more information, contact Christine at 648-5897 or visit the Yucaipa Trails and Open Space Committee Facebook page, where updates and announcements are posted for group hikes.