Improvements make Trail 5 more accessible, less scary
By Duncan Wood
The Brook Trail (Trail 5 on the cross-country skiing map) runs along both sides of Eastman Brook downstream of the Orr Dam. The trail is one of the most beautiful locations in Eastman’s trail network, but access has always been limited and challenging. The access point at the east side of the dam was very steep and a safety risk to many of our skiers. It was also hazardous for walkers, who could slip and fall on the steep, grass surface. That has now changed dramatically.
It all started with the Walk and Bike Steering Committee that met for many months in 2014-2015. The committee assessed what enhancements should and/or could be made to improve walking and biking opportunities at Eastman, consistent with one of the goals of Plan 2020. The consensus at the end of the committee’s effort was that the focus should be on improvements to the existing network of trails and roads, and not on the construction of new trails. The objective was to make the existing trails safer to use and available for diverse use by more people during more months of the year.
One of the priorities identified was the improvement of access to the Brook Trail at the dam. Funding to initially allow work on the trail network was included in the FYE 2019 ECA budget. Safer access to Trail 5 was selected as the first project to undertake. The first step was to obtain a topographic survey of the eastern side of the dam and the adjacent slope. A design was then prepared to dramatically reduce the trail’s slope by constructing a rock retaining wall to support a new, more gradual incline along that side of the dam. The existing slope was 33%, or 1 foot of vertical drop per 3 feet horizontal. The proposed design reduced the slope to 14%, or 1 foot vertical per 7 feet horizontal. Thus, the new proposed trail would be less than half as steep as the old one.
The next step was to obtain a Shoreline Protection Permit from the NH Department of Environmental Services. This was necessary since a portion of the proposed construction was within 250 feet of the shoreline of Eastman Lake, even though the work was not in the watershed of the lake. An application to the Eastman Environmental Control Committee was also submitted to obtain approval for the removal of six trees.
Once the required permits were in hand, a request for proposals was sent to several local contractors, and Kevin Roberts Excavation LLC was selected. The construction was completed under-budget in October-November 2018, in time for the winter ski season.
The trail was groomed using the Pisten Bully after the first major snowstorm in January. Skiing down the slope is now much less scary and the climb up the slope can be done using “fish scale” skis without the need to herringbone – a huge improvement.
Hopefully, in the years to come, many more people will discover the beauty of the Brook Trail now that one can walk, ski, and bike to the foot of the dam with greater safety and ease. Skiers and walkers can park at South Cove Activity Center and enter the trail network at the top of the dam without trepidation. Those who start in West Cove can reach John’s Glen without having to ski or walk down the formerly death-defying slope.
Whenever funding is available, other improvements to the walk and bike options at Eastman will hopefully be implemented.
Duncan Wood is a member of the Common Properties Committee and served on the Walk and Bike Steering Committee.
Winter scene: Sally Wood Fall scene: Craig McArt