In June of 2017, STC along with the River to River Trail Society, Friends of the Shawnee, and Illinois Ozark Tours received a grant to revitalize the River to River Trail through the National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance Summer Trails Stewardship program.
National Wilderness Stewardship Alliance’s mission is to develop a growing network of volunteer-based organizations to provide stewardship for America's Wilderness areas. Along with the grant money, the groups provided additional funding and volunteer hours for the project. Many other groups also provided in-kind volunteer hours.
Most of the grant money was used on signage for the entire River to River trail.
Large signs were put at both ends of the trail at Elizabethtown and Grand Tower. These large signs have a map of the entire trail with some trail information on it.
There were also mileage signs, and several wooden junction signs added to the trail system.
Friends of the Shawnee hired interns to put up new reassurance signs on the entire trail. To keep all signs uniform, most old signs were removed and replaced with new two part blue and white signs.
In the Wilderness Areas, brown signs were put up in accordance to Wilderness Rules.
Although many of the trail users are having difficulty identifying the brown signs on brown trees, as partners with the FS, and as users, we must adhere to these rules. One of the principle purposes of the designated wildernesses is they are intended to be challenging, to have limited signage, to require the trail user to work using maps, compass or electronic devices. More signage will be added in 2018 with leftover grant money and supplies. As winter approached, the interns were still putting up new signs and many STC directors and members were out taking down old signs on sections that had been rerouted in recent years.
As part of our volunteer hours, STC packed gravel onto sections of the River to River Trail.
We had several pack days in the fall that had very good volunteer turnout. On most pack days, we had 5 to 10 pack animals with close to 20 volunteers to work on the ground crew.
On Sept 30, members of the Back Country Horseman of Missouri traveled several hours with their equines for the weekend to assist in packing rock onto the River to River Trail at Lusk Creek. STC hosted the group by sponsoring one night of their camping at Circle B Campground. On their non pack days, STC director Lucy Walker, lead them on the trails so they could ride and work on the beautiful Shawnee trails. For many of them, this was their first trip to the Shawnee National Forest.
With some of the grant money, we were able to get rock hauled to certain areas for future work days to harden the trail surface.
In total during 2017, as part of the in-kind voluntary work for the grant, STC recorded 1283 hours.
Associated Saddle Clubs (9 Day Trail Ride) recorded 1137 hours of in-kind voluntary work for the grant.