Blazing a New Trail: The North Collins Reroute Project

by Nora Scholey, Bird Alliance of Oregon Volunteer

Every Wednesday, a group of Bird Alliance of Oregon volunteers gathers at the 172-acre Wildlife Sanctuary to tackle projects aimed at maintaining the trails as well as protecting and preserving wildlife habitat. This winter the sanctuary felt the brunt of the extreme weather, with flooding and snowfall causing significant damage to trails. On the North Collins trail, a widening sinkhole compromised the safety of one of the bridges, and it needed serious attention before the trail could reopen.

Along came Trailkeepers of Oregon (TKO) to the rescue. This nonprofit provides expertise and labor to help repair or redesign existing trails. After meeting with their team, a solution was found and a major project was born. We were going to reroute the N. Collins trail through the adjacent forest around the “sinkhole” bridge. The bypass project would involve weekend work parties hosted by TKO as well as our own Wednesday work parties. It was going to be a huge undertaking, but Braden Catt, Sanctuary and Facilities Manager, gave the go-ahead, and we were up for the challenge.

The project kicked off on March 8 when TKO hosted a work party celebrating International Women’s Day. The first phase was to cut back branches, plants, and surface debris to create a six-foot-wide clearing (as pictured on the right).

LEFT: Wendy after a hard day’s work on the beginning of the new trail. RIGHT: Jill Turner, one of this year’s Mamie Campbell award recipients, pauses to survey her progress.

The Wednesday crew then further defined the trail by removing duff (topsoil) from the upper side of the new clearing down to the mineral soil or compacted layer. We used green grubbers to scoop the soil and disperse it into the forest. This would form the upper slope of the trail and allow for contouring space as the trail took shape. Duff removal was a strenuous job that really worked our back muscles, and it was only just beginning!

Over two months we continued to complete the various stages of trail design. We removed duff on the trail base, cutting in an upper edge and ensuring that the base sloped downhill for drainage. We then cut the lower edge and pulled away more duff, clearing it for water runoff and shaping the trail to take advantage of natural drainage dips. After this stage, the trail had a well-defined path with an upper side that would fill in with native plants. But there was more work to do!

The next major milestone was repositioning the “sinkhole” bridge onto the new trail over a natural culvert (pictured on the left). When Susan Schen of TKO showed up, we knew it was game on!

After finishing the bridge installation, the trail was reopened on June 2. A great success for the Wednesday work crew!

Susan and the crew used a winch and people power to drag the bridge to its new location. Definitely a team effort.

In total we had ten Wednesday work parties and three TKO weekend work parties to complete the reroute project. The labor totaled 378 hours or 50 minutes of labor per foot of new trail.

We owe huge thanks to Trailkeepers of Oregon! TKO freely shared their knowledge of and passion for trail design and development, they offered expert guidance to our work crews, and their own work parties provided much additional labor on the project.

We have learned new skills for designing and building trails, tested our physical endurance, and put our problem-solving abilities to use. It feels good to know that we have prepared the trails for a safer and more enjoyable experience for visitors.

LEFT: Braden and Geri (TKO advisor) check for levelness and even distribution. After installing risers and securing the repurposed bridge, it was good to go. RIGHT: Lisa moved some plants for erosion control.

Interested in volunteering?

Visit or contact Volunteer Manager Vicky Medley at