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By Douglas John Imbrogno | march19.2021 | WestVirginiaVille.com
UPDATE: March20.2021:The Huntington Museum of Art Facebook account responded to this story today: Because of safety concerns, the nature trails at the Huntington Museum of Art are closed. Professionals will begin working very soon to clear damage from the recent storms. Thanks to everyone who has offered to help, but the work must be done by professionals for safety reasons. We will let everyone know when the trails are open again. Please help us spread the word that the nature trails at HMA are closed until further notice.
I normally post photographs and videos of Nature in all its solitudinous glory, when sickened by social media junk food and needing more wholesome nourishment. But our dear Mother is not always picture postcard perfect when we seek her aid.
So it was that I set out for one of my favorite trails on Tuesday, March 16, and found a tangle of destruction instead. The trail plummets deep into a dell and a thicket of arrow-straight trees beside the Huntington Museum of Art (HMA), at one of the highest points in Huntington WV.
As I approached the trail off the museum parking lot, I noticed yellow hazard tape had blocked access to a sidewalk that wove down to the trailhead. Except that the tape had been cut through or snapped, so it appeared that whatever lay ahead was no longer a hazard.
There were indeed hazards ahead. A half-dozen mature and sizable trees now blocked the path. Dozens of smaller ones littered the woodlands, as if a small tornado had blasted the holler. This was the legacy of the ice storm that encased everything in solid silver this winter for days on end.
In the woods through which the trial wove, the ice had weighed down branches and snapped trunks. The weight of the ice toppled some old warriors, their great root balls testimony to their long lives. In falling, some of the trees snapped others and cracked more on their way down.
It normally takes me about ten minutes to descend along the path to a cozy observation deck at the trail’s lowest point. With so many trees and tangled, broken branches in the way, it took more than half an hour to wind my way down there.
One of the heavy trees that fell snapped a wooden guardrail across a creek as if it were a toothpick. Another bent a heavy metal bolt as it tore through a railing. Several of the slatted wooden paths, bridges, and steps on the trail, built for easy passage across drop-offs and inclines, are now blocked and impassable (unless you’re a sure-footed woods-walker in his seventh decade, determined to get where you’re going.)
Given that few people would attempt the trail under these circumstances, I had the sweet assurance of solitude once I did make it to the observation deck, which was blessedly clear of debris. Yet even given the obstacle course the trail now is (or was on March 16), three adventuresome kids and then a bundle of basketball-squad-tall teenagers made their way halfway in while I was about halfway out.
In the museum parking lot, I waved off a young couple who had driven up and were about to get out and head to the trail, unaware of its condition. It’s a popular trail, especially so for dogwalkers, and I’ve met lots of happy, sniffy dogs on past jaunts.
So, here’s the bottom line after getting to the bottom of this beloved trail: all us Huntington Museum of Art trail-fans hope the stewards of the trail are able to hop to it and get it cleared.
HERE’S AN OFFER: A friend of mine has a chainsaw. Might we organize a community trail cleanup, HMA? (Writer does that thing with a thumb and pinkie finger beside his ear, like he’s making a call.) E-mail us at: heythereATwestvirginiaville.com.
Mother Nature needs help in aisle HMA.
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