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Greenway readied for spring

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SLITHERING ALONG: A small snake peeks its head up from its afternoon commute across the leaves on Saturday.
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SPRING LITTER: An abandoned toy lays next to the Cardinal Greenway trail.
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RIDING THE TRAIL: Cardinal Greenway Volunteer John Swift bikes the down the trail on Saturday. Now that the winter weather is fading into spring, more clean ups are taking place throughout the trail.

By Clay Winowiecki - cwinowiecki@chronicle-tribune.com

Cardinal Greenway has come to life with an assemblage of birds, snakes and squirrels and people.

Coming out of winter, the Greenway is in good shape, according to Jim Milligan, chairman of the Grant County Cardinal Greenway and member of the board of directors overseeing the trail.

Milligan credits his volunteers, who work throughout the winter months cleaning up litter and debris from trees buffeted by snow and high winds.

“Typically there’s a lot to pick up afterward,” Milligan said. “That’s why we have our spring clean every year.”

For those who would like to get involved in spring cleaning, the big event takes place on Saturday, April 20, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.

“We urge people to come to that,” Milligan said. “We start our groups at the Jonesboro trailhead and on the other end at the Miller Avenue trailhead. We send groups in both directions where they’ll meet somewhere in the middle.”

However, while there is always plenty of litter to pick up after the snow melt, it’s much less today than it was a decade ago.

“When you go back eight to 10 years there was still a lot of old tires which were out there for years,” he said.

“We used to rent a very large dumpster during our spring cleaning,” he added.

However, in the last three years there hasn’t been a need for one. A positive sign that people are being more mindful with their litter by placing it in the proper receptacles.

Volunteers still pick up plenty of fast food wrappers and styrofoam containers, which Milligan says are not usually discarded on the trail, but tossed out along U.S. 35 near Gas City and Jonesboro and blown onto the Greenway.

“We do still (sometimes) get the occasional large items like tires and chairs,” he added.

One volunteer is John Swift, who rides the trail all year on his bike.

“It’s an everyday job,” Swift said about picking up rubbish. “As soon as you pick up something, somebody’s going to go and put it back down on the ground again.”

Swift is one of four or five volunteers who makes a regular habit of cleaning the trail.

“I’m blessed enough to have a good job so I don’t really need the money and I was bored so I just started coming out here helping some guys,” he said.

But according to Swift, there’s still plenty of work ot be done and the trail is always in need of volunteers.

“Every little bit helps,” he said.

Now is the time of year for trail maintenance to begin as well. This involves painting fencing, fixing wooden rails and sealing any cracks that have formed on the paved trailway with a sealant.

One of the biggest jobs for Milligan and his team involves erosion control.

“Heavy rains in certain places will wash gravel out,” he said.

One area that’s been a particular concern is Deer Creek, which is in need of a repair, but it’s something that the Greenway needs professional help for.

“It’s an area that has very bad erosion because there’s a creek below it and heavy rain swells the creek, taking out landscapinging with it,” he said. “It’s eroded probably within a foot or so of the trail.”

A safety fence has been placed and Milligan is in talks with professionals about repair options and costs.

Outside of the ongoing issue of Deer Creek, there are no major maintenance projects taking place this year.

According to Milligan, the most common areas in need of maintenance are bridges.

“Not necessarily rotting boards, but maybe just sealing the wood and cleaning the wood to prolong it,” he said.

One tunnel, which is a high litter area, will also be getting plenty of attention as it’s one of the few places large items of litter, such as tires, can still commonly be found.

Keeping the Greenway in great shape is important, Milligan added.

“It’s a great asset for Grant County, not only for visitors who come in and spend local Grant County dollars, but (for hosting) events through the year,” he said.

Keeping the trail neat and clean is no easy task and requires many volunteer hours.

“We would like to have more involvement from Grant County,” Milligan said. “Whether it be volunteers or companies that would like to sponsor fundraising ideas on the trail or use it for some other event of their own on the trail.”

Large events occur on the trail in Muncie, such as the charitable “Turkey Trot” on Thanksgiving Day. Milligan said he would like to find an annual event for the trail in Grant County, which could become the trail’s main fundraiser of the year.

Those who would like to volunteer, including fundraising or litter pick up litter, can contact Curfman’s Cyclery, 426 N Washington St., Marion, for more information.

“We talk to volunteers and we try to have a little conversation on what they’re interested in,” Milligan added. “We always try to come up with something they would enjoy doing.”