North Ridge Trail

In 1969, the North Ridge Trail was presented to the citizens of Oak Ridge by TCWP (Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning), whose members developed it, got City Council to dedicate it, and worked for federal and state designations to help protect its status. Over 8 miles in length and honored by the dual designations of National and State Recreation Trail. TCWP undertook to maintain the trail for public use for at least 10 years; it has now done so for over 50.

North Ridge Trail Builds Greenbelt Advocacy

(article for The Oak Ridger by Liane B. Russell) How many cities are there that contain within their borders a secluded woodland trail, over 8 miles in length and honored by the dual designations of National and State Recreation Trail? The North Ridge Trail, now almost 25 years old, was a present to the citizens of Oak Ridge from TCWP (Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning), whose members developed it, got City Council to dedicate it, and worked for federal and state designations to help protect its status.

TCWP’s ulterior motive in developing the trail was to safeguard the publicly-owned greenbelts. Oak Ridgers had long counted these green oases among their blessings and took for granted that they would always remain there. In 1965, some residents learned otherwise, when they noticed surveying crews blazing the route for what was to be a 200 ft-wide swath for a powerline running along the entire length of the beautifully wooded northern greenbelt. These citizens mobilized an effort that eventually killed the proposal (and put the powerline on the Turnpike, which was already graced by other developments).

Soon after TCWP was founded in 1966, these citizens suggested adding Oak Ridge greenbelt protection to the organizationĀ¹s other issues. The best safeguard for the greenbelts, they argued, was to build a strong constituency for their preservation, and that meant getting people acquainted with them. Thus, the idea of a trail was born. TCWP members explored the terrain and laid out an interesting and varied route, and when, in April 1969, city council gave unanimous approval to the trailĀ¹s development by TCWP, all the planning had already been done.

It was TCWP’s philosophy that making the trail just wide enough to walk single-file would cause the least disturbance to the land and give walkers a feeling of being close to nature. For the most part, the only tools used were lopping shears, spades, and hand saws. The trail runs the entire length of the northern greenbelt from Endicott Lane (eastern end) to Mississippi Avenue (western end), with additional accesses at intermediate points. It crosses two roads, Key Springs Road and Highway 62, but, except at these crossings and at the access trailheads, the walker sees few if any signs of civilization.

In addition to the linear (though far from straight) trail, and connecting with it, there is also a 2-mile loop, the Delaware Trail, in the widest part of the northern greenbelt. It is just long enough, and just short enough, to provide a lovely outing after work, and its route exemplifies the variety of scenery found in the longer, linear trail. Winding through deciduous forests, it drops down to a spring-fed creek and returns up a narrow valley filled with mountain laurel, passing interesting rock ledges and a sinkhole.

The circular Delaware Trail is blazed in red, the main linear trail in white, and the several access trails in blue. Keeping up the blazing, and other trail maintenance is performed by TCWP volunteers — in recent years, primarily Ken and Helen Warren. Occasionally, their efforts are augmented by scout projects and by city crews, who have installed a few wooden footbridges. TCWP volunteers can enjoy the outdoors while performing a valuable service for Oak Ridge; additional helpers are welcomed with open arms.

As part of its effort to build a constituency for greenbelt protection, TCWP early on publicized the trail, and it is enjoyed not only by numerous individuals but by several organizations that sponsor outings on it. And a large greenbelt constituency has, in fact, grown-up. In 1976, for example, a real-estate group that wanted to develop a subdivision below the ridge, just outside city limits, tried to convince the city government to grant permission for a road through the northern greenbelt. It would have torn up the laurel-filled valley and the watercress springs on the Delaware Trail. In no time at all, 1976 signatures were gathered on a protesting petition; more names could easily have been obtained, but the number 1976 corresponded to the bicentennial year — a good attention-getter.

Our trail was one of the first to be designated a National Recreation Trail under the 1971 National Trails Act. The federal inspectors who came to see whether the trail qualified were so impressed, they went off to other cities encouraging them to follow the Oak Ridge example. TCWP undertook to maintain the trail for public use for at least 10 years; it has now done so for over 25. We would love to have additional volunteers for the effort.

Map of North Ridge Trail

TCWP North Ridge Trail Adopt-A-Section Program

What is the Adopt-A-Section Program?

Tennessee Citizens for Wilderness Planning’s (TCWP’s) Adopt-A-Section Program for the North Ridge Trail is a volunteer program that gives hikers, trail runners, nature enthusiasts, and anyone who loves the trail the chance to assist the Trail Steward in monitoring, maintaining and enhancing the trail, access trails, and trailheads.

What’s in it for me?

You can make sure your section stays in good shape, improve it where necessary, and quickly identify any problems. You ultimately help ensure the trail is around for a long time to come. It’s a great way to give back to the environment and the community while enjoying time outdoors and the personal satisfaction that comes from volunteering to improve something you already enjoy.

Who can adopt a section?

Individuals, families, groups of individuals, school and youth groups, scout troops, church, community and service organizations, businesses can adopt a section. Anyone with an interest in the trail and the outdoors is welcome to help preserve this unique asset and provide safe, enjoyable access to the outdoors.

What would I do?

Adopt-A-Section volunteers assist the Trail Steward in maintaining the trail. Activities include keeping the trail surface free of fallen branches and other debris, pruning small limbs and undergrowth from the trail corridor, cleaning litter, and maintaining the trailhead area. Other responsibilities include notifying the Trail Steward of larger maintenance issues such as fallen trees, trail sign maintenance, misuse of the trail, and trail hazards or safety issues.

How do I get started?

If you have a specific section in mind, let us know. If the section you choose is available for adoption, we’ll get you set up right away. If you don’t have a specific section in mind, we can help you find the right one. Once you’ve chosen a section, the Trail Steward will set a date that is convenient for both of you to meet and discuss the benefits and requirements of section adoption.

Guidelines For Volunteers

Adoption Period–A trail section is adopted for a period of one year, renewable annually thereafter upon approval by the Trail Steward. This agreement may be terminated at any time by the volunteer or the Trail Steward.

Trail Inspections and Maintenance–During a trail inspection, you may do any of the following: observe the condition of trailhead and trail signs, monitor trail conditions, perform routine maintenance (see below), pick up litter, and notify the Trail Steward of any problems or additional maintenance needs.      Volunteers are asked to inspect their adopted trail section at least 4 times per year (approximately once every 3 months). Choose the days and times that are convenient to visit the trail. You may wish to check with the Trail Steward prior to your inspection to inquire about organized maintenance events or other activities that may be scheduled in the area. Please send a written report to the Trail Steward after each visit, so that we may keep track of your efforts and trail conditions.

Routine maintenance involves keeping the trail surface free of limbs and other debris, pruning small limbs and undergrowth from the trail corridor, cleaning water bars, and clearing debris from bridges and stairs. The Trail Steward will provide volunteers with information and instruction on maintenance expectations. Volunteers are asked to provide their own trail maintenance tools.

Volunteers notify the Trail Steward if there is an erosion problem, trees down on the trail, faded blazing, missing or damaged signs, vandalism, and other issues that cannot be handled on the day of a trail visit. Report any misuse of the trail, prohibited activities, and suspicious or illegal activity. If litter will be picked up but not removed from the area during your visit, please make arrangements in advance with the Trail Steward for litter pickup.

Volunteers should dress appropriately for trail work and use gloves, safety glasses, and other protective gear when necessary. All work shall take place during daylight hours and be performed with safety in mind. Do not attempt any tasks you are not comfortable with. Volunteers are not permitted to use chainsaws on the trail. No work shall be done that has not been previously agreed upon with the Trail Steward.

Contact us if you want to sign up or you have additional questions about the program

Map of North Ridge Trail

North Ridge Trail on Facebook

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