Written By: Nicole Stevens, Chesapeake Conservation Corps (CCC) Intern
When Tropical Storm Isaias hit Maryland a few weeks ago, many of ACLT’s trails were damaged by the increased water flow and downed trees. Most notably, the raft that crosses Parker’s Creek along the North-South trail was washed downstream and caught deep in the marshlands. Luckily, it was later spotted during a canoe trip by former CCC intern Rachel Delbo. This week, a team of five people (Autumn Phillips-Lewis, Dale Hutchins, Kevin Donahue, Alyssa Mantanin, and I) worked diligently to rescue the raft from the marsh.
The recovery team met on August 25th at 8 am, timing the rescue mission to coincide with high tide to allow for easier removal. We loaded up the necessary gear and drove to the end of Double Oak Road Trail where the team hopped in canoes and paddled down the creek before wading to the raft site. Other than some damage to the handrails and a scratch in the foam on the bottom, the raft was completely intact. However, it had been flipped upside down by the storm, so the first step in our recovery process was to turn it back over. This seemed like a daunting task, but it was no match for the strength of our team!
Next, we had to retrieve the cables that had previously secured the raft to trees on opposite banks of the creek. These cables were still attached at one end to the raft and the rest had been pushed deep into the marsh where they had wrapped around trees and grasses. After some detangling by Alyssa and me, these were safely removed and returned to the raft.
Finally, it was time to begin the most difficult part: moving the raft back to the water. While it was high tide, there was still about 50 feet of mud, tall grasses, trees, and stumps between it and the water’s edge. To make the moving process easier, the life jacket bin and several of the long boards on the sides were removed to reduce weight. Even with the five of us working together, the raft was still way too heavy to carry. So we had to come up with a new solution.
Dale, Kevin, and Autumn set up a system to pull the raft closer to the shore using a come-a-long and chains attached to nearby trees. Dale operated the come-a-long while the rest of us pushed and placed boards in front of the raft, so it could slide more easily over the muddy ground. Careful maneuvering was necessary to safely remove the raft while avoiding large obstacles like trees and stumps. This was achieved by strategic pushing and moving the come-a-long to different trees to ensure the raft was angled properly to make it through the difficult terrain. At one point, the raft had to be held sideways over the mud and some water, so it could make it past a tall stump and a protruding log. After successfully navigating these obstructions, and with a few pushes over the final grassy mound, the raft was finally free! The canoes were used to haul the raft upstream back to its proper location where the damage was repaired, the cables were replaced, and it is now once again available for public use.
Overall, the raft removal and restoration process took almost a full day of mud wading, physical strength, and careful planning, but our hard work paid off! The raft is now back where it belongs, and this adventure will be remembered at ACLT for many years to come.