Saturday, October 3, 2015

Possum Trail resurfaced with crushed stone yet still a hazardous bicycle ride

The Possum Walk Trail, from the historic Logtown town site to NASA's Infinity Science Center, was recently resurfaced with crushed stone.  The trail attracts birding enthusiasts from around the US.  Next year visitors to the Science Center will have the option to explore the trail riding in electric trams. (Picture taken October 3, 2015)

(Note: The Roadkill Run scheduled for October 10, 2015 was cancelled.)

          In Hancock Co. MS,  the Possum Walk Trail opened over a year ago as a graded dirt trail connecting the cemetery at the historic Logtown town site with the parking lot at the NASA Infinity Science Center 3.2 miles to the northeast.  To ready the trail for electric trams that will carry Science Center tourists on nature treks on the trail in 2016, work began resurfacing the dirt trail with crushed stone in September.  By Oct. 3 the work on the trail has progressed to the point users are now allowed back on the trail, though a short stretch near the boardwalk at the Logtown end of the trail still needs to be graded and resurfaced.
           While the dirt surface was fine for walkers, runners, equestrians and the occasional golf cart, the soft dirt made riding a bicycle on the trail dicey.  Even bicycle wheels with fat tires would sink into the powdered dirt making it difficult to steer without falling.  Bicyclists had hoped the new crushed stone surface would open the trail to bicycle use by providing a harder surface to ride on.
           The new surface is worse than the dirt.  The coarsely crushed stone sits loose, like gravel, providing less traction for a bicycle tire than the dirt.  And falling on the crushed stone could be more painful than falling on the dirt.
         Not only is the new stone surface a hazard to those on two wheels, the loose stone presents a risk to those on two feet.  Hikers, walkers, and trail runners should be careful when treading the shifting stone surface.  Eventually the crushed stone will be pounded into the dirt underneath by the tires of the electric tourist trams, (and other motorized vehicles using the trail), smoothing the surface. Until then footing on the loose rock is iffy.  If planning to walk the trail, popular with birdwatchers, be sure to wear sturdy shoes offering good ankle support.
         The trams themselves could be a hazard when they are introduced next year into the mix of trail users.  A tram ride will be included with every admission to the Science Center--adults $12.  The trail is not that wide.  Trams will have to be equipped with a warning device to alert walkers who will have to move to the edge of the trail and walk single-file to allow the tram to pass. The trail may be wide enough for two trams to pass abreast but it will be a tight squeeze.  Other trail users will probably have to step off the trail to allow room.  And how often will the trams run?

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