Low points of river trail a concern for water

A puddle grew on Marietta’s River Trail Thursday as snow accumulated in one of the trail’s low points near Fourth and Ohio streets.

Barely a week earlier, on Christmas Eve, the same section of the trail had been completely submerged in the high waters of the Ohio River, and now thick piles of mud frame the trail on either side-remnants of what was cleaned from the trail itself.

While Eric Lambert, project manager with the city engineering department, would normally say that water is asphalt’s worst enemy, the waters that will inevitably cover the River Trail on occasion are not expected to have much of an impact on the trail’s longevity, he said.

“Where it can drain without having major loads on it, I don’t see a problem,” said Lambert.

But some parts of the new trail appear to have trouble draining, and longterm maintenance on the trail is a concern, said Marietta City Councilman Roger Kalter, D-1st ward.

“My observation is we have two low points on that (new) section. We need to drains installed….There’s no way for the water to drain because the grass on the side is higher than the trail,” said Kalter.

Wear and tear along four-mile trail is imminent. And with no concrete longterm maintenance plan or annual funding set aside, the trail heavily depends on as-needed fixes and a sizable force of volunteers for its upkeep.

The first two phases of the trail-the earliest of which opened over eight years ago-have already gone more than one round of asphalt sealing, said Marietta City Safety Service Director Jonathan Hupp.

“Todd’s crew, when they are available in the spring and fall, they seal it,” said Hupp referring to city streets superintendent Todd Stockel.

Last year, the trail used around 500 pounds of the between 12,000 to 13,000 total pounds of asphalt sealant ordered by the city streets department, said Hupp.

Because the city streets department buys the sealant in bulk, they covered the cost of the product, said Hupp. But the trail falls under the city public facilities department and down the road, they could have to cover the cost of the upkeep, he added.

The trail was allotted $2,000 for its upkeep in the 2013 city budget. However, that money was not used throughout the year, said Kalter.

Money from a Marietta Community Foundation Fund for the trail has sporadically been used for upkeep along the trail, he said.

“It was a week ago Friday that we planted six major trees along the trail,” he said.

Katler is hoping to have three more trees sponsored at a cost of $150 each to help grow the fund for the trail.

The trees help secure the river banks and stabilize the trail, which is already slipping in a couple of places, said Kalter.

The city does not have a regular maintenance schedule for the trail but tries to clear weeds once in the spring and clear it of debris and snow after storms, said Hupp.

“A large storm or big snow fall we attempt to get out to trail and get it clean…but the trail is not the priority,” said Hupp.

Several volunteer groups have helped maintain portions of the trail but at least five more sections of the trail need adopted, said Kalter.

So far, the casual upkeep of the trail and small amount of money spent therein has been sufficient, but that might not always be the case, he said.

“I’ve been working for more than a year to get a proper maintenance plan. The trail needs a maintenance plan,” he said.