More about Derek’s trails project

Derek Chinn, Eagle Scout

For my project, I plan to identify 3 nature trails with markers and construct 6 small, wooden bridges to cross several damp areas on the trails meandering around the Kitty Hawk Vernal Pools at Mather Field. The Kitty Hawk pools are located on a parcel of land located southeast of the flight line at Mather Field Airport. The parcel of land is owned by the Air Force and is managed mostly by the County of Sacramento.

Vernal pools are pools of water that form each winter after much rainfall. What makes these pools special are the rare flowering plants and invertebrates that live in them. When these pools form, many small microscopic creatures are born and inhabit the pools. Frogs, toads, snakes, birds, and many other creatures also live in the pool environment. In the spring, when all of the pools are dried up, many kinds of beautiful flowers blossom and it is truly a pretty sight. During the summer and fall months the fields of grasses are dried out.

The Sacramento Splash Program would like to expand its field trips for school children to include the Kitty Hawk pools. The California Native Plant Society would like to lead public tours at this site. However, there are no distinct paths around the pools at the Kitty Hawk site. I plan to mark 3 organized paths around the pools for guides to lead tours and for visitors to follow.

However, on these 3 trails, damp spots are present as visitors walk from one pool to another. To solve this problem, I will construct bridges for visitors to cross over these damp areas, which will allow them to easily venture onward and enjoy the trail. The result of my project will be most effective in the winter and early spring when the ground is damp and the pools are full of water or full of flowers. When visitors come on tours of the Kitty Hawk pools they will get to view all of the different water and land living species, without getting their feet wet or getting lost.

California’s unique vernal pools are one of the rarest and most threatened ecosystems in the world. Most of the species of the pools are native to California and survive only in vernal pools. As their sensitive vernal pool habitat continues to be destroyed by the ongoing construction and development, they too will disappear. This project will act towards preserving these pools and keeping them safe and clean for visitors to enjoy.

Who will benefit from the project?

Sacramento Splash and the community will benefit. Sacramento Splash is an organization that includes an education program jointly sponsored by a group of water agencies in Sacramento County: the Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District, the City of Sacramento Department of Utilities, and the Sacramento County Department of Water Resources. The organization also has formal cooperation with the Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The Splash program provides opportunities for Sacramento County students and their families to explore the diversity of life in local aquatic ecosystems, including vernal pools and streams. Through their studies in the classroom and in the field, students learn the importance of conservation and water quality and how they can improve water habitats where they live. The Sacramento Splash organization leads many fascinated students on field trips around the Mather Field vernal pools every year. This coming fall, over 70 classes will be taken out to the vernal pools on field trips, led by guides, to explore the many creatures and plants of the pools

My project will be of benefit to Splash because:

The Splash organization has been fighting to preserve the vernal pools for years. It has been an ongoing war to what will happen with the land, if it will be left as it is, or if buildings will be constructed on it, killing all of the many plants and creatures of the pools. This project will be huge going towards the idea of preserving the land. This project will also show the many people supporting building development that students have ties to the pools, and find importance and fascination with studying them. After completing this project, the 3 marked paths will be much more organized and easier for guides to follow, making the visitors’ experience a fun and enjoyable one.

The greatest reward after seeing this project completed for the organization, and also myself, will be watching the students’ interest in the vernal pools grow. Not only will the marked routes help students to tour the vernal pools, but they could serve the general public as well. The marked routes established by this project will make it easier for tour guides to lead the vernal pool walks, and for visitors to stay out of sensitive areas. The routes will lead to particularly interesting sights to see and learn about, including most of the plants and creatures living at the pools.

I hope this project will encourage and attract more people to visit the vernal pools and possibly spark a growing interest in them. I look forward to watching their interest in the vernal pools blossom as did mine when I first visited Mather Field.

Project Details

  • (see design diagrams attached)
  • 25 trail markers
  • 5 ft. tall, 4×4 inch around
  • made of redwood (for its durability and hardiness to withstand the rainy seasons)
  • numbered to make it easier for guides to lead visitors from
  • marker to marker
  • the markers for each trail will have a distinctive color, to distinguish which of the 3 trails are walking on
  • will be driven 1 ½ ft. below ground, and will stand 3 ½ ft. aboveground
  • 6 wooden bridges
  • 16 ft. long, 4 ft. wide
  • made of redwood (for it durability and hardiness to withstand
  • the rainy seasons
  • transportable (not permanent)

My plan of attack for this project is quite clear. Measurements and photos have already been taken of the bridge and marker locations. All construction of the trail markers and small bridges will be done before any work on the actual site is started. After all of the construction is completed, the next step will involve the entire troop to help install the markers and place the bridges in their designated locations.

Here is a breakdown of steps going toward completing the project:

  1. Take measurements of marker and bridge locations -on site
  2. Purchase materials (wood, paint, screws, etc.)
  3. Introduce the project to parents and scouts of the troop at weekly meeting
  4. Cut out all pieces of wood for markers and bridges -off site
  5. With participation from the troop, construct and assemble markers and bridges, and install and place them in their designated locations drawn out on the map –on site

The condition of Mather Field now consists of very dry grasslands with a huge amount of dead, dried out plants. There isn’t much to see now since the land is going through its dry phase. Where the different pools are located can hardly be distinguished with the way the land looks now. Fortunately, a map has been produced that shows where each pool lies. Soon, rain will fall and the spots of the pools will eventually fill up to the extent where you can easily point out where each one is located on the map.

Our troop consists of around 20 people, ages varying from high school to adult. In the past we have done many Eagle Scout projects, ranging from landscaping Roseville High School to building park benches at the Effie Yeaw Nature Center. A couple other projects we took part in included painting an entire church and repairing old, worn down fences at an elementary school.

There are a few minor safety hazards that are included in carrying out this project. First, is that the land is not evenly flat, and there are potholes in the ground that can result in somebody twisting their ankle or an injury of that sort if not walking responsibly. Second, the many plants that are dried up now can scratch against your legs and hands if you do not wear the proper attire. I will encourage the troop and other helpers to wear gloves, long pants and hiking boots when going out on site. Third, wildlife inhabits the land at Mather Field, so any interactions with dangerous animals or reptiles such as rattlesnakes can be hazardous. Lastly, like all other minor construction such as sawing, hammering, screwing, and especially carrying those heavy bridges to their locations, there is a chance of somebody getting hurt from not being fully aware of their actions.

Since the land at Mather Field is such a sensitive environment for the species of plants and animals, it is important to not harm the inhabitants living there. Any major digging or altering with the soil and hardpan will affect the land greatly. The main idea is to keep the land as natural as possible, and leave the land looking as it did upon starting the project.

The bulk of the project that I have already completed consisted of gaining approval and support from the County, Air Force, and important organizations. I typed up an “Outreach Packet” (attached) which was sent out about a month ago. After weeks of deliberating, the County of Sacramento, Air Force, and the Department of Fish and Game finally granted me with their approval to proceed and carry out the project. Supervisor Illa Collins played a huge role in gaining approval for this project. She has been out at Mather Field and has seen the pools for herself. She shows such support and was pleased to hear about the justifications of this project.