One step at a time, hiking and biking enthusiasts are developing a section of trail at Clinton State Park that will link east and west in the first coast-to-coast recreational trail.
Carl Ringler, Clinton State Park trail coordinator, has designed most of the trail that will make up about 35 miles of the 4,835-mile transcontinental American Discovery Trail. The trail's 570-mile route through Kansas closely follows the Santa Fe Trail corridor.
A three-member scouting team, sponsored by the Coleman Company and Chevrolet, explored the entire ADT route from Memorial Day 1990 to July 30, 1991, passing through the Lawrence area in February 1991. Ringler and his wife, Barbara Page, hiked with the team from Deer Creek Road on the northwest arm of the lake to the state park, and rode mountain bikes through the trails at the park.
Ringler, 35, said the ADT trail at Clinton Lake follows country roads from Richland east onto the south shore of the Wakarusa River valley and across the river on a bridge. The trail then heads north on an abandoned road past the Woodridge Park and follows the edge of the woods to a low water bridge that crosses Deer Creek.
THE TRAIL follows the north shore of the lake to the state park, where it picks up the North Shore Trail to the overlook at the northeast corner of the lake. The ADT then takes Clinton Parkway into Lawrence.
One option for crossing town is to travel across the Kansas University campus to the Kansas River bridge into north Lawrence, he said.
"Most people think of trails as something you drive out to and then hike," Ringler said. "The idea of this is to get trails close to where people live."
He said few people will likely hike or ride the entire ADT trail through 12 states from California to Delaware, but the Kansas portion will provide a link between other trails for anyone interested in exploring surrounding areas.
Ringler said workers will clear about 15 miles of trail between the state park and Woodridge, a process that could take up to two years.
"WE HAVE TO flag in the proposed route and the corps (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers) and Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks and the state historical society and anybody else who thinks they should have a say have to look at the design and OK it," he said. "We'll begin at the edge of the state park and work west."
Volunteers probably will start clearing the trail in October, taking into consideration a number of issues, including erosion control, the environmental impact, preserving historical artifacts, accommodating various user groups, clearing the fewest possible number of trees, and selecting the most interesting route.
"We have to clear trails carefully to ensure they last," Ringler said.
Sept. 12 has been designated American Discovery Trail-Blazer Day, sponsored by the Rockport Company. Thousands of volunteers across the country will simultaneously hike on short segments of the ADT trail, allowing thousands of miles to be covered in one day.