Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 17, 2018

Drive the trails Sunday: Portion of Loop Trail opens for vehicles

Oct 19, 2017
Photo by: PHOTO SUBMITTED Antique cars make their way through Whitham Woods. Jefferson County Conservation will host its 13th annual free Fall Trail Drive Thru from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

Jefferson County Conservation will host its 13th annual Fall Trail Drive Thru from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday.

This year, the drive thru will start at the Maasdam Barns, just off Highway 1 on the south edge of Fairfield, and end at Whitham Woods on the west edge of town.

Maasdam Barns Preservation Committee chairman Tony Webb and volunteers will have the Maasdam Barns and Museum open for those who want to visit during the drive thru.

The restored Maasdam Barns complex is an example of the early 20th century draft horse business. Two barns were designed by Louden Machinery Company’s barn design division and used Louden barn equipment. Louden Machinery was an internationally known farm equipment manufacturer that was headquartered in Fairfield.

This year’s drive thru is on a 5-mile section of the Jefferson County Loop Trail. The route more or less parallels the Highway 34 Bypass. After going by the city’s Grease Lightening Waste Water Lift Station, drivers will cross a small bridge over Indian Creek, the creek that runs through Jefferson County Park. Local artist Judy Bales did the enhancements to the bridge, with assistance by the Jefferson County Trails Council and a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts.

Next, drivers will encounter the trail’s equivalent of Burlington’s Snake Alley: a hill with sharp horseshoe curves. The twists and turns were a necessity because going straight up the hill would have created a grade too steep to meet federal trail standards; federal money was used to build this section of the Loop Trail. Drivers should note the large boulders set along the curves. Contractor Sam Estle of CJ Moyna & Sons Construction Company placed the boulders there after uncovering them in the roadbed while doing dirt work for the highway bypass.

As people drive along the trail, they should notice the 8-foot tall deer fence to the left along the Highway 34 Bypass, which is to keep deer off the highway and seems to be helping.

After drivers pass under the 256-foot long Cedar View Trail Bridge that spans the highway, they will see several trees planted on both sides of the trail as part of joint effect by Trees Forever, the county conservation board and the trails council.

“What you see on this section of trail, you can see as you drive by on the highway, but now you can enjoy the view at a slow pace rather than 65 mph,” said Ron Meyers, who helped organize and host the Fall Trail Drive Thru for years.

After passing under the bridge on Old Highway 34, drivers jog right and then left to where the trail is built on the old Burlington & Missouri River Railroad rail bed.

The Burlington & Missouri River Railroad was the first railroad to reach Fairfield in 1858. Originally a single-track railroad, it went through alignment changes and became a double track in the early 1900s and is now the Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railroad.

Because the trail cut through a pasture, a “hump” was built in the trail so cattle could cross from one side of the pasture to the other under the trail, and a little further on, a zigzag was added to avoid a washout by the pond.

After crossing the pond dam and at the fence end, drivers are in the Whitham Woods Conservation Area.

They are still on the old railroad bed for a little ways, but then turn sharply to the right off the railroad bed and go up a hill following an old farm lane to the site of the Whitham nursery. The nursery operated on the farm for many years beginning in 1889.

Drivers are cautioned to go slowly up the hill because they will go over several bumps on the trail. The bumps are water bars to divert water runoff from the trail to help prevent ruts and washouts.

At the top of the hill, drivers will see the Whitham Woods pond, which was drained, dredged, rebuilt and stocked for fishing.

The trail drive thru will be held rain or shine. Drivers are reminded not to drive off the trail, park along the trail, block traffic or turn around. If someone spots something they would like to explore, they should plan to walk the trail at a later date. Those who cannot walk can call the Jefferson County Park Nature Center at 472-4421.


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