Nature lovers advised to steer clear of trails at Schmeeckle - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Nature lovers advised to steer clear of trails at Schmeeckle Reserve for now

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STEVENS POINT (WAOW) -- Hundreds of oaks and pines were ripped from their roots in this week's storms. Now, loads of lumber block the paths of runners and nature lovers in Stevens Point. Leaders blocked off parts of the Schmeeckle Reserve until they can finish cleaning up.

The storm damage came as a surprise to people at the Schmeeckle Reserve, but they said they saw similar to this almost exactly six years ago this week.

"When we come here we usually walk around or run and enjoy the new project that was completed," said Cindy Wills, who lives in Stevens Point.

That $1.3 million dollar project at the Moses Creek Restoration Area was completed just a few months ago. Now, tree branches litter the ground around the Schmeeckle Reserve, blocking trails and posing a threat to nature lovers.

"We can't assure that they're safe," said Schmeeckle Reserve Director Ron Zimmerman. "In fact, many of the trails are very unsafe at the moment so we're asking people to give us some space. Let us get the work done."

"We understand that after a storm, it can still be pretty dangerous," said Wills.

Even though many hikers paid attention to the signs, meant to keep them out, some couldn't resist the urge to take a peek inside. On Friday, reserve leaders opened up the trail around the lake, but even though paths look a little clearer, it's still not quite the same.

"We noticed right away a lot of downed trees," said Wills. "Schmeckle's been taking a hit the past couple of years with storms so it's pretty disappointing."

Rings on the trees show their age, some numbering into the hundreds. All those years of rooting themselves in the reserve, only to be knocked down by strong winds earlier this week.

"This is about as much as we've ever had in the reserve," said Zimmerman. 

Clean up crews wear hard hats to protect themselves in case more foliage falls. They plan to keep most of the lumber in the reserve, either chipping it down to use on trails or for benches or other rustic elements to help keep the forest looking like Mother Nature intended.

"By the end of the summer, for the most part, unless there's some cut logs, you won't really notice the difference," said Zimmerman. "Nature has a way of filling in those gaps."

Schmeeckle Reserve leaders said they plan to re-open the trails by the middle of next week. To find more information about which trails are open, you can click here.

Online Reporter: Anna Carrera

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