The Polaris Fund for Outdoor Recreation provides project funding through a $5 million endowment being funded by the Polaris Foundation to support the National Forest Foundation’s outdoor recreation and conservation work. The Kelly’s Pond Trail restoration project is one of the first collaborations to be completed through the fund. The NFF and Polaris Inc. have a long partnership history, and the Polaris Fund for Outdoor Recreation ensures that we will be able to continue working together for generations to help protect our National Forests.
As one of only four National Forests in Texas, the Sam Houston National Forest (SHNF) is one of the largest areas of publicly owned land in the state and is located within a one-hour drive of Houston, the fifth-largest city in the United States. Whether you are hiking, biking, or off-roading along the forest’s many trails or boating, fishing, or swimming in the numerous lakes, the SHNF provides recreation opportunities for everyone.
The SHNF offers 85 miles of multi-use trails (MUT) designated and developed for hiking, biking, horses, and registered Off-Highway Vehicles (OHVs) and is actually home to the only legal riding opportunities for OHVs on National Forest land in the State of Texas.
The Kelly’s Pond segment of the MUT had an area of trail with inadequate drainage. This frequently resulted in a deep and wide mudhole, dubbed “The Quagmire” by the project team, that stretched across the trail for approximately 520 feet. This meant trail users had the option to get wet and muddy or attempt to navigate around the mudhole. Unfortunately, it also resulted in habitat damage and created erosion issues, which are ecologically unsustainable. With a growing urban population seeking more recreation opportunities on public land, there is a need for sustainable trail rehabilitation that will continue to provide OHV and other users safe and sustainable access to this trail system.
Through the support of the Polaris Foundation, NFF, alongside the Forest Service and the Sam Houston Trails Coalition, was able to restore the Kelly’s Pond segment of trail. Significant portions of the trail were cleared, graded, and hardened to address these drainage issues. These efforts will ensure that the trail remains fit for hiking, biking, and OHV use, even in the face of inclement weather.
There is still much work to do along the entire 85 miles of the multi-use trail system, and the NFF looks forward to continuing to foster partnerships to ensure fun, safe access to public lands in Texas. We are grateful for the investment in this work by the Polaris Foundation.