Trail Blazers

Preserve Manager Kyler Moran shows the stewardship team how to paint blazes along the trail at the Shatter Family Preserve.

If you have visited the Creekshead, Johnson, or Shatter Preserve lately, you may have seen fresh blue paint on the trees along the trails. No need to worry though, this is on purpose!  In July, the stewardship team began another preserve accessibility improvement project—refreshing the system of blazes at all our preserves.

A blaze is a trail maker used to help hikers follow a given path; it can indicate changes in direction, the beginning or end of a trail, or any intersections of crossing trails. Only one blaze is typically seen at a time, with the next blaze in your line of sight within a couple steps of the last; one well-placed blaze is better than three poorly placed blazes.

While there are many types of blazes like metal plates on tree trunks or wooden signposts, given our budget and resources, we chose the most commonly used blaze, paint. Paint blazing is a fairly simple process and only requires a few tools; high quality glossy acrylic paint, a wire brush/hatchet to smooth the bark, a container to hold the paint, a high-quality paintbrush, and a rag. Working in teams, blazes are placed on trees that are close to the trail and have no obstructions within the line of sight. One blaze being obstructed by vegetation can cause confusion among hikers, and may cause them to veer off the path.  Once a tree is selected and smoothed, a 2×6’ vertical rectangle- approximately the size of a dollar bill- is painted on. It is important to stop any paint from dripping down the tree and onto the ground. Not only do dry paint drippings not look clean, but we do not want paint seeping into the ground as a result as well.

We picked the color Viva la Blue for our blaze markers, which is very similar to the blue in our logo! Blue was chosen over other colors, such as red or orange, for a couple of reasons. During the autumn, blue stands out against the fall color pallet. Blue is also generally easier for the color blind to distinguish against darker colored tree bark since reds and oranges blend in with browns.  We showed all of our potential choices to color blind individuals before making a decision, and blue was the number one choice overall!

The stewardship team will continue blazing the rest of our preserves this summer. So, next time you are out enjoying our preserves, keep an eye out for some blue blazes strategically placed along the trails, and know that you are on the right path!

Check out this article for more info on blazes

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