Smoothing Out Ruts at the Eco-Wheel Tracks Study Site

Kris Brown Wednesday, 30 December 2020

5.0/5 rating 1 vote

We searched for months to find a suitable location for the Eco-Wheel Tracks study in the Catskills. It turns out that it is a big ask to run laps around someone’s agricultural field for a few days with a 16-ton skidder. Who knew? As such, Steve Mostert did the WAC Forestry Program a tremendous favor when he let us use his field for the Eco-Wheel Tracks study. In turn, we wanted to make sure that we kept site disturbance to a minimum and remediated the site after field data collection.

I worked with Steve to lay out the study plots so that when the skidder returned to the top of the plots during trafficking, it utilized an existing rutted trail from a timber harvest a few years back. Our thinking was that perhaps the 144 return trips made by Keith Clark’s JD 648H skidder might help to smooth out those existing ruts. They did to some extent, but the trail was left in a sunken state, which makes mowing difficult or even dangerous and leaves the trail susceptible to concentrated surface runoff during rain events. 

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The return trail used during the Eco-Wheel Tracks trial in Delhi, NY. 

Immediately following the study, WAC obtained bids from Watershed loggers to re-grade the primary skid trail and smooth out the old roadside landing area, which was also rutted and quite ‘lumpy’. 

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The quarter-acre roadside landing area from a previous harvest had ruts, poor drainage, and earth mounds that made access difficult for the landowner.

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The earth mounds (grown up with goldenrod at the right and in the background) were big enough that when the skidder ran over them, it looked like a monster truck show.

All up, we had about 0.25 acres of landing area and about 1000 feet of skid trail to re-grade. Logger Kevin Roe won the bid and was contracted to do the work. On October 15, 2020, Kevin completed the re-grading work on a JD 700 bulldozer that WAC rented from Eklund Farm Machinery in Stamford, NY. Kevin did a fantastic job, which amounted to about 8 hours of dozer work.

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The landing area following dozer work. Nice work Kevin!

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Kevin putting the finishing touches on the lower portion of the skid trail.

The next day, Heather Hilson and I seeded the exposed soil with 50 pounds of conservation mix and 50 pounds of winter rye. We covered the ground with about 35 bales of hay. It took us about 4 hours to do this work. 

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Hay bales staged around the landing.

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A handful of winter rye and conservation mix. The larger seeds are the winter rye.

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Heather Hilson seeding the landing area. 

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Heather spreading straw on the lower portion of the skid trail. We had about 10 pre-packaged bales of finely chopped straw and 25 bales of hay to spread by hand.

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The landing area seeded and covered.

If you have a similar project around your woodlot, expect to pay around $600/day for a JD 700 bulldozer (a smaller D3 dozer costs about $300 for a one-day rental), $100/hr for the dozer operator, $1.50/bale for the hay, and $17 per bag (50 lbs) for the winter rye. 

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