Congaree National Park Gets New Trail Markers

Hopkins, SC (WLTX) -- The weekend is here and you may find yourself looking to head outdoors.

The Congaree National Park is a big draw, but park rangers say bad weather and age have caused some of the trails to become blocked and confusing to visitors.

They're in the midst of doing something to fix that.

Jared Gurtler, a Ranger at the park, is in charge of the project.

Gurtler and his team of volunteers are responsible for re-marking the parks 30 miles of trails, which is something he said hasn't been done in about 20 years.

"It was just kind of one of those things that got swept under the rug and forgot about, all of a sudden we're getting all these lost folks in the park, and you know what, this is an issue we need to take care of," Gurtler said.

Rachel Stein, 14, was out hiking trails at the park with her mom, Heidi Stein Friday afternoon.

"My dad takes us hiking a lot," Rachel said.

Although Friday was the family's first trip to the park, it came as no surprise to them that Gurtler said 16 search and rescue operations have been held in 2014 alone.

"It was really easy to get turned around and not know which way to go," Mrs. Stein said. "I don't think it would surprise me that people get lost out there."

Gurtler was unloading boxes of about 4,200 brand new trail markers from his truck Friday.

"Our hope is that once we get these trail markers up, to reduce the search and rescue numbers significantly," Gurtler said.

About every 100 feet, he said, one of the new markers will be placed. The effort, though, started months ago, when rangers marked the parks trails with blue markers, Gurtler said.

The new markers will replace the temporary blue ones.

"Every tenth of a mile, we're going to put GPS coordinates on the markers, and the national park service arrow head," he said, adding that there will also be positioning coordinates on each marker.

Mrs. Stein said she thought the idea would be helpful to future hikers.

"We want it done right because you can't really put a price tag on a visitor's life," Gurtler said.

Gurtler said his team of volunteers and rangers hope to have the entire park done by the fall.


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