Outdoor enthusiasts in Winona have an upgraded hiking trail to enjoy now that the Garvin Heights trail has been remodeled.

Where before there were wooden steps, now there are stone stairs. Where before there was no marker of where the trail began, this Spring there will be signage and a kiosk at the beginning of the trailhead. Also included in the project is parking for bicycles, dead tree removal, increased accessibility, and overall enhancement of the land around it.

That’s all due to a recent multi-phase project made possible by collaborations between a group of WSU faculty and staff including assistant professor and project head Eric Barnard, Arboretum Director Nate Anderson, and Dan Kirk, the Dean of the College of Education.

“It’s an awesome community resource,” Barnard said.

Not only that, Barnard said, but it’s also an educational and recreational opportunity for students.

“This trail is used by some WSU teams as a training site, and we hope to find more ways to utilize the land as a teaching tool,” Barnard said, who also teaches outdoor education. “There might not likely be another university that offers …a hiking trail right within the city.”

The project is being funded through Winona State’s Student Green Fee budget and distributed by the Green Action Project, which has helped several projects grow since its implementation in 2016.

The GAP supports collaboration between students and faculty employee members working together on a project that will have a positive impact on WSU and the greater community.

Past projects include initiatives like the WSU SEED Garden, the reusable water bottle project, and the recycling bins across campus.

Before restoration

The fee itself averages $5 per student per semester to support sustainable projects. At any point in the academic semester, students and faculty can apply for funds.

So that’s exactly what Barnard did.

After applying for funding through the Student Green Fee, the much-needed Garvin Heights Restoration project got rolling and received $17,513, including funding for the trailhead kiosk, replacement of the initial stairs, invasive plants removal, and seating leading up to the hiking trail.

To complete the entire project — including an additional trailhead kiosk at the top of the stairs and replacing the wooden steps at the very top of the trail — more funding is needed. Barnard also hopes to work with the City of Winona to grade and put in some gravel.

By spring semester 2022, the project is expected to be complete. Unbeknownst to many, WSU has been involved in the Garvin Heights project for over 15 years thanks to the passion of WSU alum Peter Simon (’06). The Original Path Renewal Project was completed in October 2006 and has been one of the most heavily used trails in Winona.

“How many universities can say they have well-established hiking trail within a 10-minute walk from campus,” Barnard asked rhetorically.