Buechel Hill Trail improvements

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Pictured at the future site of the new bench purchased by the Ingleside Club are, from left, Joe Ihm, Robyn and Dorothy Tangeman. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

When two storms hit the county hard last June, Clayton County was declared a disaster area. Buechel Hill Trail, which directly connects Bluff Street with Acre Street, was severely damaged by the storms – so when FEMA funds became available, the City of Guttenberg applied for funding for trail restoration under a Category G Trails Project. The trail had been badly washed out by the storms, making it a treacherous hike for walkers like Robyn and Dorothy Tangeman. 

For years, the Tangemans have been making the trek six days a week from their home on Acre Street down Buechel Hill Trail to Bluff Street, then south to Koerner Street before looping back. They’ve planted trees and wildflowers along the path and they keep it clear of poison ivy. Sometimes Dorothy brings a trimming tool along to nip back branches beginning to block the path. “Oh no, she brought her nippers!” her husband jokes. “It’s going to take us an hour longer to walk.” 

He too helps maintain the trail, sawing fallen trees and moving them off the path. For seven years, Robyn also cut the trail down the hill on north Highway 52. When summer storms in 2014 washed out the Buechel Hill Trail, leaving deep fissures in the ground and scattering large stones across the path, Dorothy says she and Robyn had to pick their way up and down the hill “like billy goats.” 

Due to the timing of the damage and the FEMA funding, trail repair wasn’t completed until May of this year. Because the city doesn’t have equipment appropriate for accessing the trail, Tschiggfrie Excavating was hired to repair the lower half of the trail, which suffered the most damage in 2014. “The work included trail reshaping and the addition of base stone,” said Julie Zittergruen, assistant city manager. “FEMA paid for $6,184.64 and the city paid for an additional $1,999.98 of base stone.”

Buechel Hill Trail is now smoother, wider, and more easily accessible to walkers than it has been in years. The trail is named for Henry Buechel, a stone mason who lived in the rock house nearest the trailhead on Bluff Street. Buechel had nine children and was partly responsible for building the foundation of St. Mary’s School in 1894. 

“The trail was really a farm to market road,” says local historian Joe Ihm. “Doc Miller had a dairy on Acre Street, there was Dunker’s Winery, and there were also Patzner’s and Nuehring’s farms.” The youth of Acre Street used the road to walk to school, and Ihm himself remembers shooting down Buechel Hill on a runner sled in the winter. “On a good day when the hill was really fast, you could get all the way down to Highway 52,” he reminisces. Ihm also recalls water breakers along the trail, placed there to slow down water flow and reduce washing. The breakers doubled as hang-ups for horse-drawn wagons, giving horse teams a break on their climb back to the farm. 

The Tangemans recall a stone bench that once sat on an outcropping near the top of the trail, where hikers could enjoy a stunning aerial view of the city of Guttenberg and the Mississippi River. That bench was thrown over the hill by some mischievous youth, so Dorothy brought an idea to the attention of the Guttenberg Ingleside Club. During their July meeting, club members voted to purchase a four-foot in-ground bench made of recycled material that will never deteriorate as a replacement for the displaced rock bench. 

With a smoother, wider, safer path and a place to sit and enjoy the view along the way, Buechel Hill Trail beckons visitors and locals alike to enjoy the outdoors during these last days of summer. 

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