Catskill Conservation Corps Launches Website, Training Program

Catskill view

The Catskill Conservation Corps (@CatskillCnCorps) launches with a new website and a volunteer leadership training opportunity!

The Catskill CC is a partnership between the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation that aims to increase and support volunteer opportunities on projects that protect natural resources and enhance outdoor recreation opportunities in the Catskill Mountains. Keep up with news, events, workshops, and volunteer opportunities in the Catskill region at its website,,  on Facebook, and Twitter.

Its first event is a Volunteer Leadership Training workshop scheduled for Saturday, August 9, at the beautifully restored former Ulster & Delaware Railroad station on the Mountain Top Historical Society campus in Haines Falls. The workshop will be led by experienced Trail Conference volunteer trail leaders.

While this workshop is geared toward training existing trail supervisors, no previous Trail Supervisor experience is necessary and all are welcome to attend to learn how to become more involved with stewardship activities in the Catskill Park. This workshop is a great opportunity to sharpen your leadership skills and learn how to manage volunteers.

There is no fee for this workshop, but you must register on the Trail Conference’s workshop page to attend. Click on the link below for more details and to register.

Leadership Workshop registration Link


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Looking for Bugs on the New Doris Duke Trail

By Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator

Instead of bugs finding us, we went in search of them!

On Sunday July 13, trail builders and amateur naturalists Peter Dolan and Tina McGill led an interactive walk through Sterling Forest State Park, exhibiting another aspect of life on the trails: bugs.

dragonflyAmong the beetles, butterflies, hoppers and ants encountered en route along the new Doris Duke Trail, being built by our Palisades Trail Crew, we caught and released a beautiful skimmer dragonfly (Family: Libellulidae, pictured here), with its characteristic black banded wings.

Our walk leaders–Peter, a Trail Conference staff member, and Tina, an AmeriCorps member of this year’s Palisades Trail Crew–also pointed out characteristics of sustainable trail building as we walked.

Coming up this weekend, on Saturday, July 26, is the crew’s first workshop this season, Armoring A Stream Crossing. This is a new topic at Trail-U, and will offer participants an in-depth practicum on how to create safe and stable crossings of  intermittent streams utilizing materials local to the site.  Please join us and sign up here.

More Trail U courses are planned for August and September.

Right now, volunteers are enjoying installing drainage structures, turnpikes, and placing the occasional stone step where necessary. With about 2 miles of trail completed since the project began in 2013, everyone is invited to come and see the progress made, as well give back to their community out in the beautiful forest. We’ll be proud to give you a personalized tour of what we’ve been up to!

Check out our crew outings here, or email, or contact Sona Mason at 201-512-9348 ext. 16.


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Taconics Crew Gets a Little Help from New Friends

The ‘Roman Road’ finally gets its bucket brigade

By Jordan Foxler, AmeriCorps member of the Taconic Trail Crew

Last week we welcomed the much awaited 30+ volunteer group, World Missionary Society Church of God. Their arrival with big smiles and enthusiastic greetings ensured the day of trail work began and continued in a spirited manner. Our mission for the day: cover a crushed rock section of new trail (we’re improving the access trail linking Canopus Lake beach to the Appalachian Trail in Fahnestock State Park) with layers of mineral soil and gravel to create a safe and enduring tread for hikers. A bucket brigade would make it happen.

The 30-plus volunteers assembled on the trail in no time at all and we were all set to lay mineral and gravel on our ‘Roman Road’. The continuous singing and laughter throughout the day made the otherwise unbearably mundane task of passing buckets back and forth more than enjoyable.  The group’s infectious enthusiasm was noted by passing hikers who would feel, if not hear, the merry atmosphere around Canopus Lake that afternoon.

Before we knew it, 160 feet of trail had been covered–in three passes–and all went better than expected with three passes on the trail. Those of us on the crew enjoyed exercising leadership, organizing and executing the day’s project, of course with the tremendous help and push from our volunteers.

We have seen a dramatic change in this section of trail since starting in May. From when we first defined the trail, to side hilling, crushing rock, tamping soil, and finally putting down a layer of surfacing. It has been a gratifying experience for myself and the other members of Taconics Crew to witness hands-on the transformation of trail.

If you are curious and want to be part of an ongoing project that you can have a personal impact on, come join the “Talus Titans” (otherwise known as the Taconics Trail Crew) at Canopus Beach in Fahnestock State Park, Friday to Monday.

See you all out there!

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Welcome to Breakneck Ridge!

Want to know the most popular trail route at Breakneck? You’ll see it, and learn other hiking tips, in this great video produced for us by Krysti Sabins of Unboring Exploring. Thank you Krysti! Share it with anyone who might hike at this very popular trail, or anywhere else. It includes standard tips for safe, enjoyable hiking.

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Club and Crew Team Up for a Big Stone Step Project on Appalachian Trail

Tired, but well fed, volunteers next to their weekend project.BBQ stokes trail volunteers at 15th annual RPH Cabin Volunteers Club event in Dutchess County

By Bob Fuller, member of the Long Distance Trails Crew

Every July, for the last 15 years, the Ralph’s Peak Hikers Cabin Volunteers Club (RPH) has put on a BIG cabin maintenance-AT trail restoration-campout-BBQ weekend, with all meals provided Friday through Sunday for the volunteers.  Work opportunities are offered for all skill levels. The event has developed a widespread reputation; this year, in addition to RPH members and passing AT thru-hikers, volunteers came from around the Northeast –New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts, in some cases from many hours away.

This year our Long Distance Trails Crew participated in the event for the first time and assisted in the building of 17 new enormous (four-foot wide) stone steps on a steep, eroded section of the Appalachian Trail just north of Stormville Mountain Road in Dutchess County, NY.  RPH had already obtained large boulders donated by a nearby construction site, split some of the rocks, and built a beautiful massive crib wall at the bottom of the slope. Our crew worked with RPH members and other trail volunteers to design and install the steps above the wall.

It was a large project with roughly a 15’ rise in a 40’ run requiring approximately 20 steps.  17 of those steps were installed this weekend and RPH will finish the work this season.  It is a beautiful stairway but, even more important, it was a wonderful weekend.

Not only did our crew get to meet the many dedicated RPH volunteers, we met other like-minded hikers from throughout the area, all gathered together to enjoy each other’s company and to contribute to the trails.  The food was amazing and lunch was even delivered directly to our work site each day.  We all left with a feeling of great accomplishment, new friends, and the desire to return again next year for more of the same.

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Getting through a Rock and a Hard Place on a Trail at Fahnestock State Park

by Raina Stoutenburg, AmeriCorps member of the Taconic Crew

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Taconic Crew (aka the Talus Titans) is working out of Fahnestock State Park on the Appalachian Access Trail.  On that trail, there is a section that we have lovingly nicknamed “Dead Man’s Curve”.

When we first encountered this section of trail, there was nowhere to walk.  On one side of the trail there was a wall of bedrock. On the other side, there was a steep drop-off. In between, there was no place to build a trail.  It was deservedly named ‘Dead Man’s Curve’ and the name stuck.

After doing a lot of discovery around the bedrock, it was decided that we were going to rent a pneumatic hammer and create a trail out of the bedrock. Using the hammer was difficult.  We had to hold the hammer at an angle and it was heavy.  Even the strongest people had to switch off every five minutes, or so. It was fun to use though!  There’s something strangely satisfying about breaking off chunks of rock using large power tools!

After almost two days of working with a pneumatic hammer, the bedrock had become a trail!  There is still a steep drop-off on one side.  On the other side is a wall of iron-laden bedrock.  In between, there is about two feet of rock that is easy to walk on!

Dead Man’s Curve has been greatly transformed into a section of trail with a nice view and a memorable bedrock tread!

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Ramapo Student Rounds Out His Studies with a Trail Internship

by Charlotte Rutherford, AmeriCorps member of the Palisades Trail Crew

Pal_HoekstraJon Hoekstra (left), a recent graduate of Ramapo College majoring in Environmental Studies and a resident of Hawthorne, NJ, has amassed more than 30 hours of volunteer service since May, building trail with the Palisades Crew in Sterling Forest State Park. We celebrate his generosity in sharing his Italian sandwiches at lunch, his prowess at picking rocks, and his dedication to building sustainable trail.

We thought we’d sit down with Jon to learn more about his summer experience with the Trail Conference.

Question: What attracted you to trail construction at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference?

Jon: I enjoy the trails, and needed an internship to graduate. One of my professors had a connection with Peter Dolan at the Trail Conference, who was recruiting students to build trails at Ramapo Reservation. While Peter was busy setting up the trail layouts and approvals, he recommended I gain skills by working with the Palisades Crew at Sterling Forest in the meantime. It’s kind of fun to see trails in the process of being built. And to be able to maintain them and keep them clear is important because, you know, it’s important to look aesthetically natural.

Question: It sounds like you like the finished product.

Pal_RockMovingJon: Before I worked with you guys, I didn’t think that I would be capable of moving a rock that could be two tons. But with teamwork, it’s amazing what a few people can accomplish. I do like the finished product. It’s hard work, but when you look back and you see that you’ve made a beautiful trail out of a cluster of vines and branches, it’s neat.

Question: What are your future plans?

Jon: My future plans are uncertain right now. I just graduated. I would like to maintain a relationship with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference because I enjoy using the trails, so I would like to give something back. But I’d like to continue to hike and enjoy the outdoors when I can.

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