Enjoy an Outdoor Service Experience Close to Home

No need to travel to far off places to experience the joy of trail work

Long Distance Trails Crew group photo

The Long Distance Trails Crew poses on their handiwork: a new path section for the Appalachian Trail on West Mountain at Harriman State Park. Photo: Sona Mason.

By Bob Fuller, member of our Long Distance Trails Crew

Many of you may have read the article on the front page of the Sunday, August 8, 2014 New York Times Travel Section titled “Restoring Acadia’s Trails:  Work crews follow the steps of trail blazers to revive scenic paths of a national park in Maine.”

What you may not realize is that the volunteer trail crews of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference do similar work close to home, and that you are invited to join in the fun of learning how to build sustainable trails.

The Times article on the Acadia trail crews describes our crew’s philosophy:

“Trail building is a way of mixing your labor with nature, so that you can more fully appreciate it.  There is also generosity of spirit in building. You want others to be able to share those deep experiences that you have, and what better way than literally building a path to get there.”

It also describes our work:

“A few hundred yards later, near a junction with a carriage path, I met a crew who had strung up a high line from a granite ledge, where they hoisted freshly cut granite and slung it to the trail on a sling and pulley.”

We, the members of the Long Distance Trails Crew, work on the Appalachian Trail, Highlands Trail, and the Long Path, generally in Rockland and Orange Counties, restoring, rebuilding, and constructing new trail segments.  There are other volunteer crews working in all regions where the Trail Conference maintains and protects trails–more than 2,000 miles in all–and every one welcomes new members.

Black Bear on trail

A black bear inspects our work on the West Mountain Appalachian Trail relocation. Photo by Mary Klug.

Our crew is currently completing a major relocation of the Appalachian Trail on the southwest side of West Mountain in Harriman State Park. We expect to complete that work this fall (see August 7 Trail Walker blog entry).

Many more projects are planned – some big, some small, and we always welcome new folks to come out and join us.

Our next trips are September 13 – 14 and October 4 – 5, working on the West Mountain relocation.  The crew provides hard hats and, if necessary, safety glasses.  We provide training and the opportunity to learn new skills while being rewarded with the results of your day’s work.  All you need to provide is a completed Volunteer Services Agreement, lunch and water, gloves, safety glasses if you have them, a smile, and a desire to work hard and safely in the great outdoors.

We will have more outings later this fall and beyond, so please join us.  Contact Crew Chief Chris Reyling, 914-953-4900 or chrisreyling@gmail.com, for more information and to join us as we complete this, and many more, exciting projects.

Visit our website for complete listings of our outdoor service programs.


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Be Alert for EHD in Deer

white tailed deer in Harriman State Park

White-tailed deer at Harriman State Park. Photo: Mwanner at en.wikipedia

The New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection Division of Fish and Wildlife is again asking those who are out in the fields and woods of New Jersey to be alert for deer that may be affected by Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) and to report any suspected cases to the Division.

Outbreaks typically begin in August; symptoms of EHD in deer may include difficulty standing, drooling, and/or emitting foam from the mouth or nose. EHD is not a public health issue and is not a cause for concern about human health.

For more information on the disease and where to report suspected cases, please visit http://www.njfishandwildlife.com/news/2014/ehd_alert14.htm on the Division’s website.

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DEC Warning: Avoid Giant Hogweed Plants & Report New Locations

We share this press release from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC):

Giant hogweed towers over manDEC continues its ongoing efforts to control invasive giant hogweed plants across the state and today reminds residents to look for signs of the plant and report any new locations.

“DEC is making great strides towards eradicating giant hogweed in New York,” said Commissioner Martens. “Every property where giant hogweed can be removed increases biodiversity and helps to make outdoor areas safe for people to enjoy. It is important to raise public awareness to make sure that people know how to identify this plant, know not to touch it, know how to report it and know how to eradicate it.”

Giant hogweed is a non-native invasive plant that can cause painful burns, permanent scarring and even blindness. DEC warns against touching any part of the plant, as skin exposed to both giant hogweed sap and sunlight can be severely burned. As a noxious weed, it is unlawful to propagate, sell or transport. In addition to being a health concern, it crowds out native plant species and can contribute to soil erosion.

Now is the best time to discover giant hogweed locations as the plants are currently flowering and setting seed. Flowering giant hogweed plants are 8 to 14 feet tall with very large flat-topped clusters of small white flowers, have a green stem with purple blotches and coarse white hairs, and large leaves up to 5 feet across.

If a plant is suspected to be Giant Hogweed, there is a three step procedure to follow:

  1. Do not touch the plant.
  2. Take photos of the entire plant (stem, leaves, flower and seeds). Then, report information on plant numbers and locations to the DEC – either attach photos to e-mail ghogweed@dec.ny.gov or call the Hogweed Hotline at (845)-256-3111.
  3. If confirmed, DEC will contact the landowner to discuss control options.

Although the DEC works with many regional and municipal partners to address this invasive species, the public is an invaluable partner in helping to report suspected plant locations. The DEC Hogweed Program receives about 2,000 calls and e-mails each year.

Eradication efforts to date are encouraging. This year, now halfway through the field season, more than 800 properties have had their giant hogweed plants controlled by DEC and 28 percent of properties visited had no plants found this year after being controlled in a previous year.

For more information about the Giant Hogweed program, visit the DEC’s website.

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Rain Barrel Fundraiser Rolls Forward

Rain barrel with Trail Conference themeThe Trail Conference is currently being featured for a limited time during the 2014 Rain Barrel Auction.  This event, hosted by our friends at EarthShare New Jersey (ESNJ), will raise funds to benefit 25 environmental organizations across New Jersey, including the Trail Conference.

The Trail Conference’s rain barrel was painted by two Trail Conference members and volunteers, Madeline Giotta and James Martocci, who drew inspiration from their experiences on the trails.  Giotta’s intricate map design features portions of the trail system in Storm King State Park and Martocci’s vision of seasons in the woods displays mountain views of Liberty Township in Central New Jersey and Hemlock Pond in the Delaware Water Gap.

What is a Rain Barrel?

Rain barrels are large drums specially fitted to harvest and dispense rain water for use around the home and in the garden.  Installing a rain barrel is an easy, environmentally-friendly way to supplement our finite fresh water reserves.  Rather than using clean, drinking water to wash our cars and water our gardens, we can count on rain barrels to supply chlorine-free soft water at no additional cost.

Rain barrels work by collecting the rain that runs off your roof through a gutter downspout.  Many people use the water by attaching a hose to the spigot.  You can also place the rain barrel on top of cement blocks and pour the water directly into a bucket from the spigot.  To prevent mosquitoes from making a home inside your rain barrel, it is recommended that you place a mosquito-proof screen under the lid and inside the overflow hole.

Bid on the Trail Conference Rain Barrel

You can place your bid on the Trail Conference’s fully functional hand-painted rain barrel through the evening of August 17, 2014.  Interested parties can bid online at www.ebay.com.  Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Trail Conference and EarthShare New Jersey.

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How to Give a New Trail a Natural Look

By Jordan Foxler, AmeriCorps member of the Taconics Trail Crew

As a volunteer of the Trail Conference I never really considered the depth of detail that is expected to go into completing a section of trail. For example, ensuring the back slope is perfectly angled and the out slope is done correctly so that rain water drains off the trail and doesn’t pool on the trail.

3_bronzerWe have employed these techniques and others throughout the half-mile Appalachian Access trail we are building at Canopus Lake in Fahnestock State Park. In addition, we  built stone steps,  set gargoyles to keep them  in place, and crib wall to hold the trail (some of these stones for these structures have been in excess of two thousand pounds). All of this is done with an eye to creating a sustainable walking surface that fits into the mountain, ultimately trying to get a natural look and feel that includes considering how it “flows” for hikers as they traverse.

An important element to trail building is to leave as little sign of your work as possible. Granted the trail looks “built” and constructed, but it fits in the mountain. We aim to disturb the surrounding scenery as little as possible, but, unfortunately, when we work with big rocks, plants and other features sometimes fall victim to our movements.

This past week the Taconic Crew took steps to beautify sections of the new trail and to restore the  “natural look” that the area had before we built a trail through it.

Here are some tips and guidelines for helping new trails fit into old surroundings:

Best practices  1- Limit Collateral Damage Continue reading

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We’re Working for Better, Safer Trail Options at Kaaterskill Falls

By Jeff Senterman, Senior Program Coordinator and Director of the Catskill Conservation Corps

Kaaterskill Falls

Kaaterskill Falls

I had the opportunity recently to hike the half-mile long trail from Route 23A to the base of the Kaaterskill Falls with New York State Senator Cecilia Tkaczyk, local officials, and representatives of the Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The falls are an iconic natural feature of the Catskill Park and the Hudson River School of art. and have attracted generations of tourists.

Unfortunately, with increasing popularity have come problems, and the trails and terrain leading to the falls are literally and figuratively being loved to death. Accidents, too frequently fatal, occur when visitors hike, climb, and get their feet wet in very unsafe areas. Already this summer two young people have fallen to their deaths, one just days after our visit. The narrow, winding mountain road is ill suited to the heavy traffic it supports, especially in summer, and pedestrians heading to and from the trail head compete with cars for the narrow pavement.

Our group was there to look at ways to improve safety and access at the falls while protecting the natural resources.

Jeff Senterman, right, with  State Senator Cynthia Tkaczek

Jeff Senterman, right, with State Senator Cecelia Tkaczyk at Kaaterskill Falls.

We parked at the lower lot, below Bastion Falls on Route 23A, and walked up to the Kaaterskill Falls trailhead, experiencing first-hand the perils of the busy road walk.  As we hiked up the Kaaterskill Falls Trail we encountered people ill-equipped for a mountain hike—no water, inappropriate footwear, one person even barefoot.

At the base of the falls we watched many people hike beyond the end-of-trail sign, some slipping and falling on the eroded slope.  We saw people swimming in the tiers of pools, where the rocks are very slippery and a fall would cause very bad injuries if not death.

Trail Conference Recommendations for Protecting Kaaterskill Falls and the Public Continue reading

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Volunteers near completion of Appalachian Trail relocation on West Mountain in Harriman

Long Distance Trails Crew members

Some of the dedicated members of the Long Distance Trails Crew, tired and happy after another productive day.

By Bob Fuller, member of the Long Distance Trails Crew

The Appalachian Trail on the southwest side of West Mountain is steep, heavily eroded, and has loose stones that make it dangerous for hikers with heavy packs and park rangers when on rescue missions on West Mountain.  At the request of the rangers, the Long Distance Trail Crew worked with the park and Appalachian Trail Conservancy personnel to lay out and receive approval for a new half-mile route above Beechy Bottom Road.  Construction on the new trail began last fall, and is hoped to be completed late this fall. The change is significant enough that it will appear on future editions of the trail map for the area (Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails, #119).

Crew members stride across stone stream crossing

New stone crossing of an intermittent stream.

As part of the construction, the crew has built a new stream crossing using large rocks, which are much more natural and durable than a wooden bridge, and is working on two crib walls and a small series of stone steps to route the trail around a large boulder.  They have also been building drainage into wet areas, removing rocks from the “rock garden” areas to provide a pleasant footway, and clearing and side hilling where necessary to build a new sustainable trail that should last for many decades.

crib wall for new pathway

New sustainable trail under construction.

During the first weekend in August, the crew worked at the site of the large crib wall putting up a high line to use in moving large rocks.  They built up more of the crib wall, put in crush and tread way, and finished the steps leading up around the large boulder on the side of the trail.  Other crew members raked, cleared rocks that were then used for crush under the steps and crib wall tread way, and side-hilled other nearby sections of the trail.

Help us finish the project

We will be out again the weekends of August 16 – 17, September 13-14, and October 4 – 5 working on this relocation.  We meet at 9:00 am in the South Lot of the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area in Harriman/Bear Mountain State Park.  The crew provides hard hats and, if necessary, safety glasses.  We provide training and the opportunity to learn new skills while being rewarded with the results of your day’s work.  All you need to provide is lunch and water for yourself, gloves, a smile, and a desire to work hard and safely in the great outdoors.

Please contact Crew Chief Chris Reyling 914-953-4900, chrisreyling@gmail.com, for more information and to join us as we complete this exciting project.

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