Earth Day Reminder: Leave No Trace to Protect Our Environment

John K. Leigh

John K. Leigh

By John Leigh, Volunteer Coordinator and Leave No Trace Trainer

We all enjoy getting outdoors and taking in the views and the fresh air, and the great views.  We all love stretching our legs and seeing where they will take us. Sadly, almost everything we do in the woods leaves an impact. Some of this is not preventable while a lot of it is.

Most people know to bring out all of their trash and not to carve their name into trees, but there are other simple principles  that a lot of people don’t know about, that if followed can greatly reduce our impact. These principles are known as the 7 principles of Leave no Trace. The principles are

1)      Plan ahead and Prepare

2)      Travel and Camp on durable surfaces

3)      Dispose of waste properly

4)      Leave what you find

5)      Minimize campfire impact

6)      Respect Wildlife

7)      Be considerate of other visitors

The New York- New Jersey Trail Conference is proud to be offering free Leave No Trace Awareness classes.  These fun and interactive classes are free and offer a good insight into the 7 principles of leave no trace. The next Leave No Trace workshop is scheduled for Wednesday, May 28 at Tent & Trails in Manhattan. If you are interested in taking a Leave no Trace Class, please check out this class or any of our other classes in the Trail U Section of our website. If you are interested in hosting a Leave No Trace class, please contact John Leigh

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It’s Spring, and Volunteers Are Out with the Trail Conference

At Sterling Forest State Park this past weekend, volunteers did a big spring clean-up at the trailhead parking area for the new Doris Duke Trail. They helped the park by clearing debris from the demolition of old structures to make room for additional parking. Another trail work season with our Palisades Trail Crew will soon be starting up in that area. Watch our Trail Crew Schedule for details.

Meanwhile, across the river in Westchester County, four people from the Alley Pond Environmental Center (APEC) were among those attending a Tread & Drainage trail workshop this past weekend. The workshop was conducted at Teatown Lake Reservation and participants made a real improvement by completing several small check dams to rehabilitate a seriously eroded hillside that was flooding a trail. Deborah, Jeff, Tom and Tim will take their training back to APEC and put it to work on trails at their center. Both Teatown Lake Reservation and Alley Pond Environmental Center are Trail Conference member organizations.

Check our Trail U schedule to see what’s coming up and how you can get involved.

These were just two of the 10 workshops or trail improvement projects we offered last weekend. There will be even more coming up. Check our calendar and get out to give back!

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Two Weekends of Earth Day Activities on Trails

We’re Marking Earth Day (Tuesday, April 22) with TWO Extra Big Weekends of Outdoor Teaching and Volunteering:  26 trail workshops, park clean-ups, and crew outings are on our schedule for the next two weekends, and more in between. Check out the opportunities for you to get out, be active, and give back. 

Take a Hike. Find a hike that is right for you on our website. 400 hikes fully described. Search using our Find a Hike index or use our Hike Finder Map. 

Hike with a Map. We have the best maps for you to find your way on trails. Light-weight, no batteries or connection needed maps 


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Access Is April Focus for Catskill Park Advisory Committee

CPAC 040914-cropped

Bluestone, Sundown, and Vernooy Kill Wild Forests management; Mountain Clove and Kaaterskill Clove access initiative; Big Indian land acquisition, trailhead parking, and the Catskill Interpretive Center: these were among the topics discussed April 9 when 30 members of the Catskill Park Advisory Committee (CPAC) met at the Belleayre Ski Center to talk about the Catskill Park.

CPAC is chaired by the Trail Conference and the Catskill Center for Conservation and Development and brings together communities, nonprofits, and agencies—including the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), the New York City Department of Environmental Protection—to discuss issues facing the Catskill Park.  Continue reading

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Gunks Greenway D&H Canal Gets New Long Path Bridge

Yesterday (Wednesday, April 10), volunteers with our Long Distance Trails Crew (LDTC) were up in Wawarsing in the Shawangunk region, building a new footbridge on the D&H Canal. The canal’s towpath is a popular walk for residents and visitors, and provides a route for a section of our Long Path along the Gunks Greenway.

The crew plans to be out again both Saturday and Sunday this weekend on the Appalachian Trail on West Mountain in Harriman State Park. Sunday will be an Intro to Crew Work day. They welcome new volunteers to join their projects. You can find details and contact info for the outings on the crew schedule on our website (click). Look for ‘Long Distance Trails Crew’ or leader Chris Reyling.

A grant from Avon Products of Suffern, NY, helped pay for supplies.

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Sharing and Learning at Professional Trail Builders Conference

Several of our staff members attended the 2014 Sustainable Trails Conference held by the Professional Trail Builders Association (PTBA) in Roanoke, West Virginia in early April.

Ama & Jeff at Professional Trail Builders Association Conference

Ama & Jeff at Professional Trail Builders Association Conference

This annual conference brings together professional trail builders, trail nonprofits and agency partners from across the country and around the world. Those attending this year included representatives from Brazil, South Africa, and Canada in addition to the United States.

The conference is a mix of classroom and field workshops that address many different trail topics, from how to split a stone to how to incorporate helicopter transport into remote trail construction (something we wish we had in the Catskill Mountains!).  Ama Koenigshof, our Trail Builder, and Jeff Senterman, Senior Program Coordinator, attended workshops on the new Federal Trail Accessibility Standards, trail layout and construction techniques, stakeholder management, rail trails, and more.  They look forward to sharing new information with our volunteers.

In addition to attending workshops and networking at the conference, Ama led two workshops on Building Partnerships that focused on the collaboration at Bear Mountain among volunteers, nonprofits, agency partners, and AmeriCorps Trail Crews on our trails project there. The Trail Conference is recognized as a leader in building partnerships on trail projects and the audience was eager to learn from our organization’s experience.  We look forward to expanding these offerings at next year’s conference to provide even more opportunities to show leadership and provide educational opportunities.

Closer to home, we invite you to learn trail building skills with us at our Trail U. Spring is here and the workshop schedule and trail work outings are moving into high gear. Click here to see what’ already on the Trail U schedule. 

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Be Prepared for Mud Season on Trails

By Ama Koenigshof, Trail Builder and Educator

Ama KoenigshofYes, we want to walk around muddy patches when we come to them, and in spring, we may encounter them often. But walking around the mud ends up widening the trail, causing added impact to the environment we are out to enjoy and more maintenance issues for trail stewards.

Leave No Trace offers the following advice:

Be Ready to Get Muddy!

  • Wear waterproof boots
  • Consider using gaiters
  • Be prepared to hike or run down the middle of the trail even when wet or muddy – stepping off the designated trail to avoid mud or standing water can quickly lead to the creation of undesignated trails, which can lead to even more erosion.

So why do muddy patches happen and how to trail builders deal with them? 

Muddy patches on trails are usually caused by a poor trail alignment that does not allow water to run off it, or by the development of a berm on the downhill side of the trail that then acts as a dam. The key to a sustainable, mud-free trail is to get the water flowing across the trail, not down it or standing still. A side-hill trail that follows the contours of the land will be a permanent solution if done correctly. That being said, muddy spots happen. Here are some ways we deal with them:

Continue reading

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