My Trail to Becoming a Volunteer Supervisor

By Patrick J. Dalton, Trail Conference Supervisor of Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve in Staten Island

Patrick J. Dalton Trail Conference Supervisor

Patrick J. Dalton didn’t hesitate when asked if he was interested in becoming a Trail Conference supervisor. (Photo contributed by Patrick J. Dalton)

In May 2014, I renewed my Trail Conference membership and rekindled my dormant passion for hiking and outdoors solitude. It had been three months since my second lower-back surgery, and my reasoning at the time was to get involved with the organization to keep myself active. But I didn’t imagine just how far that first step would actually lead.

I’d registered for a few Trail University workshops, starting from the very beginning with Trail Maintenance 101, and would soon be assigned a maintenance sector on the Long Path in Harriman State Park. But it was another Trail U course that proved to be more critical for me. On June 25, I attended the Intro to Map & Compass/Land Navigation workshop at Tent & Trails in Manhattan, where I first met Hank Osborn, class instructor and the Trail Conference’s East Hudson Program Coordinator. At the conclusion of the workshop, during a Conference-related conversation, Hank asked where I lived. When I replied, “Staten Island,” he asked, “Would you be interested in becoming a supervisor?” Without hesitation, I said, “Yes!”

Supervisor? How does that happen? Guidance, of course. Hank introduced me to Metro Chair Dawson Smith, who jointly advised me to build a Conference resume that included a number of specific Trail U workshops—and off I went. From learning about stone cribwall and stair construction at Bear Mountain to tread and drainage at Sterling Forest to leadership in Haines Falls, I attended over 10 TC workshops between June and mid-September. I even conducted two TM-101 workshops myself in Staten Island.

Five months later, as supervisor at the newly adopted Clay Pit Ponds State Park Preserve in Staten Island, I’ll never view a trail the same way ever again. It’s not just about loppers and folding saws—it’s forging and maintaining relationships with volunteers, parks staff, and other volunteer organizations; its flexibility that doesn’t exist on a calendar; it’s applying skills I didn’t possess just seasons ago.

When I departed the compass workshop that evening in late June, I was shown a path on the map that wasn’t there hours earlier—and how to traverse it as well.

If you’re interested in becoming a trail supervisor or would like information on any of our other on-trail volunteer opportunities, check out our openings.

Posted in East Hudson Trails, Profile, Trail U, Trails, Uncategorized, Volunteeriing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

West Mountain Appalachian Trail Relocation Officially Open

Long Distance Trails Crew celebrates with ribbon cutting and BBQ.

By Bob Fuller, member of the Long Distance Trails Crew

AT Relocation on West Mountain Ribbon Cutting

The Long Distance Trails Crew celebrated the opening of the AT relocation on West Mountain with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. (Photo credit: Andrea Minoff)

Last Saturday, Oct. 18, was a big day for the Long Distance Trails Crew (LDTC). The morning began at the Trail Conference Annual Meeting held in Ossining, NY, where the entire crew received the Paul Leiken Extra Mile Award for its members’ efforts during the last two work seasons on the Long Path relocation in the Catskills. Crew member Marci Layton also received the Distinguished Service Award for her many contributions as a swamper, trail crew member, and map and guidebook field checker.

Following the awards portion of the meeting, the crew headed out to Harriman State Park to put the final touches on the new Appalachian Trail (AT) relocation. This included closing off the old section of the trail, scraping out and painting over the old blazes, and painting the final new blazes at each end of the relocation. The crew also raked the new trail to make it clearly stand out in the leaf covered terrain for the subsequent trail work hike and ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Raking the new AT on West Mountain

Raking the new trail. (Photo credit: Andrea Minoff)

In the afternoon, the crew led a hike to the north (uphill) end of the relocation, first passing by and highlighting previous work by the West Hudson South and Long Distance Trails Crews. The group traveled up the old, eroded trail so everyone could see why the path was being replaced, and arrived at the ribbon-cutting site.

LDTC member Bob Fuller introduced the crew and our distinguished guests: Ed Goodell, Trail Conference Executive Director; Chris Connolly, Trail Conference Board Chair; Ed McGowan, Palisades Interstate Park Commission (PIPC) Park Naturalist; Soňa Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator; and John Mack, Harriman/Bear Mountain Trails Chair. We talked briefly about the relocation work, which took 10 months to complete with over 35 individuals putting in around 1,800 hours of volunteer time. The new relocation is .4 miles long and is exactly .123 miles longer than the section of trail that it replaces. This is no doubt due to the extensive planning by Crew Chief Chris Reyling, who holds the Long Path End to End certificate number 123, which is a very special number to him.

AT Relocation West Mountain LDTC

Putting the final touches on the new trail. (Photo credit: Andrea Minoff)

With the entire LDTC crew behind them, Chris Reyling and Crew Leader Erik Garnjost cut the ribbon using a giant pair of scissors created just for this occasion. The hike down the relocation began with crew members pointing out many of the sustainable features of the new trail, as well as major rock work including steps, massive crib walls, and giant stepping stones.

Following the conclusion of the ribbon-cutting ceremony and trail-opening hike, the crew set up for a celebratory BBQ featuring ribs, hamburgers, hot dogs, salads, snacks, and more-than-you-can-eat desserts. What a perfect way to end a busy and rewarding day for the crew.

crib wall at west mountain ldtc

The LDTC shows off their work on the upper crib wall. (Photo credit: Bob Fuller, LDTC member)

The LDTC’s next work trips are Nov. 8-9, Nov. 22-23, and Dec. 6-7. The crew provides 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, hard hat and safety glasses if you have them (the crew will provide them if you don’t), a smile, and a desire to work hard and safely in the great outdoors.

The crew will have more outings later this fall and beyond, so please join us. Contact Crew Chief Chris Reyling 914-953-4900 or, for more information.

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails, Hikes, New trail, Trails, Uncategorized, Volunteeriing, West Hudson Trails | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Protect Your Trails: Report ATV Activity

By Georgette Weir, Trail Walker editor

Illegal ATV Activity on Trails

Report illegal ATV activity to Park Police and to the Trail Conference to help with our advocacy efforts.

“We made a trail for you,” hollered the ATV rider from his mount. He and two companions had bull-dozed their four-wheelers up a steep slope, through dense blueberries nearly to a viewpoint in the Fishkill Ridge Conservation Area (owned and managed by Scenic Hudson) in Dutchess County. They had, in fact, been following a Trail Conference- maintained footpath up from an area riddled with old woods roads and off-road vehicle paths (East Hudson Trails Map #102). In the conservation area, as in the neighboring Hudson Highlands State Park, the use of off-road vehicles is illegal. Hiking solo, I held my tongue, turned my back on the trio, and continued, a bit uneasily, on my way.

Susan Sterngold also wisely opted against confrontation during one of her encounters with ATVers in Harriman State Park. “I was having a lovely walk in the Ladentown area with my dogs, just enjoying the woods and daydreaming, when I heard a rumbling in the background that soon became a ROAR,” she recalls. “Luckily the drivers were polite and slowed down, enough for me to take their picture. I waved and they waved and they went on.”

Hikers and walkers encountering off-road vehicles illegally using trails on public parklands and private preserves is an old, familiar story throughout our region. It’s not just the roar that disturbs the peace—it’s the speed that threatens and may even endanger pedestrians, and the erosion, widened corridors, and destroyed vegetation that degrades the environment.

Laws and regulations—such as New York State Parks’ ban on the use of ATVs in state parks—are frequently broken and rarely enforced. In New Jersey, hard-won legislation that imposed registration, licensing, and strong penalties for illegal ORV use has been effectively ignored since it was adopted in 2010. A deadline that the state identify three sites for ATV parks within three years was missed, and the strong penalties in the law have been removed as a consequence. Just one ATV park has been built, in Cape May County in 2013; no additional sites have been identified. Cuts to operating budgets for parks in both states in recent years reduces the likelihood of successful enforcement measures.

To highlight the ongoing problems that illegal off-road vehicles bring to our parks and trails, the Trail Conference asks hikers to report their sightings as soon as possible. In New York State Parks, in our region, call the Park Police at 845-786-2781 immediately if you spot powered vehicles within a park. In New Jersey, call 1-880-WARN-DEP (1-880-927-6337).

Be prepared to report the time and location, including the park, name of trail/path being ridden on, and nearest cross paths or intersections. Is it a single unit or a group? What color is the vehicle and are there distinguishing features? If a license plate is visible, note the color, number, and state. Do not place yourself in danger or take it upon yourself to challenge, antagonize, or attempt to stop or control the riders.

What you can do is report illegal trail use via a form on our website; these reports are not for immediate action, but are collected for our reporting and advocacy work on behalf of trails and parks. We ask that you report sightings to us even if you have already made a report to police.

Posted in East Hudson Trails, Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails, New Jersey Trails, Trails, Uncategorized, West Hudson Trails | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking for the Best (Free!) Full-Body Exercise? Try the Trail Building Workout

By Tina McGill, AmeriCorps member of the Palisades Trail Crew, and Soňa Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator

Working on the Trail

Give the trail building workout a try by volunteering with one of our trail crews. (Photo credit: Josh Erdsneker)

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference is proud to present its very own GREEN GYM!

Tired of smelly, expensive indoor venues and boring workouts? Visit our spacious outdoor woodland facilities, which offer cardio warmups with unparalleled views and a wide range of trail building workouts to tone all of your muscle groups.

Activities begin with a scenic hike into trail work sites to get the blood pumping. All muscle groups will then be thoroughly tested using the following tools:

Upper Body
• Arms: clippers and hand saws; carrying tools to work site, working the winch
• Biceps and triceps: small sledge hammers, stone shapers, drill
• Shoulders, core, and overall balance: carrying buckets of crush
• Core, back, and shoulders: rogue hoe, pick-mattock, rake; upgrade to 10 lb. sledge hammers for a real challenge and stress-release workout

Lower Body
• Legs: Squats when picking up medium rocks and crush buckets
• Quads and back: rogue hoe, pick-mattock; dead lifting and carrying small to medium rocks

Full Body
• Side-hilling with a rogue hoe or pick-mattock (voted the best overall conditioning calorie-burn)
• Exercise your spatial intelligence by visualizing how to orient irregularly shaped rocks around obstacles and set them in the most stable positions.

Bonus effects of trail building workouts include comradery, a sense of accomplishment, and improved hiking paths for everyone to enjoy.

Best of all: It’s free!

To find an upcoming trail crew outing near you, check out our calendar. All volunteers should BYO lunch, water, and work gloves. We supply the tools, dirt, rocks, and fun.

Posted in Hikes, Trail U, Trails, Uncategorized, Volunteeriing | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

State Steward at Kaaterskill Falls Is Step Toward Safer Hiking

Kaaterskill Falls Steward Regina Willis

You can find trail steward Regina Willis at Kaaterskill Falls through Oct. 13. (Photo credit: Georgette Weir)

For the past month, and extending through the upcoming Columbus Day holiday, Dept. of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Backcountry Steward Regina Willis has been monitoring hiker activity along the Kaaterskill Falls Trail in the Catskills Thursdays through Mondays, sharing information about the history of this iconic landmark and its natural environment, and giving novice trail users tips for hiking safely at the falls and elsewhere. (Tip No. 1: Hiking in flip-flops can be hazardous to your wellbeing.)

Regina is a master’s student at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science & Forestry (Syracuse). A resident of nearby Coxsackie, Regina says she grew up going to Kaaterskill Falls and hiking in the Catskills. The temporary job as a steward at Kaaterskill Falls has been a great excuse for her to break away from her computer-focused scholarly task of completing her thesis (statistical analysis of stream data), and get outdoors. “I have the best ‘office’ view of anyone in the DEC,” she says with a big smile. Visitors have been very receptive to her help, she reports, as have local people who are happy to see the official presence on site.

The DEC assigned a steward to Kaaterskill Falls in September, after two fatalities at the site this summer. The department, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, local officials, and other partner groups are working together to develop a comprehensive, long-term approach to improving safe public access and hiking at Kaaterskill Falls, as well as to protect this much-loved natural resource, which is a significant tourist destination and therefore of economic importance to nearby Catskill communities.

Jeff Senterman, senior program coordinator for the Trail Conference, says, “This autumn has been spectacular in the Catskills and there has been a lot of tourist traffic at the falls area. Having a steward in place during this busy time has been great. The Trail Conference commends the DEC for adding this position and, with the Catskill Conservation Corps program, we look forward to working with the department to support the backcountry steward program next year.”

For Regina, whose last day on the job will be Monday, Oct. 13, it will soon be back to her desk work.

Posted in Catskill Region Trail News, Hikes, Profile, Trails, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Better Path Along the Appalachian Trail: Volunteers Complete AT Relocation on West Mountain

By Bob Fuller, member of the Long Distance Trails Crew

LDTC Appalachian Trail Relocation West Mountain Completed

Long Distance Trails Crew Leader Erik Garnjost sits at the top of the new Appalachian Trail relocation. (Photo credit: Bob Fuller)

The Long Distance Trails Crew is proud to announce the completion of the Appalachian Trail relocation on West Mountain in Harriman State Park. The project began last fall and was completed over the Oct. 3-5 weekend by the all-volunteer crew, which builds and sustains long-distance trails like the AT throughout the Hudson Valley. Blazing of the new route and closing off of the old trail will take place in the next two weeks.

LDTC Appalachian Trail Relocation, Steps Complete

Crew member David Booth sits atop the beautiful steps built by the LDTC on the new AT path on West Mountain. (Photo credit: Bob Fuller)

The former route was a severely eroded, straight up-and-down section of the Appalachian Trail that created hazardous footing for the thousands of people who hike this portion of the AT each year. Led by Crew Chief Chris Reyling and Crew Leader Erik Garnjost, the LDTC has built a more sustainable route ascending the mountain more diagonally, which allows for easier hiking. Durable features, such as rock cribbing and steps, have been built into the trail, adding to the beauty of the hike and ensuring this portion of the trail will last for decades.

The New York-New Jersey Trail Conference will celebrate the AT relocation with a ribbon cutting on Saturday, Oct. 18, following the 2014 Annual Meeting and Volunteer Recognition Ceremony. Join Trail Conference volunteers and hikers promptly at 1:30 p.m. at the southern parking lot at the Anthony Wayne Recreation Area in Harriman State Park for a walk to the site. The LDTC will lead hikers up the old trail to the top of the relocation for the ribbon cutting. The guided hike will then continue along the beautiful new AT path back to the parking area. (The total loop hike will be 2.5 miles.) A longer guided return hike (3.5 miles total), which will showcase the work of both the LDTC and the West Hudson South volunteer trail crews, will also be offered.

For more information about the ribbon-cutting hike, contact LDTC member Bob Fuller: For more info on what the LDTC is up to, check out the crew page. New volunteers interested in trail building are always welcome on work trips.

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails, Hikes, New trail, Trails, Uncategorized, Volunteeriing, West Hudson Trails | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Volunteer Spotlight: Mark Popadak, Palisades Trail Crew

By Charlotte Rutherfurd and Tina McGill, AmeriCorps members of the Palisades Trail Crew

Mark Popadak Mike Popadak Palisades Crew

Volunteer Mark Popadak, left, and his brother Mike Popadak, an AmeriCorps member of the Palisades Trail Crew, work in Sterling Forest State Park. (Photo credit: Charlotte Rutherfurd)

Mark Popadak of Union, NJ, has amassed over 439 hours of volunteer service since May of this year. On an average day, he’s working alongside his brother Mike Popadak, an AmeriCorps member of the Palisades Trail Crew in Sterling Forest State Park, building trail rain or shine.

We thought we’d ask Mark what motivates him to volunteer with the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference.

How did you decide to join the Trail Conference?
“Since I was out of work at the time, I took the opportunity to volunteer with the AmeriCorps trail-building program at the Trail Conference alongside my brother.”

Are you enjoying working with your brother?
“We do everything together outdoors: hiking, canoeing, and backpacking. We have our moments, we always do. But I think we make a pretty good team. We’ve been best friends since we were born.”

What kind of trail work do you enjoy most?
“I like making trails and seeing the end result. It’s great to work with friends, learn all that I can, and have lots of fun working in the mountains. At the end of the day, I like looking back and saying, ‘That was a good day.’

“We’re trying to build trails for generations to come. You can walk down our trail and see what we did. How many times have you walked down a trail and said to yourself, ‘How interesting that [it] goes this way.’ That’s because someone [purposefully] routed it there. The stone work we’re doing is built to last, too. … Those heavy stones that we moved are going to always be there. To me, the satisfaction comes when the work is done. I like to walk through our work at the end of the day and say, ‘Check this out!'”

While volunteering, Mark often stays over at the Welch Trail Education Center in Harriman State Park. Lodging is available upon request for anyone actively volunteering with a Trail Conference crew during the trail season (May through Oct. 12). Amenities include 10 beds, on-site camping, showers, and a full kitchen. Click here for more information on joining the Palisades Trail Crew on a work trip or for a workshop and to check out their schedule.

Posted in Hikes, Palisades, Profile, Sterling Forest, Trails, Uncategorized, Volunteeriing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment