Text and photos by Andrea Minoff
The weather couldn’t have been better as a large group of enthusiastic hikers, ranging in age from the single digits to 70s-plus, and several canine companions gathered last Sunday, Sept. 20, to celebrate the opening of the new four-mile Doris Duke Trail loop at Sterling Forest State Park. After delivering brief remarks, Sona Mason, the Trail Conference’s West Hudson Program Coordinator, and Jeff Hutchinson, Sterling Forest State Park Manager, cut a blue ribbon to officially open the trail on a lovely day.
Construction on the Doris Duke Trail loop began in 2013 and was completed just a few weeks ago. This year, over 50 volunteers led by AmeriCorps members Kirsty Fuquay, Trudy Heinrichs, Sabina Cardenas, and Kayla Hall worked on the trail. Volunteers Jesse Fried, Patricio Tejada, Eugene Lee, Curtis Helt, and Tom Zafran donated their time nearly every weekend this summer to help see the project to completion, and deserve special thanks for their efforts.
The Doris Duke co-aligns with the Highlands and Allis trails on the ridge of Sterling Mountain, which leads to the Appalachian Trail on its way to Fitzgerald Falls. The 40 people who had gathered for the ribbon-cutting event broke into groups to hike the entire loop: Erik Mickelson, field manager of the project, led a fast-paced tour of the trail, while Mason more leisurely guided a second group. Trail-building features and techniques—details that might normally be missed by the average hiker, since the trail was designed to look as natural as possible—were described and pointed out. Several past and present AmeriCorps members and volunteers who helped build the trail proudly showed off their work along the way.
Hikers enjoyed several stops throughout the afternoon, including photo ops on the beaver dam overlook at the now-flooded Benjamin Meadow, and lunch atop Sterling Ridge, which offers a lovely panoramic view over Orange County. Farther along the ridge, the New York City skyline could be seen on the horizon.
If you’d like to volunteer to help build and improve trails in Sterling Forest State Park, contact Sona Mason at firstname.lastname@example.org or 201.512.9348 x16.