Dry Stone Walling Workshops to Be Held at Trail Conference Headquarters This Spring

Dry Stone Wall Workshop

We’re partnering with The Stone Trust for two workshops to construct a dry stone wall along the front of our new headquarters and promote the art of the craft. (Photo credit: Kevin Simpson)

This spring, the Trail Conference will be offering two freestanding dry stone wall workshops at our headquarters in Mahwah, N.J. The purpose of these workshops is to expose the art and craft of dry stone walling to the larger Trail Conference community and our partners, as well as to construct a dry stone wall along the front of our new HQ at the historic Darlington Schoolhouse.

These two-day workshops will take place at Trail Conference headquarters April 15-17 and May 28-30. The third day of each course is optional to learn about worksite prep and management. All skill levels are invited to participate.

Our dry stone wall workshops are a partnership between the Trail Conference and The Stone Trust from Dummerston, Vt. The Stone Trust advocates for the preservation of existing dry stone walls and promotes using the correct structural standards for the construction and restoration of dry stone walls.

We’ll be updating this blog, as well as our calendar of events and Trail University page, throughout the winter with news on workshop cost, registration details, and more. Stay tuned!

Posted in Darlington Schoolhouse | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Where There’s a Hearth, There’s Mirth

By Gary Willick, Fulfillment Specialist

Fireplace at the Bear Mountain Inn.

Fireplace at the Bear Mountain Inn. (Photo credit: Gary Willick)

As an adult, I discovered that most of the people I had known in my hometown of Teaneck, NJ, had moved away; I myself had moved to Closter, NJ. When visiting my parents and the old stomping grounds, I found that a casual trip to Cedar Lane or the local park no longer meant running into someone I had been friends with or a fellow musician I had played jazz with.

This lonely state of affairs was occasionally improved by the welcoming smell of a lit fireplace on one of my walks around town. More than reminding me of my childhood days of sitting around our own fireplace, it signified to me that other people, your average Joe and Virginia, were still enjoying the smell of burning wood and the enchantment of jumping flames. And that held the promise of welcoming faces and a friendly environment, especially on a cold but hearty winter day.

Sure enough, in my last year living in Closter, I discovered a local establishment that lit regular fires in a friendly situation and had the best burger in town to boot: the Schraalenburgh Farm. (What a relief to see that farmland still existed here! Stopping by the Farm is, to me, akin to a trip to the Jersey Shore in summer, with its well-known salubrious qualities.) Coming home to a warm living room after a winter hike always felt good, but now I had something even better to look forward to: buying a hot chocolate, taking off my wet hat and letting it warm by the fire, and enjoying the visions I perceived in the red and yellow spires.

At age 50 I moved back to the Teaneck area, only to recently discover three more places in the New York metropolitan area that have fireplaces close to hiking. (The list first appeared in an article for the Poughkeepsie Journal on creating your own après-hike itinerary. You can also find the list below.) That encouraging smell of burning wood from my walks in solitude had proven itself to be the hoped for indicator.

Situated near trails, these four fireplaces are more likely to be enjoyed by fellow hikers. This provides ample opportunity to share trail tales and more. It is all the more meaningful now, considering recent findings by the EPA that residential fireplaces are harmful in numerous ways to those breathing the burning wood particulates. My father no longer uses his fireplace for that very reason, but the environments these fireplaces are situated in are all in large rooms or outside open spaces, rendering the harmful effects much less deleterious. And visiting each place at most three times a season is far more favorable to the lungs than sitting in my own living room in front of a fire every week.

While enjoying these communal fireplaces, every person sees something different in the flames,. Everyone has some different story to tell, so the spirit of individualism that America is so proud of seems to be kept alive by the same substance that kept prehistoric man alive, warming him as he sat in his coat of fur and feeding him as he cooked the meat from the animal he had just hunted. We are reminded of how much we need each other and how important it is that we recognize our differences and foibles precisely in order to get along. Getting deep in to the woods helps us escape our technology-laden world and finishing our hike by gazing in to a hearth lets us travel in to our past and in to ourselves as well.

When we stare back at the jumping hot plumes, we can gain insight into what aspects of our history are worth preserving, and what things are better left behind. Our buildings, our institutions, even the planets and the stars, are in a constant state of flux. But when I sit myself down in front of a hot fireplace, I am reminded that the pace and direction of this flux is best set by the natural processes that have governed it as far back as anyone can imagine. I see how a simple, natural, and ancient thing like fire can put me in such a relaxed mood, able to perceive that the flames only appear to be racing. While change is a constant, and not always an improvement, it doesn’t have to always be accelerated or proceed without preserving things that we may need more than we are aware of.

Four Fireplaces to Visit Post-Hike

Schraalenburgh Farm, Closter, NJ
Hike: This pleasant, level hike loops around the 136-acre Closter Nature Center.
Après-hike: Fires are lit in wood-burning stoves situated outside the Country Farm Stand next to the Abram Demaree Homestead. The setting is cozy and there are tables under the awning. Fires are run most days during the cold season. Get the burger! The farm stand is open this winter, pending any future frigid weather, Wednesdays through Sundays, 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

High Point State Park, Sussex County, NJ
Hike: This loop trail touches the High Point obelisk, the New York border, and Lake Marcia, and is among the most popular trails in the Kittatinny Range.
Après-hike: Winter trail use guidelines are in effect through April 1, requiring a trail pass for all trails north of Route 23 (with the exception of the Appalachian Trail) when there is adequate snow cover for skiing. Passes may be purchased at the High Point Cross Country Ski Center, which features a fireplace and concessions.
A fire will be lit at the Interpretive Center during special events like the annual Winter Festival on Saturday, Jan. 30. The fireplace area is open to everyone during special events, even if you don’t participate in the activities. A donation of $5 per person to benefit the Friends of High Point State Park is recommended.

Bear Mountain, Rockland County, NY
Hike: This loop hike climbs Bear Mountain on a newly built section of the Appalachian Trail and descends on the Major Welch Trail, passing a number of panoramic viewpoints.
Après-hike: The historic Bear Mountain Inn, situated at the foot of Bear Mountain, offers a more upscale post-hike experience. The beautifully restored fireplace is lit Thursday through Sunday nights during dinner hours at Restaurant 1915, but you don’t have to purchase a meal to enjoy the comfy couches and crackling flames.

Campgaw Mountain County Reservation, Bergen County, NJ
Hike: This loop hike climbs gradually to the summit of Campgaw Mountain, with a sweeping view of Bergen County and the New York City skyline.
Après-hike: The fireplace at the Campgaw Mountain Ski Lodge is lit when the ski lift is running. The good news: They’ve currently got a solid base of man-made snow and are open daily.

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails, Hikes, New Jersey Trails, New York Trails, Trails, West Hudson Trails | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mahwah’s Historic Preservation Commission Honors Trail Conference with Heritage Award

Trail Conference Mahwah Schoolhouse Award

Trail Conference staff and members who accepted the award: Walter Aurell, Architect, CPLA; Tibor Latinscics, Engineer, Conklin Associates; Edward Goodell, Executive Director, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference; Christopher Connolly, Chair, Board of Directors New York-New Jersey Trail Conference; Jennifer Easterbrook, Campaign Manager, New York-New Jersey Trail Conference; Irene Auleta, Volunteer, Stakeholder Action Team for Darlington Schoolhouse

At the Mahwah council meeting on Jan. 21, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference was honored for our work in restoring the Darlington Schoolhouse and repurposing the historic building as our new headquarters.

Presented by Commission Chair Barbara Shanley and members Anne Powley and Deborah Grob, the Heritage Award is a great honor.

“I am delighted to be here tonight to present our Heritage Award to the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference, to honor them for their monumental achievement over the past 10 years, of successfully restoring and rehabilitating the Historic Darlington Schoolhouse at 600 Ramapo Valley Road” said Commissioner Anne Powley at last night’s award presentation given to the Mayor and council members of Mahwah.

Powley went on to tell the council, “We think that when you look up the words ‘commitment,’ and ‘dedication,’ and perseverance in your dictionary, one of the definitions should be ‘New York-New Jersey Trail Conference,’ because of what they accomplished in this 10-year project. You will agree, if you go onto the Trail Conference’s website and read the restoration timeline they have posted.

“The Darlington Schoolhouse was built by Alfred B. Darling, and Theodore Havemeyer, both owners of large farm estates on Ramapo Valley Road in the early 1900s. These two gentlemen farmers wisely hired one of the best and most well-known architects of their time, Dudley Newton, to design the school building.

“In 1891 the schoolhouse was completed, and donated to Mahwah by Darling and Havemeyer, specifically to be utilized as a school. It served that noble purpose for many years. In the mid-’70s it ceased to be used for education, and sat vacant for almost 40 years.  Some prospective buyers expressed interest, but were discouraged by the deterioration and the work that would be needed to bring it back to its former glory.  This stately building continued to be empty, crying out for rescue.

“The Trail Conference was looking for a new headquarters location, and Executive Director Edward Goodell was told to take a look at the Darlington Schoolhouse by a friend, Tibor Latinscics, a Civil Engineer with Conklin Associates. Tibor encouraged Ed to go see it, which he did in 2003.  Ed has said on numerous occasions that when he first saw the schoolhouse, despite its severe deterioration, he knew immediately that it would be the perfect building for the Trail Conference headquarters. But he also knew it would take huge sums of money to restore it properly.  Not discouraged, Ed began to work on a restoration plan that would convince the Trail Conference Board members that the Darlington Schoolhouse would be a wonderful home for their new headquarters, and restoring it would be a worthy project. Ed was obviously very convincing, or we would not be presenting an award to them tonight.

“To say there were major obstacles along the way puts it mildly. The work of raising the millions of dollars to fund the work alone was daunting, in addition to the structural assessments, stabilization, research, historic restoration details, environmental studies and engineering, county state and local board approvals of certain phases, that needed to happen.

“This building is protected on the National, State and Township historic registers, which means that all exterior work had to meet with approvals of those boards.   While they were proposing to renovate the original building, they also proposed to put a two-story addition onto the back, for meeting rooms, and offices, so they needed to prepare more applications and approvals for that.   Their parking needs created a whole different set of environmental EPA issues because they are located near the Darlington Brook.  Basically, in every way, this is a story of just plain hard work on the parts of all the Trail Conference Members, Bergen County, NJ State and local historic groups, architects, engineers, construction experts, and grant writers.  But these and other obstacles were surmounted between 2004 and 2015, so that the Darlington Schoolhouse restoration and rehabilitation was completed in March 2015.

“There are so many people in the Trail Conference, as well as many outside the organization, who contributed to the work and donations needed to bring this project to completion.  We wish we could thank each one individually, but we would be here until midnight just naming them. We thank them all now, for their valuable contributions. They pulled all the stops out, never losing their vision for this project.

“While our award is for all the Trail Conference members, we would be remiss not to  acknowledge  the dynamic  leadership and determination of their Director Ed Goodell,  who steered the project through  sometimes choppy waters, and also the work of  Civil Engineer Tibor Latinscics, for  providing  pro bono all the engineering  work  and presentations to commissions and boards.  We also acknowledge the important contributions of Carol Greene, our Township Historian who provided valuable assistance in researching the schoolhouse history, providing photographs, restoration advice, and encouragement.

“We also would like to thank the members of the 2007 Township Council for their foresight and wisdom in agreeing to purchase the schoolhouse with the Trail Conference, thereby becoming co-owners.  Without that key initial financial support, this remarkable restoration story might not have had such a happy ending.”

Posted in Darlington Schoolhouse, DSH Archive | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Experience Interning at the Trail Conference (I Didn’t Even Need Hiking Boots!)

By Elissa D’Aries, Former New York-New Jersey Trail Conference Intern


Elissa D’Aries interned at the Trail Conference in 2015.

As a not-outdoorsy literature major who would admittedly rather be sitting inside rereading Jane Eyre than hiking Bear Mountain, I never imagined interning at the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference. Still, when my career adviser suggested that I spend part of my precious last semester at Ramapo College interning for the Trail Conference, I was interested. What kinds of tasks would they have someone like me, who doesn’t know anything about trail maintenance, do?

Now that I’ve wrapped up my internship, I must say that they had plenty of interesting tasks for me to do—and none of them involved me even going outside! In my first and longest task, I worked with the amazing Jeremy Apgar, the Trail Conference’s cartographer, to edit the descriptions and directions for the 20-part Long Path map set. I also researched potential contacts for the organization, edited park descriptions, and helped edit this very blog, among other tasks. All of these duties either had to do with writing, which is related to my major and (fingers crossed) my eventual career, or office work. As a recent college graduate, I quickly learned that even entry-level jobs require some office experience, so having this internship gave my resume a much- needed edge—and helped me land my first job!

Not only did this experience help me with my job search, it also allowed me to get to know a diverse group of great workers and volunteers. I may not have known what to expect before starting my internship, but now I would recommend it to anyone—even those who quiver in fear at the thought of strapping on hiking boots.

If you’re interested in interning at the Trail Conference—on or off the trail—email John Leigh or call him at 201.512.9348 x 22.

Posted in Darlington Schoolhouse, Profile, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Black Bear Encounter on Cedar Swamp Trail

By: David Day, West Jersey Trail Crew Co-Leader
First published in the Winter 2016 edition of Trail Walker

Bear in Cedar Swamp

Many bears–like the one that visited the West Jersey Crew in November–are much less wary of humans as of late. Photo Credit: Bob Jonas

On Nov. 14, the Trail Conference’s West Jersey Trail Crew was working in Wawayanda State Park on the long-term project of refurbishing the puncheon on the Cedar Swamp Trail. When we broke for lunch, we went back beyond the start of the puncheon to have a dry place to sit. After about 10 minutes, Bob Jonas, Central North Jersey Trail Co-Chair, noticed that “someone” was coming toward us.

That “someone” turned out to be a large male black bear. He stopped about 30 feet from where we were eating. Bob yelled, “It’s a bear!” and we all got up and began to shout. The bear grudgingly turned and ambled back along the puncheon, with several of us following. He inspected our construction materials and tools, and emptied an unzipped backpack, scattering its contents. Once he got to the far end of that section of puncheon, he stopped–and did not leave. I finally started up a chainsaw, and he ran into the woods. We quickly finished lunch and returned to work, albeit much more cautiously aware of our surroundings.

A little while later, Bob and Estelle Anderson, his co-chair, started to leave. When they got back to the staging area where we had lunch, there was the bear! He had circled back around us, apparently to inspect where the smells of food had come from. He emptied the bag containing my chainsaw gear and ripped open the sawyer’s trauma pack. He clawed at and punctured the seat of the park’s utility vehicle that we were using–maybe he thought it was a cooler. Bob and Estelle started yelling, and the bear moved a little distance away, but stopped. By the time I got back there with the chainsaw, the bear had moved further up the trail, but was still in sight.

Fortunately I had cell service, so I phoned the park office. A park police officer armed with a shotgun arrived after about 20 minutes, by which time the bear was out of sight. The officer reported that this had been his third bear call that day. We packed up our tools and gear, and with a “police escort,” made our way back to the trailhead and our vehicles.

Bear in Cedar Swamp

The bear that visited the West Jersey Trail Crew in Wawayanda was unafraid of their presence. Photo Credit: Bob Jonas

Our bear had three ear tags, and was clearly a known “problem bear,” since these animals are tagged every time one is trapped and relocated. We have seen bears on multiple occasions while working in the woods, but they have always avoided us once our presence was known. However, it seems that bears–like our visitor–are much less wary of humans as of late. Our visitor was unfazed by our presence, and did not leave until he was ready. Those of us who spend time in the woods need to be prepared for the very real possiblity of a bear encounter such as we had.

Bear safety begins with bear education. Learning how to act in the event of a bear encounter, like the West Jersey Trail Crew did, is crucial for the public’s safety, and, especially, the bear’s safety. For more information about how education about bears can help keep parks open, bear safety tips, and more, visit our website.

Posted in New Jersey Trails, Trail Crew, Trails, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SUEZ Water North Jersey Volunteers Are Committed to Building and Protecting Trails

Many thanks to SUEZ Water North Jersey for doing their part in helping the Trail Conference create, protect, and promote 2,100 miles of public trails.

Check out our video that showcases our partnership with ny/nj trail conference

Posted by SUEZ Water North Jersey – formerly United Water North Jersey on Friday, July 10, 2015


Volunteers from SUEZ Water have helped us build and rehab trails in Ramapo Valley County Reservation, the Oradell Reservoir, and other popular parks in north Jersey. Thank you for your commitment to open spaces!

Posted in Giving, Hikes, New Jersey Trails, New Trail, Trail Crew, Trail U, Trails, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ask a Trail Builder: What’s Up With All the Hammers?

By Ama Koenigshof, Trail Builder and Educator

Why all the hammers?  Do you really need them to build trails?

Hammers are an essential tool in trail construction, especially when dry stone masonry is involved. But the variety can be overwhelming. Hammers can range in price from a $12 local hardware store special to a $315 carbide-tipped monster slab splitter.  Choosing the right hammer for the job can make your tool bag lighter, while proper care will ensure your investment lasts a lifetime.  Here are my top 10 favorite hammers.

Single Jack/Engineer's Hammer

Single Jack/Engineer’s Hammer
Use: If you have one hammer, this is it!  Use it to crush stone, shape stone, strike other hand tools, pound in pinning, you name it!  Comes in weights from 2lbs to 22lbs (usually considered a double jack or sledge) with various handle lengths.
Strike: Anything

Striking Hammer/Drilling Hammer.Striking Hammer/Drilling Hammer
Use: Striking other hand tools. Comes in weights from 2lbs to 16lbs with various handle lengths.
Strike: Other hammers, chisels, hand drills, and the wedges of your feather and wedge sets when splitting a stone.
Do Not Strike: Stone

Mash Hammer

Mash Hammer (can be carbide tipped)
Use: The best crush maker out there. It can also be used to split and trim stone. Comes in weights from 2lbs to 18lbs with various handle lengths.
Strike: Stone Only

Stone Buster (carbide tipped)Stone Buster
Use: Splitting and shaping stone. Can swing or hold in place and strike with another hammer.  Comes in 2lb and 4lb weights with horizontal or vertical carbide-tipped blades.
Strike: Use the striking head to hit other hammers and chisels; use the carbide-tipped blade to split, trim, or shape stone.
Do Not Strike: Do not use the striking head on stone or the carbide-tipped blade to strike other hand tools.

Hammer Point (carbide tipped)Hammer Point
Use: Perfect for making a round stone square, it takes off high spots.  Can swing or hold in place and strike with another hammer.  Comes in 2lb and 4lb weights with a fiberglass handle.
Strike: Use the striking head to hit other hammers and chisels; use the carbide-tipped point to shape stone.
Do Not Strike: Do not use the striking head on stone or the carbide-tipped point to strike other hand tools.

Hammer Set/Bull Set (can be carbide tipped)Hammer Set/Bull Set
Use: Trimming stone, removing drill marks, taking off an edge, squaring up a stone. Hold in place with hammer blade angled on its edge toward the outside of the stone and strike with another hammer. Comes in weights from 2lbs to 12lbs with horizontal or vertical blades and various handle lengths.
Strike: The striking head can be used to strike other hand tools. The blade is used on stone and not swung.
Do Not Strike: Do not use the striking head on stone or swing the blade to hit stone or other hand tools.

Slab Splitter/Rifting Hammer (can be carbide tipped)7. Slab Splitter/Rifting Hammer
Use: Splitting stone down the middle. Hold in place with hammer blade on the stone and strike with another hammer.  Comes in weights from 8lbs to 12lbs with horizontal or vertical blades and various handle lengths.
Strike: The striking head can be used to strike other hand tools. The blade is used on stone and not swung.
Do Not Strike: Do not use the striking head on stone or swing the blade to hit stone or other hand tools.

Mallorcan HammerMallorcan Hammer
Use: Shaping, texturing, trimming stone. Comes in weights from 2lbs to 4lbs with a long, 30-inch handle.
Strike: Stone only.

Bush Hammer (can be carbide tipped)Bush Hammer
Use: Shaping, texturing, smoothing stone. It can help to remove drill and other tool marks.  Comes in weights from 1.5lbs to 7.5lbs with various handle lengths.
Strike: Stone only

Bricklayer’s Hammer (carbide tipped)Bricklayer’s Hammer
Use: Shaping stone and digging in the dirt. The blade edge works great as an “adze” to bust out kerfs, or grooves, in a stone.  Comes in 1lb and 1.5lbs weights.
Strike: Stone and dirt. Other hammers may be used to strike the flat head (if not carbide tipped) when using the blade to “kerf and adze” stone.
Do Not Strike: Other hammers, chisels, hand drills, and the wedges of your feather and wedge sets when splitting a stone.

Ama Koenigshof is the Trail Conference’s Trail Builder and Educator, sharing her knowledge of building trails with volunteers through hands-on instruction. She teaches numerous Trail University workshops, which vary from the basics of trail maintenance to more advanced courses in techniques like crib wall construction. There’s a course for every skill level, and best of all, most workshops are free! Visit the Trail Conference website to check out the latest course offerings and find more information.

Posted in Trail Crew, Trail U, Trails, Volunteering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

First Guest Artist Exhibition Installed at Trail Conference Headquarters

By Glenda Haas, Art Selection Committee Chair

Art by Richard Kirk Mills

One of the works by Richard Kirk Mills on display at the Trail Conference headquarters.

The newly renovated Trail Conference headquarters opened with many bare walls at the ribbon-cutting ceremony this past April. An Art Selection Committee has since been formed, led by volunteer Glenda Haas, and composed of fellow volunteer Diane Stripe and a staff liaison, with the goal of utilizing the arts to connect to environmental appreciation. Additionally, the stories of both the Trail Conference and Darlington Schoolhouse come to life through photographs and artwork in the historic foyer’s double staircase. To attain the Committee’s mission of partnering the Trail Conference with the local community and artists to promote public trails, the building’s main conference and training room will display a rotating art exhibit, chiefly composed of local artists. An art display system has been installed and the Trail Conference is now hosting its inaugural art exhibition.

Our first guest artist is Richard Kirk Mills. His work comes to the Trail Conference as a satellite exhibition of “Ode to Earth,” a larger exhibition sponsored by the Blue Hill Art and Cultural Center at the Blue Hill Plaza office complex in Pearl River, N.Y. Barbara J. Sussman and Joanna Dickey, the curator and art administer of the Blue Hill Plaza Cultural Center, guided the Trail Conference Art Selection Committee in making our first exhibit happen. Their recommendation of Mills is serendipitous, as it was soon discovered that the artist’s studio in Bovina, N.Y., was designed by Walter Aurell, the architect for the Darlington Schoolhouse renovation. Mills has also long been involved in environmental artwork and restoration, primarily at the Teaneck Creek Conservancy and Hackensack River Stories Project. Mills’ background includes working as a master printmaker and as an art professor at Long Island University/Post.

end of main street

End of Main Street. Credit: Richard Kirk Mills.

Four of Mills’ interpretive graphics will be on display in the former schoolroom, along with nine of his lyrical landscape paintings of Catskill locations.

The Richard Kirk Mills exhibition will be open to our members and the public until April 14, 2016, during regular Trail Conference office hours: 9 to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. The paintings are offered for sale with 20 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Trail Conference.

Posted in Darlington Schoolhouse, DSH Archive, Profile | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Bard Students Team Up with Long Distance Trails Crew to Help Relocate the Appalachian Trail on Bear Mountain

Text by Bob Fuller, Andrea Minoff, and Marty Costello, photos by Andrea Minoff, members of the Long Distance Trails Crew

Students supplement sustainable trail design class work with field experience

Bard students after a hard day of trail work with the LDTC.

Bard students after a hard day of trail work with the LDTC.

This October, the Trail Conference’s Long Distance Trails Crew (LDTC) was joined by students from Bard College at our Appalachian Trail relocation project on the southwest side of Bear Mountain in Harriman-Bear Mountain State Parks. The students are enrolled in a class on sustainable trail design and wanted to experience firsthand their coursework in action.

LDTC Crew Chief Chris Reyling and Crew Leaders Erik Garnjost and Bob Fuller explained how to design a sustainable, aesthetically pleasing, and natural-looking trail. The all-volunteer Long Distance Trails Crew demonstrated the use of rock bars, slings and the high line, drilling and pinning rocks, and other trail-building techniques. The students lifted and placed rocks, made crush, dug dirt from a “borrow pit,” built treadway, and landscaped the finished trail.

LDTC Bard on Bear Mountain

From left: Crew Leader Bob Fuller, Bard student Wendy Wan, Crew Chief Chris Reyling, and Bard student Duncan Routh move a rock in place for a step.

When asked how this trip related to their Environmental and Urban Studies course, student Hannah Conely said, “We spent a lot of time discussing how different methods of trail building and different design features could be applied to fit specific terrains, soil types, and other aspects of trails.” Rock Delliquanti added, “The section of the trail we were replacing had been washed out and eroded from foot traffic. We moved a several hundred pound rock with a system we learned about in class, and we saw how this trail was being laid out and how this problem was being worked through.”

A big thanks goes to Bard student Isaiah Chisholm, who came up with the idea for the field trip, recruited students, contacted the crew, and arranged for transportation to and from the worksite. The students had a fun, educational, and rewarding day out with our crew. Their assistance was greatly appreciated and we hope to see them again.

If you’d like to join the Long Distance Trails Crew for an outing, they’re on the trails many weekends throughout the season. No experience is necessary; the crew provides on-the-job training and guarantees a fun and rewarding day for volunteers at any skill level. Contact Crew Chief Chris Reyling at 914-953-4900, chrisreyling@gmail.com, or Crew Leader Bob Fuller at 732-952-2162, refuller99@hotmail.com for more information.

Posted in Appalachian Trail, Harriman-Bear Mountain Trails, New Trail, New York Trails, Profile, Trail Crew, Trails, Volunteering, West Hudson Trails | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Building Trails in Sterling Forest: Work Begins on Red Back, Eagle

By: Sona Mason, West Hudson Program Coordinator

Redback Trail

From left: Trail Conference Field Manager Erik Mickelson, Art White of the Jersey Off Road Bicycle Association (JORBA), Tom Hennigan of Jungle Habitat, and Ellen White of JORBA kicked off work on the Red Back multiuse trail in Sterling Forest in October. (Photo credit: Erik Mickelson)

Over the last few years, the Trail Conference, in partnership with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), has been writing down their “to-do” list for trail building and restoration at Sterling Forest State Park through the Backcountry Trails Program. The Trails Program is a means for making trail improvements, recruiting and training volunteers, and fulfilling the needs of parks and park plans. In Sterling Forest, this has involved improving tread and wet crossings on existing trails, and completing the almost four-mile Doris Duke Trail loop. Now, the park has asked the Trail Conference to set its sights on the next major item on their priority list: Build a multiuse trail in the southeastern corner of the park, which also happens to be the most recently preserved section–the so-called “donut hole” that was preserved in 2006—to open it to public access.

A 7-mile loop adjacent to Tuxedo Park has been reviewed by NYS park planners, biologists, and historians. Half of the loop will encompass usable sections of former woods roads on the Red Back Trail (north), and circumvent them when necessary with a 2-foot-wide tread built to sustain traffic from feet, wheels, and hooves. The other half of the loop, the Eagle Trail, will only accommodate hikers and bikers. Sight lines, turning radii, flow patterns, and speed control design elements will be incorporated into the loop to ensure a conflict-free and mutually enjoyable and durable trail for all three user types. Hiker, mountain biker, and equestrian groups have been invited to participate in creating this highly anticipated loop trail. Volunteers began construction on the trail in October.

Mike Vitti, president of CLIMB and a New York State Trails Council delegate, is among those involved with the Trail Conference in the early planning stages and has been eagerly awaiting this moment for 15 years. So far, the response from the public has been great—in just a handful of volunteer work days, almost a quarter mile of trail was completed the first month.

You’re invited to join volunteers each Saturday to learn sustainable trail-building techniques for multiuse trails, and work off some of those holiday calories with a cross-training trail workout that will keep you toasty on even the coldest days. We will continue until the ground is frozen, and start up again when conditions allow. Work days will be expanded in early spring, when the 2016 Conservation Corps team is on the ground.

Questions? Contact Sona Mason at smason@nynjtc.org or 201-512-9348 x16.

Posted in AmeriCorps, New Trail, New York Trails, Sterling Forest, Trail Crew, Trails, Volunteering, West Hudson Trails | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments