Rebirth and Reroutes Along the Shawangunk Ridge Trail

Shawangunk Ridge Trail

Views from the Shawangunk Ridge Trail (Photo credit: Jakob Franke)

The Shawangunk Ridge Trail took a hit this spring, when a massive wildfire sparked in Summitville, N.Y., ended up burning 2,600 acres across the ridge. No injuries or structural damage were reported, and the fire—which was ignited on May 3 by a homeowner who ignored a burn ban—was under control within a week. Still, the SRT from Roosa Gap to Shawangunk State Forest was scorched. For a long-distance trail that already had a full slate of improvement projects lined up this season, summer was shaping up to be busier than usual. Here’s a glimpse at the work accomplished along the Shawangunk Ridge Trail so far this year.

Forest healing itself with ferns

The rehabbed SRT. (Photo credit: Jakob Franke)

Rehabbing the SRT After the Fire
First on the agenda: Assessing the fire damage. Once the area was safe, the Trail Conference’s Long Path co-chairs Jakob Franke and Andy Garrison took notes on melted trail markers and blazing needs. By the end of May, they had reblazed the trail—and the forest had already begun healing itself, as small ferns could be seen popping up across the charred land.

Fast-forward to August, when that regrowth had actually gotten somewhat out of hand along the hiking path. “Blueberry is taking off, ferns are everywhere, sassafras is everywhere, and scrub oak and other trees are sprouting like crazy,” Franke reported. To combat the vegetation overtaking the trail, the Long Path Crew set out on several clip ‘n’ clear dates throughout August and September to open up the walkway.

New Trails in Huckleberry Ridge State Forest
The Trail Conference’s newest Conservation Corps trail crew, the Long Path/Shawangunk Ridge Trail Spike Crew, tackled the most ambitious project on the SRT this year. Under the guidance of Franke and Garrison, four AmeriCorps members and several volunteers built over 2.5 miles of trail in Huckleberry Ridge State Forest, including a connection from the new parking lot on Raymond Drive and a new SRT segment from the Lenape Ridge Trail segment fork.

The primary goals of these trail connections were to: 1. Give locals, visitors, and hikers arriving at the Port Jervis train station access to the southernmost part of the Long Path and SRT, and 2. Move the SRT off private property and provide a loop near Hawthorne Lake. After extensive corridor clearing, side-hilling, and stone work, hikers can now enjoy a woodland walk that overlooks the local rural area surrounding Port Jervis. The trail itself is moderate to strenuous, and at its highest point offers panoramic views of the Catskills.

For a detailed account of the crew’s two months living and working in the field—including the trials of building a trail in severe weather and the morale boost of an old-fashioned camp sing-along—check out their weekly reports at nynjtc.org/content/long-pathshawangunk-ridge-trail-crew.

The crew from Shawangunk Ridge Trail

The Long Path/Shawangunk Ridge Trail Spike Crew built new trails in Huckleberry Ridge State Forest this year. (Photo credit: Jakob Franke)

Ongoing Projects                                      In Roosa Gap State Forest, a 0.5-mile relocation of the coaligned Long Path/SRT to the fire tower is 50 percent complete. And in Shawangunk State Forest, work has begun on two new trails that will connect a new DEC parking area on Cox Road with the Long Path/SRT on the ridge. Franke hopes to have those trails completed by early next year.

Work along the Shawangunk Ridge Trail will continue through the fall. If you’re interested in helping to make improvements along this spectacular, 71-mile hiking path, contact Jakob Franke: jf31@columbia.edu or 201.638.0582.

About Trail Walker

Since 1920, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference has partnered with parks to create, protect, and promote a network of more than 2,100 miles of public trails in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan region. The Trail Conference organizes volunteer service projects that keep these trails open, safe, and enjoyable for the public. We publish maps and books that guide public use of these trails. The Trail Conference is a volunteer-driven nonprofit organization with a membership of 10,000 individuals and 100 clubs with a combined membership of 100,000 active, outdoor-loving people.
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