By Westchester Trail Tramps Supervisor Mary Dodds
The Westchester Trail Tramps has evolved into a year-round crew that performs trail maintenance, improvement, construction, and monitoring Wednesday and Friday mornings (and other days when necessary). We go where we are needed in northern Westchester and Putnam counties, with Teatown Lake Reservation serving as a home base on Wednesdays, and Ward Pound Ridge on Fridays. “When necessary” includes trail work beyond the scope or ability of individual maintainers; sometimes our work includes special projects not traditionally done by crews. Here’s a glance into our year.
While many crews were hibernating, the Tramps insisted on staying active, despite single-digit wind chills and knee-high snow. Leigh Draper, Teatown Preserve Manager (and former Trail Conference program coordinator) and Hillary Seiner, Teatown Conservation Scientist, provided the crew with the opportunity to participate in a fisher tracking program. (Fishers, for those of you unfamiliar with these animals, are in the weasel family.) Cameras and bait were set up in many parks and preserves in Westchester, and it was our job to retrieve them over each two-week monitoring period.
This project not only gave the crew the opportunity to learn about fishers, but also learn how to locate things using waypoints on hand-held GPS devices. All recoveries were off trail, which meant bushwhacking though deep snow. Teams went out two to four days a week from February 20 through March 31, recovering as many as six cameras in a park. At project completion, we were rewarded with a slideshow of the animals captured on camera–deer, coyote, fox, bobcat, raccoon, skunk, red tail hawk, owl, and yes, fisher. Not to mention the crew!
Projects included blazing and building the new Twin Lakes Trail at Teatown, blow down clearance at Mountain Lakes and the Briarcliff Peekskill Trails (our crew includes two B-certified sawyers), and the usual sprucing up of trails for warm weather hikers. We welcomed four John Jay High School senior interns, who participated in the construction of puncheon, stone causeway, and water bars. They also attended the invasive plant identification course provided to crew members by Linda Rohleder, Trail Conference Director of Land Stewardship and invasive plant expert.
Cold winter, hot summer. The Tramps did serious maintenance, suffering the thorns and ubiquity of outrageous invasive plant life while dodging ticks. We had one disappointment: We attempted the first-ever invasive survey by a crew of a heavily invaded preserve, but one of the two GPS units refused to acquire satellites, and the trails proved so overgrown that maintenance took precedent, forcing us to cut the survey short. A few weeks later, we returned to clear a major blowdown and restore the original route of a trail.
Projects included building stairs at FDR State Park, demolishing an old structure near a new trail and building boardwalk at Teatown, and blazing trails at Taxter Ridge. The crew assisted in re-blazing the Wilkenson Trail and clearing the Osborn Trail in Hudson Highlands. We also continued our relationship with John Jay High School by participating in two student volunteer projects: water bars at Leon Levy Preserve and Ward Pound Ridge.
What the next year holds: A new bridge on the Teatown Kitchawan Trail, (hopefully) more fishering, a (successful!) crew invasives survey, and building new trails at Teatown. We are dedicated to improving trails for hikers and continuing to find new ways to learn about and protect our natural world.
All work and no play…
Tramps love their work and love being outdoors. They also truly enjoy each other’s company. We hike together, go to movies together, and when Leigh Draper’s band Two Dollar Goat plays locally, we are there. There was a New Year’s Day hike (complete with champagne), a summer barbeque, and our annual holiday party in December. Tramp ladies even get (a little) dressed up and go out for lunch on a regular basis.
Want to join us? Contact Westchester Trail Tramps Supervisor Mary Dodds at email@example.com or 914-261-7082 for more information concerning the Tramps or to be put on the WESTTTS mailing list.