After the Storm: Volunteers Respond When Long Path Is Deemed a 'Mess'

July 03, 2018
Long Path South Chair Kevin McGuinness
New York-New Jersey Trail Conference

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After the Storm: Volunteers Respond When Long Path Is Deemed a 'Mess'

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Sawyers are working hard to clear and repair the Long Path, which was damaged by several remarkably strong storms that hit our parks this spring.

When experienced New York State Park Ranger Lt. Mickey Cahill says part of your trail is a “mess,” it gets your attention. On May 15, Mickey informed the Trail Conference about a large number of blowdowns over a short portion of the Long Path just north of the Lemon Squeezer, adjacent to the Dismal Swamp in Harriman State Park. That’s when he used the M-word.

Harriman Long Path volunteer trails supervisor Thom Patton and I took quick action. We walked the trail together on May 18 and estimated approximately 30 blowdowns over less than a quarter mile. It looked like a tornado had hit this relatively sheltered section of trail; in fact, it was the worst blowdown issue either of us had seen since Sandy devasted portions of the Long Path. Compounding the situation was the location of the trail, which runs along an area of bedrock that slopes toward the swamp, making it difficult for hikers to navigate around or through the mess.

This was a formidable job. Who could tackle it? And in a timely manner? Only one answer: the tireless Long Distance Trails Crew (LDTC). Thom contacted the crew, and they did not waste time. The LDTC mobilized and got to work on May 23. Armed with three chainsaws, hand saws, picks, hammers, ropes, a winch, and of course hard hats and safety glasses, LDTC members Erik Garnjost, Marty Costello, David Booth, and Jeff Raskin, led by Crew Chief Chris Reyling, were joined by Thom and me for the clearing and restoration work.

And boy, did they go to work. Besides the number of blowdowns—some more than 3 feet in diameter— and the tight location, several trees posed challenges beyond just sawing. One very large tree had grown on the sloping bedrock immediately adjacent to the trail, and when it fell, it not only blocked the trail, but the huge root ball also pulled up so much of the tread that it was filling with water from the swamp. It was too close to the swamp to cut and clear, so the decision was made to raise and harden the path between the rock slope and the root ball. Large rocks were carried in to fill the low muddy area, and then smaller rocks were used to fill in the spaces. Dirt from the root ball was knocked down to fill and cover the rocks and widen the trail space, and any roots that were sticking out were trimmed back.

By late afternoon the trail had been completely cleared, cleaned up, and restored. But the LDTC wasn’t finished. On the hike out, they also cleared several blowdowns on the Appalachian Trail and Arden-Surebridge Trail. Why? Because that is what they do. And the crew got great thanks from a couple of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers who had started the trail in February and were well on their way to Maine!

This is what the Trail Conference volunteers do. This is what your membership supports. This is why your trails are blazed, kept clear, and navigable.

When trails are threatened, the Trail Conference responds.

Across the region, volunteers have been making heroic efforts in a remarkably short amount of time to clear and restore trails damaged by these spring storms. We’ve gathered on-the-ground reports from Trail Conference volunteers who have been selflessly giving days at a time to clear blowdown and make sure affected trails are once again passable and safe. It’s just one more incredible way our Trail Family works hard to make connecting with nature possible for all who seek to get outside and explore. Here are their stories: