Thread: Just a Thought
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Old 02-12-2021, 08:40 AM   #7
DSettahr's Avatar
Join Date: May 2007
Posts: 5,374
It's definitely doable but may not necessarily be easy. Framework within the DEC does exist to allow for volunteer maintenance of trails (whether via an official contract or through the Adopt-A-Natural-Resource Stewardship Program (AANR).

Some important considerations, though:
  • As others have indicated, it probably would be a lot easier to do this through an existing organization, such as the ADK, than try to start your own organization from scratch. Simple trail work usually isn't super risky but there is nevertheless some chance of injury- and when acting as an "official" organization you have to think about things like liability and insurance. There is some coverage along these lines through the state when acting under an official agreement with the DEC but this may not be enough. The DEC may also require first aid training. The benefit of an existing organization (again the ADK is a great example here) is that they likely already have all that stuff figured out.
  • Trail work isn't exactly rocket science but there is a bit of a learning curve- and the options for what work can be done may be pretty substantially limited by the DEC until the relationship has existed long enough that there is a proven level of skill. There's been a number of incidents over the years in which well-intentioned yet unskilled volunteers have done significant damage as a result of not being properly "reigned in" until they'd gained some advanced skill in trail maintenance.
  • Trail work is a lot of work. There's been a number of groups and organizations over the years that have stepped up through the AANR program to try to undertake trail maintenance... only to fade away within a year or two once they've been out an few times and have come to fully understand the commitment that is involved. Even the lean-to adoption program, which seems like it should be easy enough, has had some issues with absentee adopters.
To be clear, these are not insurmountable obstacles- but if you're serious about trying to make this happen, they are things you should be thinking about sooner rather than later.

With regards to the west West Mountain trail... trying to cut that open again would be a herculean task. Some complications that I can foresee:
  • The outcome of the tree cutting lawsuit stemming from the construction of the Newcomb snowmobile trail likely would be a major obstacle- since rehab of this trail would necessitate the cutting of many trees. Under the old rules, trail crews had discretion to cut any tree 3 inches in diameter or less in the course of their trail maintenance duties. The new rules in the wake of that court case have lowered that threshold to 1 inch in diameter or less. Any larger tree requires a forester to do a site visit and fill out paperwork. In other words, at a minimum someone from the DEC would have to hike that full trail, identify, count, and mark every single tree greater than 1 inch in diameter that needs to be cut to open up the trail again, and then return to the office and file paperwork documenting the planned cutting, before trail work could begin.
  • It very well could literally be weeks of work. Again, trail work- even the simple act of cutting open a trail- is more effort than many realize. Case in point: A few years ago, the DEC flew a crew of employees and volunteers into Duck Hole with a weeks worth of supplies, with plans to cut open the Cold River horse trail again (a trail that is in similar condition to the west West Mountain trail). Over the course of that week, that crew was only able to cut open less than a mile of the trail- a band aid on a bullet wound. (That is not at all to discount their efforts- they did an amazing job on that stretch that they were able to work on).
  • The DEC may want to re-route portions of the trail, especially where it climbs the west side of West Mountain, rather than cutting open the original route as is. The old trail directly ascends the grade and is thus unsustainable. A reroute up the mountain would demand sidehilling- which is a bit more technical of a skill than accessible to most volunteers. It may also necessitate a UMP amendment. (Also, speaking to Montcalm's point in the other threads, I agree there is value at this point into considering whether its worth having the trail go over West Mountain at all, as there's no longer any views. The alternative, of course, is a major reroute of several miles of trail.)
  • It likely would be a lot of effort for the enjoyment of very few- and use itself aids trail maintenance somewhat, as the wear and tear of hiker traffic does cut down on vegetation growth in the immediate vicinity. Without *something* to attract more visitation to the area, the trail would certainly grow in again in a surprisingly short period of time. Beech bark disease sends beech trees into overdrive with regards to root suckering, which is why you can get waist high beech thickets obscuring little used trails without a packed out tread in only a few years. Again, I think tent sites and maybe even a lean-to at Pigeon Lake or Otter Pond would help this- but this again would require UMP amendments and more effort than just cutting open the trail. Also, a trail connection between Black Bear Mountain and Cascade Lake to facilitate a backpacking loop would probably increase use somewhat.
Again, I don't think that these are insurmountable obstacles... but I think that anyone serious about trying to get this trail open again through volunteer efforts would be well advised to pick some more simple projects first as stepping stones to this goal. Spend some time cultivating that relationship with the DEC, gaining the necessary skills and experience through easier efforts, and then you'll be much better prepared to tackle something like the west West Mountain trail.
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