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Old 02-11-2021, 02:49 PM   #1
Addwolanin
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Just a Thought

I don’t post here much but find this forum to be one of the best sources of information on the web, I am always reading posts and trip reports.

I have been thinking lately, using a post about West Mountain from Queer Lake as a catalyst, about the somewhat failing trail infrastructure in the south western part of the park. This might be a silly idea but I figure it wouldn’t hurt to throw it out there: what about creating a small “trail maintenance coalition” or “club” specifically for the south western part of the park. I live in Utica so the greater town of Webb/forestport areas are near and dear to my heart.

From some exploring and some trip reports, the trail up the backside of West Mountain is largely in disrepair and trails surrounding 7th lake could use some love. Also the bridge on the stone dam lake trail from north lake road in forestport has been out since two Halloween’s ago. Unless that’s been fixed recently.

Basically I am wondering if why forum members would at all be interested in having some trail maintenance days kind of like the way Lean2Rescue does it. This idea is in its infancy and might be dead on arrival, but I wanted to come to this forum with its knowledgeable members for potential feedback.


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Old 02-11-2021, 03:44 PM   #2
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I wouldn’t exactly call it failing. Given the mileage of trails in the sw Adirondacks most are really good. Not exactly always dry but not bad. It’s really a function of use. More use keeps trails blazed. I have no complaints about bridges in the area. In Pigeon Lake wa you deal with a lot of wilderness type bridges, cord and toadstools which can be unpleasant but perhaps that’s part of the rugged appeal. I think if that were all boardwalks it wouldn’t be much of a wilderness area.

There’s probably a lot more that could be done in rebuilding and rerouting of historic trails. Some has been done and some is good trail already. Sometimes there isn’t a good alternative. But either way even thinking about that is a big process.

If you were to organize a group, which definitely can be done and many exist (although I don’t know of one specifically for hiking in this area) I would suggest raising as much money and support as possible for future UMP amendments to reroute or rebuild troubled trail rather than try to revive trails that really don’t get used. JMO.
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Old 02-11-2021, 04:07 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by montcalm View Post
I wouldn’t exactly call it failing. Given the mileage of trails in the sw Adirondacks most are really good. Not exactly always dry but not bad. It’s really a function of use. More use keeps trails blazed. I have no complaints about bridges in the area. In Pigeon Lake wa you deal with a lot of wilderness type bridges, cord and toadstools which can be unpleasant but perhaps that’s part of the rugged appeal. I think if that were all boardwalks it wouldn’t be much of a wilderness area.

There’s probably a lot more that could be done in rebuilding and rerouting of historic trails. Some has been done and some is good trail already. Sometimes there isn’t a good alternative. But either way even thinking about that is a big process.

If you were to organize a group, which definitely can be done and many exist (although I don’t know of one specifically for hiking in this area) I would suggest raising as much money and support as possible for future UMP amendments to reroute or rebuild troubled trail rather than try to revive trails that really don’t get used. JMO.

All good points, thank you. I definitely wouldn’t want boardwalks everywhere, my specific reference was to the bridge on the trail to stone dam lake because it was there, and it was a beautiful bridge, but it got washed away in the Halloween Storm in 2019.

Amendments to UMPs is a great place to look at and research, thank you!


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Old 02-11-2021, 06:22 PM   #4
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https://www.adkfta.org/

That's an organization from Rome/Utica area that focuses on building mountain bike trails in the region.

Creating an organization like this is a good way to rally a volunteer base for projects as well as raising money for materials, professional labor and lobbying the DEC for future management changes.
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Old 02-11-2021, 06:50 PM   #5
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The Iroquois Chapter of ADK (based in Utica/New Hartford) is known to adopt trails in the SW Adirondack region. Are you a member?

My tastes run more toward fewer trails. Keep the remaining wild places wild. Learn to navigate without formal highly traveled packed down trails.
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Old 02-11-2021, 07:25 PM   #6
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Less trails are better, to some degree. Western Adirondacks are not necessarily my favorite place to go off trail though. And I think I'm a lot more adventurous than a fair deal of users. And having good bridges on trails that are used are good investments IMO.

Speaking of bridges - I see A LOT of them built in western NY by scouts. Like really good ones too.

You need to target all the groups who use the bridges too. If it's a potential bike trail, then AFTA may support you. If it's a ski trail, then a XC skiing group may support (not sure who that might be in that area). The more support you can get, the more likely you can get someone to take on the project or organize a volunteer group. It still may be advantageous to make your own not-for-profit and fund and organize specific projects if you have the motivation to do so. These sort of things are labors of love. You'll unlikely get any support outside of the Rome/Utica. There's a ton of cottagers and visitors from farther west/south but getting volunteer, or even financial support from this distance can be difficult. People who will donate or volunteer tend to invest in stuff that is closer to them, and less of a drive. That always puts locals in the ADKs in a difficult position of pouring all their free time and money into supporting this kind of stuff and just survive. The close visitors will be the ones that will have to carry the brunt of the support if you are to make a significant change.
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Old 02-12-2021, 08:40 AM   #7
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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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Old 02-12-2021, 09:07 AM   #8
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Lean2Rescue work was shut down on several planned leanto work projects a while back due to the above mentioned snowmobile trail lawsuit in the courts. We couldn't even legally cut small stuff of any size to clear a leanto size footprint, not to mention any larger "danger trees" on site.

No one is allowed to participate whatsoever in L2R (or any other such volunteer work) without agreeing to and signing a formal NY VSA agreement. https://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/90822.html

Chainsaws are not generally allowed in wilderness areas, though there are certain times of year when that is possible. If you do use a chainsaw, you must be certified in safe operation by taking a state approved training course (which includes blood-borne pathogens medical training). And you must always wear all approved safety gear during any chainsaw operation, no matter how small the job.

ADK has a trail maintenance course that is given infrequently. Offered just twice last year, but one was cancelled due to Covid. NYSDEC requires this certification for trail workers.
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Old 02-12-2021, 09:11 AM   #9
Addwolanin
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Lean2Rescue work was shut down on several planned leanto work projects a while back due to the above mentioned snowmobile trail lawsuit in the courts. We couldn't even legally cut small stuff of any size to clear a leanto size footprint, not to mention any larger "danger trees" on site.

No one is allowed to participate whatsoever in L2R (or any other such volunteer work) without agreeing to and signing a formal NY VSA agreement. https://www.dec.ny.gov/regulations/90822.html

Chainsaws are not generally allowed in wilderness areas, though there are certain times of year when that is possible. If you do use a chainsaw, you must be certified in safe operation by taking a state approved training course (which includes blood-borne pathogens medical training). And you must always wear all approved safety gear during any chainsaw operation, no matter how small the job.

ADK has a trail maintenance course that is given infrequently. Offered just twice last year, but one was cancelled due to Covid. NYSDEC requires this certification for trail workers.

I actually worked with Lean2Rescue to rebuild my adopted lean-to and it was a wonderfully experience that I’d like to participate more actively in. I think reaching out to the Iroquois Chapter of the ADK is the best first step to getting some more experience under my belt.


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Old 02-12-2021, 11:46 AM   #10
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The stone dam trail bridge has been rebuilt. FYI
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Old 02-13-2021, 07:26 PM   #11
montcalm
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Originally Posted by RipVanWinkle View Post
The stone dam trail bridge has been rebuilt. FYI
Good news. Is the whole trail clear up to Chub?

Quote:
Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post
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.
Great info on details I wouldn't know or hadn't thought about.

I wouldn't necessarily deter anyone from starting a new org though. Here's the the thing. AFTA started from nothing only a few years back and has a built a number of trails (professionally) on private land and is maintaining, and working on building a number of others. Some on private lands, some on state lands. AFAIK they got a kickstart from BETA (https://www.betatrails.org/) to do in the southern Adirondacks what BETA was doing in the LP/Wilmington area.

If I was in a position with time, motivation and proximity and I wanted to start an organization, I'd seriously talk to these groups. Bike trail building and maintenance is a lot more knowledge, resource and labor intensive than hiking trails. Also they may be willing to share the ropes of starting a not-for-profit. Although you may not see it, your goals are fairly common. Your only difference will be in terms of wilderness area trails, and you only really have Ha-De-Ron-Dah and Pigeon Lake in the area you're talking about.

You also may want to look into the UMP Amendment for Moose River Plains Wild Forest that includes a large number of trail changes and builds. I've not been able to get any information on how this will be managed and built but the UMP was approved. Perhaps adopting a project per DS's link above could help speed the process of those changes.

https://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_fo...mrpwfamend.pdf

There are a number of projects to be completed that may interest you in trying to get involved in. A lot of the "bike trail" will be be multi-use.

But if your goal is to try to get a good, or a couple good (there is potential) backpacking loops in the area using the wilderness areas, this may be of little interest to you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DSettahr View Post

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.
Again way more than I ever considered, but I wouldn't support re-cutting the West Mountain trail. The only way I'd support that is if the tower were to be put back, but that is a far more herculean task as it sounds.

The real herculean, but useful, task would be to lobby for the changes to the Pigeon Lakes WA UMP to re-route and build a new trail system, and campsites, that would promote useful recreation such as hike-in from the east as well as loop potential. The goal, in my mind, would be to relieve stress from Queer Lake. I'd also strongly lobby that lean to be relocated or removed and (marked) tent sites be put in place. Whether the lean to goes to another pond further in, or is gone altogether is no difference to me. I'd prefer marked tent sites at those ponds. Less attraction to a single location with those and they are easy to move if they become trammeled. Lean tos require a lot more work to move and maintain, and for every lean to you can have 2 to 3 tent sites which will see much lower impact.

Just my thoughts... perhaps your ambition is much lower.

Last edited by montcalm; 02-13-2021 at 08:16 PM..
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