Volunteers bring accessibility to the forests around us - Straus News (7/27/06)


JORBA Board Member/Chapter Leader
Volunteers bring accessibility to the forests around us

WAWAYANDA - Have you ever gone hiking and come to a place where you had to hop from rock to rock to cross a stream or marshy area?

Those stepping stones may seem like a happy coincidence, but the fact is they are most likely the work of volunteers. The New York - New Jersey Trail Conference maintains more than 1600 miles of foot trails. In Wawayanda State Park, 22 volunteers take care of the 34 miles of trails in the park.

West Milford resident Alan Abromowitz is among those volunteers. He is in charge of overseeing the two miles around Terrace Pond.

Four times a year he hikes in specifically to pick up litter and clear brush. “Ninety-five percent of the people who hike take care, it’s just the occasional people who leave litter.” His biggest distress comes from ATV riders who, although it is forbidden, use many of the connecting trails. “It’s terrible … many of [the trails] have been totally destroyed.”

Trail Conference volunteer supervisor Bill Fisher says volunteers are assigned a section of trail, usually about a mile, to oversee, often in a partnership with a friend or family member.

Aside from picking up litter, twice a year they make sure the 4’ by 8’ area around the trail is clear of brush and they also make sure the trail blazes are easily visible.

Any fallen trees, or “blow-downs” are reported to the supervisors. Crews of sawyers certified by the US Forest Service take care of clearing trails of trees. These crews are volunteers as well.

There are also crews who repair and build structures, such as the recently completed 400’ long foot bridge over the Pochuck Marsh in Warwick.

A few adventurous volunteers go into the woods with a GPS system and blaze new trails.

The Wawayanda trails are available for hiking, biking, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and horseback riding.

The New York - New Jersey Trail Conference also provides the primary maintenance of Ringwood, Kittatiny and Stokes State Parks and trails along the Hudson, in Bear Mountain State Park.

In November of 2005, the conference made its first purchase of trail lands. They bought 94 acres known as Rolling Hills in Sparta Township. It will connect Hamburg Mountain State Forest, Sparta Mountain Wildlife Management area, Weldon Brook WMA and Mahlon Dickerson Reservation with the Highlands Trail.

They also recently purchased a 90-acre parcel that provides access to Stony Kill Falls in Minnewaska State Park.

The conference has raised over $3 million in the past few years to improve connections between trails, rebuild the Bear Mountain Trails, recruit and train volunteers and help convert trail maps to a digital format.

For information on trails or becoming a volunteer, visit the conference Web site at www.nynjtc.org.
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