News Archive

News

January 21, 2012

Stone Valley Trail Maintenance A Major Undertaking

By John Barron

The Laurentian Chapter is the lead agency for maintenance of the Stone Valley Trail System. Our coordinator for Stone Valley, Mark Simon, maintains a close relationship with the landowner, Brookfield Renewable Power, and with their knowledge and permission maintains and improves the trail system. Some of the funding comes from the Raquette River Advisory Council (RRAC), an agency that allocates grants for recreation purposes along the Raquette using funds provided by Brookfield as a condition of renewal of its license to generate power on the river. The labor is provided by volunteers; the materials and supplies are sometimes donated also. A recent trail work weekend in October 2011 illustrates how complex this activity is.

About a dozen volunteers met at 8 AM on Saturday and set off for different projects around Stone Valley. Mark recruits volunteers from a number of sources including the Youth Conservation Corps, local high schools and colleges, the St. Lawrence Mountain Bike Association (SLMBA), and the general public, along with the Laurentian Chapter. Some of the most experienced crew leaders are from SLMBA, and Mark dispatched crews under their leadership to undertake reroutes on the O’Malley Brook Overlook trail and sections of the west side river trail; installation of chicken wire on some bridges to improve traction; installation and repair of trail registers; and general trail maintenance.

Mark himself took a couple of volunteers out on a trash-pickup expedition on the Lenny Road. It was a matter of only minutes before a large delegation of volunteers arriving from SUNY Canton Outdoor Adventures Club caught up with Mark and joined in. The extra hands made short work of collecting an impressive array of junk from the roadsides and adjacent woods. Bob Scott donated the use of his pickup truck to transport it all to the town transfer station, a short distance away.

With plenty of time left in the day, and plenty of help on hand, Mark could undertake a major erosion control project. A hillside east of the Lenny Road had been damaged in the course of recent logging operations. A skidder road had been created, leading straight up a steep hillside to gain access to the trees at the top. Already the hill featured a deep gully scoured by water runoff. Mark explained the plan and supervised the work. Three earth berms were constructed, stabilized by logs and laid perpendicular to the road, serving both as water bars and as obstacles to off-road vehicles tempted to use the road. Slash and stumps from the logging devastation at the top of the hill were shifted downhill to fill the eroded ditch. Over time, the wood will trap soil being washed down; the ditch will fill with soil; the wood will decompose; and the hillside will return to a natural state.

Work continued on the riverside trails late Saturday afternoon into Sunday. Two days of effort were invested by almost two dozen people, leaving Stone Valley in much better condition for next year’s hiking season.

Long term planning goes on constantly to develop new ways to enjoy Stone Valley while respecting the environment. In 2010, following logging operations in an area east of the Lenny Road known as The Ledges, a challenging mountain bike route was developed. Many people lamented the beautiful forest that had been lost to the logging, but under the circumstances all were agreed that mountain biking would be a worthwhile recreational development and a trail would not create further damage. Other mountain bike trails are being considered to enable more of this increasingly popular activity while being sensitive to the environment and respectful of other users.

Good news arrived in December 2011 – a large grant was received from the State of New York to improve trails between Colton and Potsdam. The grant application resulted from a collaboration of the Town of Colton, the Raquette River Blueway Corridor, and the Laurentian Chapter. It will help fund a long list of improvements. You can expect to see more work and more recreational possibilities in Stone Valley in the near future.

All photos by John Barron.

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