Saturday, August 29, 2009

Needed: Split Rock Trail Maintainers For East Side

Split Rock Reservoir HikeEstelle Anderson, who told us about the New Pyramid Mountain Park Trail!, wants to know: would any intrepid hikers, especially Smoke Rise based, be willing and interested in becoming a trail maintainer for the East portion of the Split Rock Reservoir Trail, the portion most easily accessible through Smoke Rise?

As Estelle sees it, it's so easy to access Split Rock from Smoke Rise, that anyone living in Smoke Rise is an ideal candidate. For others, it involves quite a bit of a hike since access is from Split Rock Road and then one would have to walk the entire section and around the north end to get off trail near Camp Winnebago.

Here's what's involved in tending trails:

Minimum 2 visits during the year to the trail section. Picking up tree "litter" - branches on the trail that impede hikers; clipping back any overgrowth that would brush against a hiker; keeping the blazes painted and fresh so hikers are sure of their way. If there are trees down, then the maintainer advises the Trail Supervisor. There are certified sawyers within the Trail Conference and that's who gets the blowdowns out of the way.

The Trail Conference provides training for maintenance - either to a group or individual. It offers TM101 courses which involves about 2 hours inside and then out to a trail for field work. If it's a couple of people or an individual, then the Trail Conferences does on-the-trail training, instruction and actual work.

Here is a link to the Trail Maintainer Handbook.

I asked Estelle to go into more detail. She says that if a group is interested in maintaining as a group, there are a couple of options.
  • Typically the Trail Conference would want the group to become a Member Organization, at a cost of $50 annually.
  • The other option would be for two people to be the "lead" maintainers, with a group working under them, and just fill out a crew roster sheet. The leaders would have to be Trail Conference members. All this is because the NY/NJ Trail Conference covers trail workers with Volunteer Insurance and this is how to know who is out there.
Trail work training can be done on the trail; if desired, Estelle and her partner can do a short indoor session somewhere in Smoke Rise, or at the Newark Watershed building on Echo Lake Road, West Milford. But essentially it can be covered outdoors.

When Estelle teaches TM101, she includes 1-2 hours indoors, takes a break and then heads out to a trail to do the actual work. Maintainers need to provide their own tools, which would consist of clippers, loppers, folding saw (or bow saw), work gloves. If working as a group, then the tools can be shared without everyone needing to have all the above tools. Blazing the trail is also part of maintenance; the East shore is blue blazed and she would teach that also.

The goal is not to overwhelm attendees, yet also leave work for them to do; so most likely it would be about a 4 hour day. That way, they can all go back out to the trail and complete what needs to be done.

Estelle concludes that the section has been vacant for several years; this region has only very recently [i.e., as of last November] been taken over and there have been lapses. So all efforts are on getting vacancies filled and all trails back up to Trail Conference standards.

Estelle has been a maintainer since 2002, then co-Trail Supervisor and now Co Chair for Central Jersey Trails Committee. (Central Jersey meaning Central North Jersey).

Let me know if you're interested in becoming a Trail Maintainer, either individually or as part of a group. I know Estelle would be grateful, as would all those hiking these wonderful trails around us.

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