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Extended trails could lead to more opportunities

December 6, 2017 11:47 am Updated: December 6, 2017 12:06 pm

WINDHAM — Five miles of new multi-use trails at the Elm Ridge Wild Forest in Windham have been completed.

The trails are part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Adventure NY initiative to connect people with nature.

State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Basil Seggos said the partnership between DEC, Windham Area Recreation Foundation and the Adirondack Mountain Club exemplifies what can be accomplished when community organizations are united in protecting and enhancing shared natural resources.

“With the buildout of multi-use trails now complete at Elm Ridge, the public now has more than 25 miles of trails to explore in this Wild Forest,” Seggos said in a statement.

The $23,000 project was funded by the DEC’s Trail Supporter Patch program, federal funds and the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. The funding enabled the DEC and the Adirondack Mountain Club, or ADK, professional crews to constructed a majority of the trail, Seggos said.

The idea to expand the trail system originated after the Catskill Forest Preserve Master Plan was revised, Foundation President Nick Bove said. The organization worked on a two-mile stretch of trails that were added this summer.

“Once that was revised we rolled up our sleeves to work with the DEC to make it [the trail] into a mountain bike destination,” Bove said.

The work was completed by the Foundation’s professional trail crew and the DEC paid for the pressure-treated wood used to build a quarter-mile boardwalk over wetlands, Bove said. Pressure-treating wood inhibits rot and can last up to 50 years.

“WARF probably brought in 30 volunteers to carry all the wood — literally tons and tons of pressure-treated wood,” Bove said.

“The DEC paid for the wood and WARF paid for its crew members to do the construction for the project, which took about 14 weeks to construct and cost WARF about $30,000,” Bove said.

“They’re building the trail with no machines,” Bove said of the Foundation crew. “WARF did 100 percent of the work.”

The Elm Ridge Trail is not connected to the Windham Path but Bove hopes it will be in the future. Bove said multi-use paths are built in a manner respectful to the environment and has high sustainability.

“The simple truth is after all the research that has been done, these trails have very little impact on water quality or environmental impact,” Bove said. “That’s because they’re constructed properly without puddling, without erosion issues.”

The Foundation is looking to expand paths on Mt. Hayden, which has 800 acres of state land across Route 23 from the Elm Ridge Wild Forest, for next spring, and Bove said trails like the Windham Path help to bring in visitors who then spend money in the area’s restaurants and hotels.

“You see towns all over the United States doing it for that reason,” Bove said. “We’re very excited about that.”

The Adirondack staff is under contract with the DEC to perform trail work across the state and specifically in the Catskills and the Adirondack Park, Adirondack Chief Operating Officer Wes Lampman said.

“We concentrate on those two areas for the most part,” Lampman said.

Adirondack started working with the DEC on the expansion in 2007 and were brought in by former DEC Forester Frank Parks, Lampman said. Adirondack staff did work on the trails’ drainage and waterbar, a construction feature to prevent erosion.

“We formalized the trails which are now referred to as the fun loops,” Lampman said. “We did the design work and grubbed the tread.”

Adirondack staff worked each summer between 2007 and 2015 on seven miles of trail and 72 rock steps. It was a slow process to build up the trails because much of the work was done with hand tools, Lampman said.

“Trail work is measured in feet, not in miles,” Lampman said.

Adirondack’s work brought them together with the Foundation on a newer section of trails. Much of the work on the new trails was performed by Foundation staff and volunteers.

“Everything else was pretty much done by the ADK crews,” Lampman said. “Any trail, it doesn’t matter where or what it is, it’s a collaborative effort.”

Once Adirondack works on trails, its representatives will conduct an annual patrol that involves cleaning out an existing structures, Lampman said.

“That’s part of the annual maintenance we try to do every spring,” Lampman said.

As of Monday, Adirondack staff have been in contact with DEC Region 4 Forester Brian Ellis about projects in the area, Lampman said. Last year, Adirondack worked with the DEC on a trail surrounding Kaaterskill Falls.

“We might be spending some time there buttoning up a few odds and ends,” Lampman said. 

Windham Town Supervisor Robert Pelham said while there’s no such thing as an overnight success, he has noticed full parking lots for the town’s trails. Many of the area’s visitors are coming up for a day. “Is it a destination right now? No, but it could be,” Pelham said. “Winter’s sold, so we’ve got to sell summer.”

To reach reporter Daniel Zuckerman email or follow him on Twitter @DZuckerman_CGM.