Tag Archives: trails

Happy Trails to You from State Parks

People love New York’s trails! Did you know that State Parks has more than 2,000 miles of trails across the state? And that merchandise featuring trail markers is among the top sellers at the Parks online store?

T-shirts with State Parks trail markers are some of the items sold online in the Parks store.

More people than ever have been using Parks trails during the past ten years, especially during the recent pandemic, as being outdoors offered safe and healthy recreation when some other venues weren’t available. With so many trails, there is always lots of work to do for our trail crews, staff, and non-profit partners to maintain, improve and expand our network. Let’s take a tour of some of what’s been done recently.

To help find your way on the trail, check out the Parks’ Explorer app for smartphones and mobile devices. Available for both iOS and Android devices, the free app offers a range of useful information, including trail maps and a real-time location function that allows users to easily follow along on the park’s map.

Capital Improvements


To help support some of its trail work, each year Parks receives funding through the state budget as part of the NY Works capital program. Some of the program’s largest funded trails projects over the past five years include:

  • $500,000 for the Backcountry Trails Program to repair and restore trails in the Hudson Highlands of our Taconic and Palisades Regions.
  • $400,000 to restore hiking, skiing, equestrian, and snowmobile trails in Allegany State Park in western New York.
  • $250,000 to repair stonework and restore the scenic gorge trail of the Finger Lakes Region.
  • $200,000 for improvements to park trails across the Saratoga-Capital Region.
  • $175,000 for region-wide trail projects in the Thousand Island trails.

Crews working under the Backcountry Trails Program (BCTP) have spent years rehabilitating miles of trail in Hudson Highlands and Sterling Forest State Parks. The program engages AmeriCorps volunteer service members to learn and apply highly skilled trail building techniques from April through October each year.

This past season more than 2,000 feet of trail were rehabilitated and more than 140 stone steps installed on the Washburn and Undercliff Trails in Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve in the Hudson Valley. In the Palisades Region, miles of trail have been added and improved on the very popular multi-use trail system at Sterling Forest State Park. 2022 will mark the ninth year of the BCTP implementing high-quality trail construction projects in our facilities.

A backcountry trails crew works at Hudson Highlands State Park.

Accessible Trails


The Universal Trail Assessment Process (UTAP) project has so far assessed 40 trails in State Parks with a goal of identifying those that could be made accessible for persons with disabilities. Funded through a Federal grant, the project completed its third year of field assessments to find  trails that meet or have the potential to meet federal standards for accessibility.

Learn more about this project in a previous post on the NYS Parks Blog HERE

Partner Projects


On July 1st, the ribbon was cut on the new Nimham Trail in Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve, which was completed in partnership with the Hudson Highlands Fjord Trail organization. Named for the last Mohican chief in the Hudson Valley, this new trail allows for an easier ascent and safer descent to the popular Breakneck Ridge – but it’s still a challenge! This new trail has over 600 stone steps and climbs 600 feet of elevation in less than a mile. Images below of the the Ninham Trail show, left to right, new stairs, a trail information map, and a new bridge.

In Clarence Fahnestock State Park Preserve, the Open Space Institute (OSI) broke ground on a sustainable multi-purpose loop trail suitable for hiking, biking, and equestrian use. More than 5.5 miles of new or rehabilitated trail have been created as well as two bridges, four boardwalks, and two turnpikes. As a complement to this project, West Point engineering cadets designed and built a multi-use arched bridge to traverse a mountain stream. This is the fifth bridge constructed in partnership with OSI and West Point on the Hubbard-Perkins project.

Cadets from the U.S. military academy at West Point put the finishing touches on their new bridge in the Hudson Highlands State Park Preserve.

Interns from the Hudson Valley AmeriCorps of the Student Conservation Association (SCA) had their annual Patriot Day of Service project at Sam’s Point in Minnewaska State Park Preserve. This two-day project created a new 72-foot section of bog-bridge on the Verkeerder Kill Falls Footpath. The popular trail passes through the globally rare dwarf pitch pine barrens and has seen increased use in the past five years. Pictured below, the bog bridges will help mitigate user impacts by keeping hikers’ feet out of wet areas and on the designated path.

Parks Regional Trail Crews Deliver


Saratoga-Capital Region

In 2021 at John Boyd Thacher State Park, trail crews repaired trail, replaced timber steps, and build rock crib-wall on the area’s most hiking popular trail, the Indian Ladder Trail. In Peebles Island State Park, trails were upgraded with new surfacing material and drainage improvements, as well as new trail markers and intersection signage added for safety.  Trails at John Brown Farm State Historic Site in the Adirondacks were overhauled and signage was installed to improve wayfinding.


Finger Lakes

Crews at Buttermilk Falls State Park installed a 56-foot prefabricated fiberglass bridge and set up high-line rigging to lift the bridge into place over Buttermilk Creek. The new crossing now connects hikers safely from the parking lot to the trail by eliminating a hazardous road crossing. Click on the slideshow below to observe the project…

At Chimney Bluffs State Park, the Bluff Trail leading to the visually stunning bluff overlooking Lake Ontario was rerouted this year after being closed since May 2018 due to safety concerns. This project established a new sustainable trail route away from the heavily eroded bluff edge and constructed 170 timber stairs, multiple erosion control features, and added a 225-foot wooden boardwalk to raise the trail over the forest floor.

More than 680 stone and timber steps were installed at Stony Brook State Park to rehabilitate heavily eroded trail sections at the north and south entrances to the park’s main trail.

More than 700 feet of boardwalks and foot bridges were installed throughout the trail system at Ganondagan State Historic Site to replace worn out sections.

Before and After: A new boardwalk at Ganondagan State Historic Site.

Central Region

At Green Lakes State Park, the Green Lake Trail was resurfaced and received drainage improvements over the past three years. Crews also completed a full signage and wayfinding upgrade with a total of 316 new trailhead, intersection, and informational signs, all designed in-house and produced at the regional sign shop.

Thousand Island Region

More than 1.5 miles of new trail were added to Keewaydin State Park. Crews also performed seasonal maintenance on more than 16 miles of trails region-wide and constructed new trail structures including:

Working for the Future


Parks is also keeping an eye on the future for its trails. In our Albany office, planners in the Division of Environmental Stewardship and Planning (DESP) set a roadmap for future trail work through the completion of  the Statewide Greenway Trails Plan which was signed for adoption by Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid in April 2021.

With over 2,000 additional miles across New York, these multi-use greenway trails, like the Empire State Trail and others, are a popular amenity and serve as a critical component of both recreation and transportation. The completed Greenway Trails Plan will be a resource for trail managers and advocates to expand the state’s greenway trail network over the next decade.

Whether it’s hiking, snowshoeing, cycling, Nordic skiing, horseback riding, or even snowmobiling, there’s a trail for you in State Parks. See for yourself all the great work done by our trails crews and partners as you get out into nature’s beauty!

Happy Trails to You from NYS Parks! Come see our work!

Cover Shot: A new bridge built by State Parks trail crews at the Ganondagan State Historic Site. All images by NYS Parks.

Post by Chris Morris, Statewide Trails Program Planner, NYS Parks

Resources


Learn more about the many trails in State Parks across New York in our popular “Get Out and Explore” Blog series:

During winter when there is snowcover, State Parks also offer a variety of trails suitable for cross-country skiing. Find out more in this previous post in the NYS Park Blog.


Trails at more than 30 State Parks are also available for snowmobiling during winter. Click HERE for a listing.

Trail Work: Excelsior Conservation Corps Helps out at Hamlin Beach State Park

Recently, members of the Excelsior Conservation Corps (ECC), an AmeriCorps program, visited Hamlin Beach State Park to help the staff with some major trail maintenance projects. The ECC is a partnership between State Parks, the Department of Conservation, the Environmental Facilities Corporation, and the Student Conservation Association. The members in this program range from ages 18-25, and have learned skills and methods in conservation and preservation of the environment. While working at Hamlin Beach, for nine days, the ECC crewmembers were given projects to work on at various trail sites.

The first area the crewmembers worked on was the Devil Nose Trail. This trail is located right next to some very high cliffs and had been closed off for a while due to storm damage. The team was given the task to help re-route a portion of the trail, so that it would be further from the edge of the cliffs. They also needed to widen the full route to 8 ft. so that a small all-terrain vehicle could drive through it in order to bring woodchips onto the path. The original trail was very uneven and hard to follow, so the goal was to create a nice finished and flatter area to walk on.

After clearing away leaves and moving the dirt aside to widen the section of the pre-existing trail, the crewmembers followed the newly flagged route to create a new trail corridor using chainsaws, and tools such as hard rakes, pick mattocks and Mcleods. The chainsaws were used to cut up fallen trees so they could be move away from the trails or used along the trail edge. The other tools were used to move dirt, sand, leaves and smaller sticks to level the path.

HamlinTrailBefore
A section of Devil’s Nose Trail before they cleared it away, photo by the ECC.

After the trail was cleared away, the Parks’ maintenance staff dumped piles of woodchips throughout the trail, and then the ECC members spread them out with rakes.

HamlinTrailWoodchips
Section of the Devil’s Nose trail completed with wood chips, photo by the ECC.

Once the half-mile long of Devil’s Nose Trail was completed, the ECC crewmembers were asked to work on maintaining a small short loop trail over by the campground. After walking the area, they marked off which trees were hazardous and needed to be taken down with a chainsaw. In the beginning of the trail the team noticed that there was a trail turnpike, but the area right after it was very muddy. Help was needed.

HamlinTrailECCWorking
Two ECC crewmembers working on using the chainsaw to cut the ends of the lumber to match the ends of the lumber on the pre-existing turnpike, photo by the ECC.

The purpose of a turnpike is to raise the trail surface out of a muddy or wet area to make the trail better to walk on. It consists of two short pieces of lumber that are laid down going across a trail. They are buried about 3/4ths down, and serve as “sills”, for the longer lumber to sit on. The long pieces of lumber need to be cut out with a chainsaw so that there are little sections for it to fit the sill. This makes them sitting level with the ground. Once all of the pieces of wood are laid out the open, area is filled with gravel so it will provide a durable surface for hikers to walk on.

HamlinTrailTurnpike
The turnpike in the process of being set into the sills, photo by the ECC.

The ECC members created a new section of turnpike completely from scratch. They searched for the lumber among the trees just cut down and had to actually de-bark the trees before the construction began. They then measured everything out and set up the pieces of wood to match the previously made turnpike. In the end the turnpike turned out to be 14 feet long!

HamlinTrailTurnpikeDone
The finished turnpike. The new addition is the last section furthest away in the picture, photo by the ECC.

This is one of many projects the ECC has worked on this summer. They also helped remove invasive species at Ganondagan State Historic Site and make a new trail at Mine Kill State Park.  State Parks is grateful for the help ECC provides in our parks and historic sites.

ECC is recruiting for the 2019 season. If you would like to join the crew, follow this link for more information.

Post by Amber Goodman, ECC

 

First Saturday Hikes in the Finger Lakes Region

Each year in the Finger Lakes ten hikes are offered throughout the region on the first Saturday of each month.  Hikes are led by Parks staff or Parks interns and are offered at different locations each month and vary in length (3-5 miles) and difficulty.   As leaders, we try to keep everyone together during the hikes as much as possible but with group size ranging from 2-50, variable terrain and different fitness levels we sometimes get spread out until we take a rest and regroup.   We encourage everyone to attend, including but not limited to families, seasoned hikers, visitors to the region, locals, groups, clubs, well behaved dogs and anyone else you can think of. There is no First Saturday hike in January because of the January 1st  First Day Hike on offered at Taughannock Falls State Park and no hike in May due to I Love My Park Day always falling on the first Saturday of May.

RTreman_Gary Cremeens
Jane Suhey from the 2017 First Saturday Educational Hike at Robert H. Treman State Park, photo courtesy of Gary Cremeens

The idea behind these hikes is to get people out exploring new parks and learning more about hiking parks while getting a little exercise.  Each hike is unique because there are sometimes different leaders and the mix of people who attend is always varied.  Both of factors shape how the hike unfolds.  We routinely discuss park history, geology, natural history, hiking basics and anything else that is relevant or sometimes topics that come from left field! Last month the temperature was in the low 40’s and there was a steady rain so we began with a discussion on hypothermia and how to tell if someone might be hypothermic.

CatherineValley_J Teeter
October 6th hike along the compact stone-dust Catherine Valley Trail (quick side trip to see Montour Falls)

The origin of this offering of hikes is linked to the 2014 First Day Hike when I first met Gary and Wendy Cremeens. After hiking five miles with me they said that they had such a good time that we should do it every month.  Their positive energy and willingness to help and support everyone around them sold me on the idea. We offered our inaugural First Saturday Hike at Buttermilk Falls State Park in February of 2015.  Gary is in the Cubs outfit in the photo below; he is usually wearing something fluorescent, almost always in shorts and when he attends, he runs around distributing the hike schedule, offering bug spray or tissues and welcomes everyone who shows up. Wendy is equally supportive and always acts as the hike sweeper so no one gets left behind.

ButtermilkFallsHikers_Wendy Cremeens
Aug 4th 2018 hike at Buttermilk Falls State Park, photo courtesy of Wendy Cremeens

Hikes are free (certain parks at certain times of year charge a parking fee) and reservations are not required but will be accepted via my email at josh.teeter@parks.ny.gov.  If you have questions about the hike location, difficulty or any other related questions, feel free to email me in advance.  The calendar of hikes can be found on the New York State Parks calendar or on Facebook by searching First Saturday Educational Hikes.

Post by Josh Teeter, State Parks

Leave No Trace on Trails

Did you know that in New York State Parks alone there are over 2,000 miles of trails? That’s a lot of hiking, biking, running, and riding!  From smooth paved paths, to steep rugged climbs, there’s a type of trail for nearly everyone. Often, trails are the only way we can get to special places like waterfalls, lakes, and mountain tops. Because trails are so popular, it’s important to know how to enjoy them responsibly so we can protect those special places for everyone.

Leave No Trace and the Seven Principles

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics is a non-profit organization that works to educate people on responsible ways to enjoy and experience the outdoors. To do this, they created the Leave No Trace Seven Principles (below) as guidelines you should follow every time you’re out in nature.

Leave No Trace Seven Principles

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

Here are some examples of how you can use the Leave No Trace Seven Principles next time you head out on a trail:

  1. Know Before You Go

Be prepared! Check the forecast and bring the right clothes for the weather. Use maps to make sure you know the route and you won’t get lost. Bring a water bottle and enough water to stay hydrated. Learn about the areas before you visit to make the most of your trip.

Kiosk
Grafton Lakes State Park kiosk.

  1. Choose The Right Path

Follow the trail!  Going off the trail damages plants and can create trails where they shouldn’t be. Read signs and follow trail markers so you won’t get lost. If you’re camping, look for a designated site to camp rather than creating a new one.

Trash
Remember to carry out your trash.

  1. Trash Your Trash

Pack out what you pack in! Don’t leave litter. Bring a baggie to store your trash and dispose of it properly when you leave. That includes food waste like apple cores and banana peels that don’t belong in nature.

TreeCarve
Carving in tree bark may harm a tree.

4. Leave What You Find

Leave plants, rocks, and other natural features as you find them for others to enjoy. Treat living things with respect; don’t pull plants, break limbs, or carve on trees.

 

 

5. Be Careful With Fire

Follow the rules and don’t build fires where they aren’t allowed. If allowed, use an existing fire ring, keep the fire small, and only use down and dead wood. When done, douse with water to make sure fires are completely out and check the coals to make sure they are cold.

No fires
Check with the park office or park map to learn where you can have a fire.

  1. Respect Wildlife

Observe animals from a distance; never approach, feed, or follow them. Human food is not healthy for animals and feeding them starts bad habits. If you bring a pet, make sure to keep them on a leash.

Wood Turtle 1 - Lilly Schelling
Watch a wood turtle from a distance, photo by Lilly Schelling

  1. Be Kind To Other Visitors

Share the trail and say hello! Have fun, but let others enjoy nature as well. Avoid loud noises and yelling. You’ll see more animals when you are quiet!

Jennifer Natali
Share the trails, photo by Jennifer Natali.

Trails are one of the best ways we can all get outside for fun, exercise, and adventure. Following the Leave No Trace Seven Principles is a great way to do your part and protect our trails and outdoor spaces for the future. To learn how you can plan for your next trail adventure, visit the State Parks Trail Tips page. For more information on Leave No Trace, visit their website.

See you on the trail!

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Reference: © 1999 by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics: www.LNT.org.

Building Bridges: the Excelsior Conservation Corps Lend State Parks a Hand at Mine Kill

Members of the Excelsior Conservation Corps (ECC) (an AmeriCorps program) recently visited Mine Kill State Park to help the State Parks staff with a few projects.  The ECC is a non-profit organization within the Student Conservation Association. The members involved in this program range from ages 18-25 and learn skills and methods on conserving and maintaining the environment. The ECC crewmembers were given the tasks of building a bridge and creating a new trail.

The members started off their workweek by focusing on rerouting the trail. The original trail was on an old tractor road. It was dangerous due to the steep slope, and would also become muddy and slippery when it rains. The ECC members chose to create a new trail that led uphill into a woodsy area.

When making a new trail “from scratch”, there are a few guidelines to follow to identify good areas for foot travel. Prior to the ECC arriving, Park staff confirmed that no sensitive resources like artifacts or rare species were present along the route. Then the ECC crew could move forward on the project.  One of the key factors is to make sure the path is a fairly flat surface with no obstacles in the way. When you’re in the middle of a wooded area, finding a natural path that meets these standards can be difficult, but the crew was able to fix a majority of the problems with the tools they brought. Another factor to keep in mind is to avoid putting a trail at the bottom of a slope, because water can collect and make it muddy and hazardous. If there is no other option than putting a trail in an area where the water pools, trail features can help diminish the impact of the water.

After the team marked off the proposed path with flagging tape on tree branches, they reviewed the route and identified needs. They brought out their tools and began digging up the dirt to make a more obvious trail. Shovels, pick mattocks, loppers and hoes are normally used for digging dirt up, picking out rocks and roots, and cutting down tree branches that are hanging over the path.

In certain areas, the path would hit a steeper slope. In order to even it out, the work crew needed to “bench” it. This required digging out a flat wall in the steep slope and dragging the dirt out to make it flatter for foot travel. This can help reduce erosion of the soil too, to make for a more durable and lasting trail.

ECC Benching
Two members of the ECC “benching” a steep path to make it flatter for hikers, taken by an ECC member.

In the end, the rerouted trail was measured to be a quarter of a mile long!

ECC Chainsaw
An ECC member using the chainsaw to cut notches into the cedar tree, taken by another ECC member.

The other project was building a 14-foot long bridge. The ECC team began the task by cutting down two cedar trees in the woods to use as an under support system for the planks. After the trees were cut down, they carried them over to the site where they used knives and axes to “debark” the trees. Cedar is resistant to rot and by peeling off a few outer layers of the cedar trees, it delays decay even further in the future, which would potentially destroy the bridge.

ecc-cedar-logs.jpg
The cedar trees cut flat so they can support the planks And you can see how Red cedar get its name

After they took off the bark, they used chainsaws to split the logs lengthwise to create flat side to lay the planks. Once the trees were flattened out and put into place, the planks were drilled and bolted to lock them onto sturdy blocks of wood on either side of the creek. Finally, they placed each short plank on the cedar rails, spaced them out evenly and drilled the planks in, completing the bridge.

Now, thanks to the work of the Excelsior Conservation Corps, Mine Kill State Park has a new improved trail route and bridge crossing ready for patrons to enjoy.

ECC Bridge
The finished 14-foot long Bridge, ready for hikers., photo by ECC members.

Post by Amber Goodman, ECC member