Students and outdoor clubs improve trails in Colton’s Stone Valley
Thursday, November 7, 2013 - 12:14 pm

Volunteer maintenance workers set out for a weekend on the trails of Stone Valley. Photo by John Barron

COLTON -- On a recent weekend more than 50 students from area colleges and many local residents performed a maintenance “blitz” on the Stone Valley Trail along the Raquette River in Colton.

The trail, established in the 1970s, requires regular maintenance, and current trail coordinator Mark Simon of SUNY Potsdam’s Wilderness Education program keeps in close contact with other schools in the area and outdoor clubs including the St. Lawrence Mountain Bike Association (SLMBA) the Laurentian Chapter of the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) to organize the fall maintenance effort.

Two crews of students from the Wilderness Education program tackled a stretch of the East Side River Trail, which has an extremely steep sideways slope toward the fast-moving, powerful river some 50 feet below, a safety hazard that was compounded by many slippery tree roots crossing the trail. The crews broke up and removed many of the roots using pulaskis (special tools resembling an ax and an adze, originally developed for wilderness firefighting); placed large tree trunks on the downhill side to provide a base; and filled in the trail with gravel, sand, and earth. After several hours’ work, the treacherous slant was replaced by level, high-quality trail.

The crews climbed back up the slope to the Lenny Road and set off for their afternoon assignments, grabbing a sandwich on the way. A couple of the more experienced Wilderness Education students assumed the role of student crew leaders for some projects at the south end of the trail near the Colton fire station, where they were joined by a large crew from the faculty of Environmental Studies.

Some students moved down the trail rectifying single-point or short-stretch problems on the trail. These included, for example, widening the trail where it ran along the side of a steep embankment and creating drainage channels to prevent pooling of water on the trail. One crew refurbished a long, low-level “bog bridge” that crosses a low point of the trail. A number of bridge deck planks had rotted to the point of being dangerous. These were removed with crowbars and new planks were shaped to fit and nailed into place.

Other crews were out simultaneously working on other projects. A few students and area residents cleaned up trash along the Lenny Road. A crew from SUNY Canton joined Ben Yandeau in continuing a summer of work that has gone into building a new mountain bike trail on county land adjacent Stone Valley. Bob Dowman and a SLMBA crew carried out maintenance of a mountain bike trail on The Ledges, an area high above the river on the east side of the Lenny Road.

Work continued on into Sunday. The second day’s activities focused on general maintenance, including removal of unwanted brush from the sides of trails in some places, and in other places the deliberate placement of brush to conceal unwanted paths and discourage access that would cause erosion. The work ended