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DEC touts efforts after report says High Peaks trails need ‘major work’

October 5, 2018
By JUSTIN A. LEVINE - Outdoors Writer ( , Lake Placid News

RAY BROOK - In September, the Adirondack Council released a preliminary report saying that the High Peaks and surrounding areas have at least 130 miles of trail that need "major work."

The report said that in addition to the 130 miles of trail it deemed to be in need of "significant redesign, reconstruction and/or repair," all of the 250-plus miles of trails in the High Peaks need annual maintenance.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation, which is the steward for all Forest Preserve lands, recently responded to this newspaper's requests for information on its trail work programs.

"DEC has funded a five person trail crew in the High Peaks Wilderness for the last two construction seasons and has three interior caretakers that work in the High Peaks region. These staff work on a number of different maintenance activities, with trail maintenance a large part of their day to day responsibilities," DEC spokeswoman Lori Severino wrote in an email. "DEC also has a large number of seasonal and permanent staff to maintain all its facilities including maintenance of trails and trail related facilities during the contraction season.

"DEC has more than 100 Volunteer Stewardship Agreements in the Adirondack Park. These volunteers are an essential part of DEC's land maintenance. They help maintain all types trails and trail related facilities: hiking, snowmobiling, skiing and equestrian trails, lean-tos and pit privies."

The three backcountry caretakers Severino mentioned are stationed at DEC Interior Outposts in the High Peaks at Johns Brook, Lake Colden and Marcy Dam. The VSAs are with groups like Barkeater Trails Alliance, which maintains the Jackrabbit Ski Trail and mountain bike trails in the Wilmington area.

In addition to the DEC staff, the department has trail work contracts with the Adirondack Mountain Club and the Student Conservation Association.

"DEC currently has an annual contract with the Adirondack Mountain Club (ADK) for 50 weeks of trail work divided up between the four Forest Preserve Regions," the DEC said. "In a typical year the Adirondacks get 30 weeks of work. This year, crews will have worked in the High Peaks region for 17 weeks.

"DEC also has a contract with Student Conservation Association (SCA) who provides three crews of six people for five months every summer from May to October. These crews start with training and then work on a variety of different projects including, but not limited to, trail maintenance, campsite development, invasive species control and improving access for people with disabilities."

According to the DEC, last year the SCA improved dozens of miles of trails, including 7.23 miles of new trail constructed; 21.2 miles of improved trails; 23 spanning bridges and 27 bog bridges built; 200 feet of suspension bridge replaced in Avalanche Pass; and 40 stone water bars, stepping stones and staircases.

In DEC's Region 5, trail crews made improvements at OK Slip Falls, at Catamount Mountain, Silver Lake Mountain, on the Northville-Placid Trail, and several sections of mountain bike trails in the Wilmington Wild Forest.



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