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Trail association finishes off 2020

Submitted photo Volunteers from the Allegany National Forest Chapter of the North Country Trail Association are pictured on their first day hike in Tracy Ridge. Second, Mike Toole cuts a slab of lumber with the Alaskan sawmill. The slabs were then cut into smaller lengths to use as the tread boards on the Spring Bridge.

The Allegany National Forest Chapter of the North Country Trail Association completed its last group trail work day of 2020 recently.

Even with COVID-19 restrictions in place this year, the volunteerism of trail adopters, trail walkers and work day attendees allowed 97 miles of trail to be kept in great condition.

Over the last year, 158 volunteers participated at 16 trail work days. Throughout the year, forty trail adopters diligently checked and made improvements on their own trail segments. Other hikers helped out by clearing trail as they moved through the forest or by submitting trail reports of problems they encountered.

The North Country National Scenic Trail (NCNST), administered by the National Park Service, runs about 5,000 miles from Vermont to North Dakota. The Allegheny National Forest Chapter of the North Country Trail Association works on maintaining the 97 miles of the NCNST that passes through the forest.

To help do so, the ANF Chapter holds bimonthly trail work days. Volunteers enjoy fellowship and fun out on the trail, while making a significant impact in the quality of the North Country Trail. Trail work days involve routine maintenance such as mowing and brush cutting, along with projects like water diversion work, placing signs or building bridges and shelters.

Many building projects were tackled this year. Two new shelters were erected, for a total of seven completed of nine planned shelters. The Cherry Run shelter was built as an Eagle Scout project by Storm Sivak and Boy Scout Troop 8 of Warren and funded by United Refining Company. Funds provided by a bequest from Rick Hiemenz, U.S.F.S. engineer to the Keystone Trails Association allowed the ANF Chapter to construct the second shelter located at Chapel Fork.

Another project was the rebuilding of the Spring Bridge, south of FR 449. This bridge was built with lumber harvested from new downfall. Other projects included rebuilding two staircases, installing five new bog bridges, replacing the railings or boards on over ten bridges and repairing two informational kiosks.

To make the trail easier to follow, the southernmost 25 miles of trail was reblazed with blue paint, and a dozen carsonite post trail markers were installed. The trail was also improved with the building of two switchbacks that reduced the grade of the trail, seven small reroutes to alleviate drainage issues and the addition of another campsite.

Finally, routine maintenance was done. Downfall was removed along the length of the trail. Many areas were cleared several times. Two thirds of the 97 miles was mowed or brush cut. The chapter now has four Stihl brush cutters, and took on the goal of cutting all the miles by the end of next year. That will save the need for endless lopping of seedlings, especially beech. Plans are to brush cut those seedlings every 4-5 years. In between, the chapter will continue to cut back briars and perennials. Along with downfall and brush, countless drainages were cleared along the trail.

The pandemic unfortunately caused the cancellation of most guided hikes and the premier event, the Allegheny-100 Hiking Challenge. The Association is hopeful that 2021 will be a better year, allowing members to bring more outdoor enthusiasts together.

For more information visit northcountrytrail.org/trail/pennsylvania/allegheny-national-forest/, email anf@northcountrytrail.org or search on Facebook.

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