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Paving the way

Stakeholders come together to improve trail

Photo submitted to Times Observer The North Country Trail connector to Chapman State Park on State Game Lands 29 is closed in July at the beginning of a project to improve about one-quarter mile of trail that had been damaged.

After someone got a truck stuck on the railroad grade trail along West Branch Tionesta Creek outside of Chapman State Park, the trail was in need of some work.

It was a high-value restoration project — that section of trail connects the park with the North Country National Scenic Trail and is used for dog sled races at Winterfest.

So, some local groups got together to get the job done.

“About a year ago, there was an instance where somebody got a vehicle down there in hunting season and got stuck in the Game Lands,” Wes Ramsey of Penn Soil RC&D (Resource Conservation and Development) said. “They tried to come all the way down into Chapman State Park and didn’t realize there was a gate.”

The driver started to back out, but got stuck less than one-quarter mile in. That section of the trail ended up with “a constant maintenance issue,” Ramsey said.

Photo submitted to Times Observer Stone from Pennsylvania Game Commission pits is placed on geotextile as a base for the new trail surface for the North Country Trail connector to Chapman State Park on State Game Lands 29.

“It’s a pretty important recreational corridor,” he said. “A lot of people hike it and bike it. The North Country Trail is about five miles” away.

The Tionesta Valley Snowmobile Club had a vested interest.

“We use that for the sled dog races” at Winterfest, TVSC President Ed Atwood said.

The trail used to share a name with the group.

The trail follows the old Tionesta Valley Railroad, he said. “This is the last part that was real railroad grade.”

“Ed was one of the primary people that brought this to my attention,” Ramsey said. “We got a group of partners together and said, ‘Let’s see if we can get a plan together to improve this section of the trail.'”

Penn Soil, TVSC, the Allegheny Outdoor Club, the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and Chapman were involved, with support from Rep. Kathy Rapp and Sen. Scott Hutchinson, and funding from a Northwest Commission Greenways Grant and matching funds from private donors including United Refining Co., the Allegheny National Forest Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, the Community Foundation of Warren County, and National Fuel Gas.

The grant was awarded to Penn Soil in the amount of $15,407, he said. The total project cost was about $19,000, with 20 percent local match.

Atwood said the main problem was about 800 feet of the trail located on State Game Lands 29.

The Game Commission provided the heavy equipment and operators for much of the work.

Especially with the recent dredging of Chapman Lake, sediment control was an important part of the job.

“It was a tough spot with drainage coming off the hill,” Ramsey said. “We did a lot of work on erosion and sediment control.”

Geotextile was used to prevent the mixing of the existing trail material with new materials.

An 8- to 10-inch layer of stone — from the Game Commission pit nearby — was put on top of that geotextile as a road base, Ramsey said.

The final top coat is made of trail surface aggregate.

“We wanted to put down a pretty nice surface that would match the trail coming out of Chapman,” Ramsey said.

He was familiar with the previous work.

“Penn Soil did the original grant for that trail 10 or 12 years ago,” he said.

Atwood was there, too. “Penn Soil and Tionesta Valley Snowmobile Club did that portion about 10 years ago,” he said.

For the current project, “we special ordered trail surface aggregate,” Ramsey said. “It’s a pretty interesting mix. It will seem like asphalt. It’s limestone. We had six truck-loads of that.”

Like cement, the aggregate is a mixture of limestone chips and fine material that is mixed with water to create a hard surface.

Overall, the work took several weeks.

“We started in the last week in July,” Ramsey said. “We closed the trail for several weeks to try to keep people off.”

The trail work was completed last week seeding and mulching were finished on Monday, he said.

The material has had a chance to dry and the trail is now open for use.

There is one final part of the project.

“We want to put a nice sign out there to recognize all the partners in the project,” Ramsey said.

“The Allegheny Outdoor Club was proud to be a part of this collaborative effort to restore a damaged trail that many different recreationists make use of,” Allegheny Outdoor Club Special Projects Coordinator Bill Massa said.

“It’s a good deal,” Atwood said. “I’m proud of it. It’s going to be a big plus for Winterfest.”

“I think it’s a great addition to Warren County,” he said. “A lot of people are going to enjoy it.”

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