Volunteers blaze a trail for future hikers
By Janice Steinhagen
Voluntown - posted Tue., May. 10, 2011
It was a perfect spring day in Pachaug State Forest on Saturday, May 7, with warm sunshine spilling through the tiny-leafed trees.
But the 30 or so volunteers marching into the woods at Green Falls weren’t out for a pleasure hike. Instead, they were geared up for work that would make future hikers’ days more pleasurable.
On the agenda: erecting signposts and trail maps, repainting the blue blazes that lead hikers along the trails, removing a fallen tree from a section of trail and building a footbridge in one of the state forest’s northern reaches, near Gardner Road.
The work party was organized by the Connecticut Forest and Parks Association and joined by a crew of about 10 students from Eastern Connecticut State University in Willimantic.
The CFPA is a 116-year-old, not-for-profit organization aimed at maintaining and preserving Connecticut’s natural beauty in its forests, parks, trails and open spaces. CFPA Trails Committee Chairman Rob Butterworth said that it’s the oldest non-profit environmental organization in the country.
“This is one of our big events,” Butterworth said. “It’s a way to get new volunteers and trail managers involved. It allows us to get back to the Department of Environmental Protection and work on the blue trail and other projects in the park.”
Butterworth got the day underway with a tool tutorial, explaining to volunteers the proper use and care of the shovels, loppers, saws and post hole diggers they’d be using throughout the day. He urged care with the newly-sharpened shovels and pickaxes, and demonstrated the right way to carry long-handled tools into the woods – down by the side.
“You don’t want to go in there like the Seven Dwarfs,” he said, slinging a shovel over his shoulder. If you do, and you turn to talk to someone behind you, “you can smack someone in the head.”
Fueled by the safety lecture, as well as by coffee and donut holes, the workers proceeded into the woods, carrying 4x4s, signs and bolts. The ECSU students soon discovered a universal truth about New England soil – its most prolific crop is rocks.
One work crew hit bedrock several feet down after removing some large loose stones. Their supervisor, CFPA Trail Manager Bob Andrews, directed them to hold the signpost upright and then pack large stones around it in the hole to keep it in position. The final touch: a framed map of the trail bolted to the post.
“We’ve got a good group,” said Colin Doherty, ECSU’s community service coordinator, who organized the 10 college volunteers for their trip to the woods. “We did an alternative spring break project here.” A previous group had visited Pachaug State Forest several months before, spending a school vacation weekend working on similar projects.
Elsewhere along the trail, Don Paradis of Clinton helped hold a stencil to a tree trunk, while Bob McGarry of Southbury applied a fresh coat of blue paint. The “blue blazes” (along with some orange ones) mark the trails to point the way for hikers.