by Ed Lawrence, KTA Trail Care Coordinator
The Tracy Ridge Trail system, in northwest Pennsylvania, is a network of over 20 miles of hiking-only and cross-country-skiing-only trails in a designated national recreation area of the Allegheny National Forest (ANF) bordering the Allegheny Reservoir. Popular with day hikers and backpackers from the tristate area (Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York), the trail system interconnects with the North Country Trail (NCT) at 5 junctions and offers the option to make a number of varying-length loop hikes.
Recently there was a proposal (now withdrawn) to open sections of the trail system to mountain biking. One rationale for the proposal was that there were long-deferred, ongoing maintenance needs on the trail system that, so it was claimed, only mountain bike groups could adequately address. In comments opposing the change, KTA’s Trail Care Program pointed out that the ANF had never requested assistance from our hiker-based volunteer organization to help tackle the trail system needs. With that as background, Tracy Ridge was added to this year’s Trail Care schedule.
On Friday, July 13, 4 chainsaw crews set out from the Tracy Ridge Campground to begin clearing the accumulated backlog of blowdowns and deadfalls that crossed all sections of the trail system. Thanks to the diligent work of 2 certified sawyers associated with the NCT and 2 others associated with KTA, all main branches of the trail were cleared by the end of the day. The Johnnycake Run Trail alone had more than 120 obstructions that needed to be cut and removed. With that good work accomplished, only 1 hardworking crew was needed on Saturday to finish sawing through the interior loops, which allowed a brushcutting crew to open over 2 miles of trail corridor and also allowed some targeted lopping to be done. By late Saturday afternoon, the trail system had been entirely cleared of hundreds of blowdowns and deadfalls, some of which had been on the trail for years.
Volunteers willing to take the time to work on trails for the general benefit of the hiking community make this type of response possible. Thanks to David Kazmierczak, Joe Hardisky, and Tina and Mike Toole from the NCT Association for their good work. Kirk Johnson, of the Friends of Allegheny Wilderness, and KTA regulars Tom Bastian, Wanda Shirk, and Ed Lawrence rounded out the crew members. All told, the crew logged a total of 107 hours of work on the trail system. The work of these volunteers has improved the hiking experience for everyone who uses the trail.
For more information on the Tracy Ridge Trail System, click HERE.
Keystone Trails Association