CHESTERFIELD — Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine hopes to raise about $125,000 to renovate the Ranger Trail, staving off closure of the path that winds up the fire-tower-topped mountain.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Taylor Pond Unit Management Plan of 2011 recommended that, due to a lack of funding, the trail should be shut down.
The report labeled the path “unsustainable” or “unmanageable,” a rationale based on findings that the steep trail had several sections that had been eroding.
DEC does not have the funds available to repair the trail, and, unless they come from another source, is expected to close it in 2016, when the Management Plan terminates.
Two eroded sections of the pathway, which originates at the DEC campground on Route 9, have already been stabilized, but many other stretches need remediation, including some that require professional attention.
The Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine group aims to raise the funds by 2018, the centennial year of the tower.
The Observers Trail also climbs the mountain — it is longer, less steep and follows an old jeep trail that the observers used in the summer to watch for fires from the summit’s tower.
The trailhead for that path is located about a half mile south of the campground on Route 9.
One of the rationales for keeping the Ranger Trail viable lies in its historical significance, which according to Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine, was first used by abolitionist leader Abel Brown in the 1840s.
The Ranger Trail is shorter, more of a challenge and offers panoramic views as it ascends the cliffs. It also features immense botanical diversity, as well as exposed geological specimens.
Most likely hikers would continue to follow the trail even if it were officially closed, Friends members say, so safety is another reason to repair it.
For that purpose, as well sustaining the route, the cost and efforts of the renovation would be worth it, they say.
“(Adirondack Mountain Club) trail crews have been building and rebuilding trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills for the past 30 years,” said David Thomas-Train, spokesperson for Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine.
“They generally contract with DEC for major projects, and they have submitted a design and work plan to DEC for this project.
“We have turned (the Ranger Trail) into an interpretive trail, and we have proposed linking it with the Observers Trail, where we have done mammal tracking hikes, so there could be a circular hiking loop.”
So far, Thomas-Train said, donations have come from individuals.
“But we have a foundation grant pending and plan to pursue other foundations, as well as annual matching trail grants from the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation.
The group’s target goal for its five-year fundraising effort is $25,000 each year.
The 2013 total exceeded that figure, coming in at $25,795, he said.
“DEC has the project application, and we are hoping to have it approved for a work start late this summer.
“They have a big backlog, however, so we will keep fundraising until they have approved it. They have indicated that it’s approvable, but it’s a question of when they get to it.”
The tower is open five days a week from mid June to early September. The trails are open year-round, though caution is advised, especially during the winter months.
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HOW TO HELP
Send donations to help renovate Ranger Trail to: Friends of Poke-O-Moonshine, c/o AARCH, 1745 Main St., Keeseville, NY 12944.
For more information, email David Thomas-Train at firstname.lastname@example.org.