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.