Wampum-tastic is the word I had to make up to describe all of the positive things that are happening with the Chapter and the North Country Trail within our range. Better settle in, perhaps get a beverage, because this post is going to be pretty extensive, talking about a bunch of good stuff that’s happening. I apologize in advance for being long- keyboarded, but there’s so much good news to report!
First of all, Bob Cody told us in an email that the Tuesday-morning crew has been running strong, with plans to get out again this coming week to continue whipping the Cemex section into shape. He also mentioned that the highway signs we’ve been working towards were installed this week. That is awesome!
A few years ago some of the discussion amongst Wampum chapter members was around the subject of how to better promote the North Country Trail and build awareness of the trail’s course through the area. A suggestion was made that NCTA signs be placed on the abandoned cement bridge over Rt. 18, (the trail’s course) – somewhat along the lines of the signs on the bridge over 422 just west of Moraine State Park. The kind of signs that provoke some wonder about a National Scenic trail, where it “goes” exactly. It was thought to be a decent idea and one worth pursuing, and then the discussion turned to how to accomplish that goal. The question was answered when Gail Blakely put in the time and effort to write a grant proposal (on a VERY short deadline) for a PA DCED grant, working with State Representative Jaret Gibbons in securing funds for the signing.
Once funding was in place for “signs” the questions of “specifically what kind of sign?”, “from whom?”, and “how to get it on the bridge?” came to the forefront, at which point Chapter President Lee Fairbanks stepped up to find some answers. Over a period of months Lee spent much time on the phone coordinating with PennDot, the owners of the bridge, and the sign company working out the details. Issues of liability and the long-term prospects for that bridge changed the sign type from a hanging-on-a-bridge sign to a 55-MPH-highway sign right beside it. And, as it turned out, the cost involved in that new type of signing was low enough to allow us to put another set at the other major highway crossing within our range – on PA Rt. 251 at the Ohio/Pennsylvania border.
It all came together last week and the signs are in place and looking great. Thanks to Gail and Lee for all of the hard work involved. Some photos of the signs are here. There are also some pictures from the NCTA booth at the Ellwood City Earth Day Festival and from recent trail work at Watt’s Mill.
Speaking of trail work, your Sunday crew of Bill Majernik, Cathy and Dennis Garrett, and Eleanor and Lee Fairbanks and I worked through a light drizzle for a couple of hours to get all six of the shelter foundation stones rolled into place, set, leveled, and squared up. We’re ready to build a backpacking shelter alongside the North Fork of Little Beaver Creek! Our project manager on this one (Lee) has us on track to install and secure the floor sections next Sunday evening, and then the next Saturday, May 15th, Julie Elkins, our Pennsylvania State Communications Coordinator, will be bringing an AmeriCorps crew out to help the chapter with the actual shelter raising, and then they’ll join us for a “pot luck picnic.”
The last Wampum-tastic(!!) experience of the week was receiving EXCELLENT news from Dennis Garrett. Several months ago he and Lee went to the courthouse and obtained copies of plat maps for the area adjacent to Gamelands 285 and the North Fork of Little Beaver Creek, along with the names of the property owners. Dennis told us today that two of the landowners have granted us permission to build NCT across their properties. Mrs. Kirkwood owns the farm right beside the Gamelands, and Mr. Caler owns the piece beside hers. I know that Dennis put a lot of thought, time, and effort into contacting these landowners and talking to them about the trail, getting them to buy into the idea of helping facilitate a 4600 mile footpath from North Dakota to Crown Point in New York. WAMPUM-TASTIC! Also appreciate Andrew Bashaw’s input and advice on the processes involved in bringing new landowners on board.
I’ve edited the area map (via Google) here with a yellow line to show (generally) where we can potentially build new trail. We’ve yet to walk these properties as we didn’t want to trespass in case we weren’t welcome, but now we’re looking forward to getting out there soon to check out the possibilities (and challenges) of a new mile-long section of woods trail along the creek. With this permission granted we can eliminate somewhere around another mile or so of road walk. On to Darlington!
I hope you are as excited reading about all of the good things going on as I have been in writing about it this evening. Appreciate everything everyone does for the trail!
(Written by Dave Brewer, Wampum Chapter- 5/2/10)