Written by Nick Olson – NFCT 14 week Stewardship Intern from SUNY Cortland
The Waterway Work Trip and Intern season kicked off with the most challenging project of the summer. The first week at Franklin Falls would act as training for the interns. We learned how to set stone steps, how to set up and use a Griphoist to move big rocks, proper use and maintenance of our tools, and much more. During the training Dan Levy from the Department of Environmental Conservation came out to the site with a truck and trailer to help us quarry rocks from across the road and move them to where the staircase would be installed. He was a huge help throughout the project and we truly appreciate the oversight, resources, and motivating personality he brought along. I think it was a valuable experience for the interns to see how a non-profit organization collaborates with other agencies to achieve their mission and vision. After a long hard week of rock, grip hoist, and tool training the interns tossed and turned in anticipation of the first volunteer’s arrival.
We had two lovely volunteers join us for the weekend, Brian and Cathy. The weekend consisted of setting more stone for the stairs and planting saplings around the lake. Brian is an engineer and had a unique way of looking at the staircase. It seemed that things went smoother when Brian was helping with the stairs. Cathy must have some gardening background because she had a lot of good input about how to plant the trees to ensure their survival. Brian and Cathy were great people to work with and a positive way to start the Waterway Work Trips. After parting ways, Cathy and Brian were generous enough to donate a dutch oven to the intern crew. The dutch oven saw a lot of gourmet meals throughout the rest of the summer.
After everyone’s blood, sweat, tears, and peeling skin (courtesy of a 2nddegree sunburn) went into the staircase it came out beautifully. It was great to hear all the praise of paddlers, fishermen, and campers and how much the staircase was appreciated. It seems to me you can’t truly value stairs, bridges, or other man-made trail features until you have gone through the process of building them firsthand. So much planning, organizing, transporting, and constructing goes into even the smallest of projects. These projects have really opened my eyes to the effort that goes into trails and their maintenance.