by Katie Wolpert
Our group of campers dwarfed the USFS trail crew and that was a good thing. The Cheat/Potomac Ranger District in the Monogahela National Forest has a three-person trail crew this summer and they are good at what they do. But a lot of what they do is more dirt and move rock and clear trail, one sweaty shovel-full at a time. So the more shovels you have moving, the more progress you make.
“We really struggle to get volunteers,” said the district’s Recreation Staff Officer Alex Schlueter. Schlueter has lots of ideas for improving the recreation opportunities in his district but reduced funding in recent years cuts hard into his ability to cover the many square miles that he serves.
Queue Mountain Stewards Summer Camps!
We show up with a dozen or more able-bodied high school students who are jazzed from spending a week together in the woods. Under the expert guidance of the trail crew suddenly the rocks really start moving. Over the course of a morning a trail appears where at first there was just a brush-hogged semi-clearing in the woods.
The Seneca Rocks Discovery Center is the heart of one of the most visited parks in West Virginia. The park boasts world-class climbing routes and a challenging but doable hike up to a deck overlooking the North Fork Valley (which our campers last year helped to repair!)
This new trail leaves directly from the Discovery Center and follows a flat grade to the confluence of Seneca Creek and the North Fork of the South Branch of the Potomac River. It ends at Roy Gap Rd. This easy and beautiful hike will be used by climbers and visitors young and old, allowing them a very accessible way to get out and explore the park. That’s our motto afterall, Get Them Outside!
Your children, our campers, who have made this trail materialize this June should be proud of the work they did to make this a reality. We hope you have a chance to come visit the trail soon.