By Amanda Loviza-Vickery for the Times Herald Record
Volunteers came from as far as Albany and Ithaca to give Minnewaska State Park Preserve some love during I Love My Park Day on Saturday.
With the Sam’s Point Preserve Area of the park still closed two weeks after a wildfire scorched the area, the 25 volunteers who arrived Saturday decked out in rain gear were feeling especially protective of the park where they have gone hiking, biking and rock climbing. Volunteers split up into three different projects, and spent the day clearing overgrown trails and building a new one.
Stephanie Olstad of Hurley said she and her husband thought I Love My Park Day looked like the perfect activity for their 12-year-old daughter, Sarah. The statewide event encourages volunteerism and works to bring attention to New York’s parks and historic sites.
“We love the parks and I wanted to get my daughter involved in volunteering,” Olstad said.
Sarah loves being in the middle of things, Olstad said, and her daughter agreed.
“It’s so fun,” Sarah Olstad said. “I love just helping out, being a part of something.”
Even after the rain, which stopped just as the volunteers began their work, Sarah Olstad said it was nice to be outside and working with other people.
A full week of rain only enhanced Stony Kill Falls, where the Olstads and other volunteers worked on building a new, official trail to the falls. Under the guidance of New York-New Jersey Trail Conference volunteer coordinator Dave Webber, the group went to work with pick axes and saws to clear rocks and lumber in order to give future visitors a sustainable way to visit the impressive falls. The park received a grant to build a bridge over the stream, and eventually the trail will go up the hill and connect to the Stony Kill carriage road, Webber said.
“Once this is all done, you’ll have this wonderful link back into the rest of the park,” Webber said.
Minnewaska is working on a lot of long-term improvements, said Laura Conner, an environmental educator at the park. It’s an exciting time, and all the projects will help improve the visitor experience, Conner said.