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During the winter of 2012, volunteers of the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference approached the Jolly Rovers to visit Appalachian Trail at Fitzgerald Falls in Greenwood Lake, NY. The trail over the falls had been worn away long ago and consisted of a 50 foot unstable scramble up a narrow chute. After a series of scouting trips the Rovers eagerly adopted the project; it’s most ambitious undertaking since the crew had launched a year earlier in 2011. Construction began in April of 2012 with a total of 4 three-day weekends scheduled to complete the job over the next 12 months. The project presented several big challenges. Quarries where stone could be split for steps were over 200 feet away from where they needed to be installed. Additionally, to move the 300-pound blocks of stone, the crew would have to install an extensive network of overhead highlines in the surrounding trees, allowing stones to be transferred from one line to another in order to accurately fly them into the narrow gorge. Further complications would include the extreme narrowness of the gorge itself in which the work had to be done, forcing crew members to be in very tight working quarters with little margin for error.
The project was completed in May of 2013, with a total of 25 volunteers contributing over 1,100 hours of skilled labor. The ascent up the falls alone will come in at just under 60 stone steps with several sections supported by stone retaining walls; below it prior to the falls, three large step-stone crossings across streams were also installed. During each work trip there has never been a shortage of local students, families with their children and thru-hikers passing through. As always, seeing a project get used by such a wide variety of people is a huge reward, and in time, knowing that will be the case decades later for generations to come is the return that makes all the work worth it.
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