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East Continues to Recover from Irene Strike

September 1, 2011 by   - () Leave a Comment

Workers are stepping forward across the East Coast to help rebuild campgrounds damaged by Hurricane Irene over the weekend.

Most notable is the volunteer effort underway at Walker Island Family Campground near Chester, Mass., WWLP-TV, Chicopee, Mass., reported.

Campground owner Shawn Myrick told 22News at least two trailers were washed away in the floods. Now some of Myrick’s most loyal customers are coming together to help him rebuild.

As many as 50 campers are planning to return to Walker Island on Saturday to clear debris.

One organizer told 22News this is her 14th year camping there with her family.

“It’s just heartbreaking. we’ve made it through two floods already, one six years ago on Columbus Day and we came and helped to rebuild and helped to clean up, and another one not too bad the year after, but this one is just huge,” said Cheryl Aluxek of Holyoke.

Aluxek told 22News anyone interested in lending a helping hand can simply show up at the campgrounds anytime this weekend.

Meanwhile, hikers, campers and paddlers heading for New York’s Adirondack and Catskill mountains for the Labor Day weekend will find Irene has carved up the backcountry, washing away some trails and log bridges and collapsing roads to some of the most popular trailheads, The Associated Press reported.

In the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York, the state Department of Environmental Conservation has closed all trails to the state’s highest and most popular summits in the High Peaks, Giant Mountain and Dix Mountain wilderness areas.

“Labor Day is one of the busiest hiking times in the Adirondacks,” said Neil Woodworth of the Adirondack Mountain Club. The club runs the Adirondack Loj and a nearby campground and hiker’s center at Heart Lake near Lake Placid, in the heart of the High Peaks.

“If the trails were open, our parking lot would have been filled to capacity and we’d have had to turn people away. We would normally see several thousand hikers,” he said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that Tropical Storm Irene caused $1 billion in damage in New York, most of it from flooding upstate.

In eastern Essex County, Route 73, which winds through the High Peaks hamlets of St. Huberts, Keene Valley and Keene, has numerous gaping chasms where the Ausable River and its feeder creeks scoured away the roadbed Sunday night and left remaining pavement and guardrails hanging high above boulder-strewn rerouted streams.

In the High Peaks area around Mount Marcy, the state’s highest peak, generations of backpackers have paused on a bridge to take pictures of mountains reflected in the placid pond behind Marcy Dam, a popular camping area. Now, the bridge is gone and the dam has been undermined, leaving a mudflat where the reflective water used to be.

Another popular backcountry camping lake, Duck Hole, is now drained after a dam there was washed out. Beyond Marcy Dam, Avalanche Pass, a dramatic V-shaped gorge, is clogged with 18 inches of mud and Hitch-Up Matilda, a rustic wood bridge skirting Avalanche Lake against a soaring rock wall, has lost much of its decking.

Members of the Adirondack Mountain Club will work with DEC trail crews over the holiday weekend to develop a plan for rebuilding wrecked trails, Woodworth said.

“All of our trail family, volunteers as well as our professional crews, will be working this fall to get the trails open,” Woodworth said. “We also will be asking DEC to open the High Peaks trails that are reasonably safe to hike on.”

New slides, created when thin soil slides off mountainsides leaving bare expanses of rock, have opened up on Colden, Wright, Skylight, Basin, Armstrong, Upper and Lower Wolfjaws, Dix, Macomb, Giant and Cascade mountains. Slides are popular with rock-climbers, but Woodworth said it will be a while before the safety of the new slides is assessed.

“Once you get west of the High Peaks, there’s a lot less damage,” Woodworth said. “For paddlers, Cranberry Lake and the St. Regis Canoe Area are in pretty good shape.”

Most state campgrounds in the Adirondacks will be open, according to DEC. The exceptions are Little Sand Point, Poplar Point, Point Comfort, Lake Durant, Ausable Point, Paradox Lake, and Putnam Pond.

In the Catskill Mountains of southeastern New York, the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference says access to a number of trailheads has been cut off because of highway washouts. The organization lists trail damage and access on its website, http://www.nynjtc.org.

DEC has closed six Catskills campgrounds either temporarily or for the season: Mongaup Pond, Kenneth Wilson, Woodland Valley, Bear Spring Mountain, Devils Tombstone and Beaverkill. The agency is advising hikers to stay out of the backcountry because of widespread damage.

Elsewhere:

In Maine, crews have been working from daylight to dusk to clear roads and campsites, and to restore electricity to Sebago Lake State Park, Maine’s most popular state park. They have made enough progress that the park is scheduled to reopen for one of the busiest weekends of the year, The Portland Press Herald reported.

“It will be obvious something happened last weekend,” said Tom Morrison, operations director for the Bureau of Parks and Lands. “But it certainly will be safe and pretty cleaned up.”

The bureau announced Wednesday that two campgrounds in the Naples area — Naples Beach and Witch Cove — will open at 1 p.m. Friday for reserved and non-reserved campsites. The day use area will open at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Despite the obvious damage at the campgrounds, there is much to be thankful for. No one was injured and no buildings were destroyed. And somehow, the downpour of branches and tree trunks missed the scattering of recreational vehicles and campers left behind.

The power of the storm is evident in the campground at Witch Cove. South winds gusting across the lake as hard as 60 mph slammed onto the beach and ripped scores of pines from their sandy soil. Near the boat ramp, root balls stick up from the ground. Severed trunks stand next to freshly stacked logs, marking where chain saw crews cut up downed trees.

Reopening Sebago Lake State Park is a priority. The park has 250 campsites, more than any other state park. Campers totaled more than 91,500 nights last year, and when the park is full, they spend an average of $6,000 a night on fees.

In New Hampshire, touring heavily damaged Route 49 along the Mad River near Waterville Valley on Wednesday (Aug. 31), Gov. John Lynch met with Department of Transportation officials who have pledged to stabilize the roads to one lane traffic by Sept. 15.

Much of the scenic road into the resort town is closed to traffic following Tropical Storm Irene, which ate away the road and changed the course of the river in five places.

Lynch was briefed on the work needed and a time table for getting traffic moving again before the height of fall foliage, Columbus Day weekend.

Chris Sununu, an executive councilor from the Seacoast and also a part owner of Waterville Valley ski resort, attended the gathering and noted that while there was some damage to the ski area and its access road, the timing was relatively good and that the resort will be able to be open for Labor Day using Upper Mad River Road to get in to the valley.

Click here to read a status report on federal lands in the National Parks Traveler.

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