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Bear Mountain Trails Project History
The Bear Mountain Trails Project (BMTP) is a major trail building and rehabilitation effort managed by the New York-New Jersey Trail Conference in cooperation with its partners: The Appalachian Trail Conservancy, National Park Service Appalachian Trail Park Office, NYS Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, and the Palisades Interstate Park Commission. The project is designed to rehabilitate and rebuild the trails on Bear Mountain as well as educate the public.
The project includes a major relocation of the Appalachian Trail, the restoration of the Major Welch Trail, the restoration of the Suffern Bear Mountain Trail, the construction of a link trail from the Suffern Bear Mountain Trail to the pine flats area on the Lower East Face section of the Appalachian Trail, and the construction of the Trails for People Exhibit and accessible trail.
The most significant of these construction efforts is on the Appalachian Trail, which has been re-routed numerous times on Bear Mountain since its founding in 1923 due to erosion caused from the trails 100,000+ hikers a year. This erosion on the A.T. was the catalyst for the conception of the Bear Mountain Trails Project.
This section of the Appalachian Trail on Bear Mountain will feature over 1,000 hand-hewn granite steps and over 1 mile of tread way supported by stone crib walls. Each step and wall stone has been and will continue to be split and shaped from rocks on site and maneuvered into place either by hand or via a series of overhead cables rigged up in the surrounding trees.
With each step measuring 4-5 feet long, weighing in at around 1,000 pounds, and in need of moving distances of up to 300 feet without the aid of motorized equipment, the Trail Conference has sought out professional trail builders from all over the country to lead the construction effort and train hundreds of volunteers.
From 2006-2014, volunteers from The NY-NJ Trail Conference, Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC),
Student Conservation Association (SCA), Rockland County Americorps, and the Boy Scouts of America among others from around the world have traveled to Bear Mountain to receive free training as part of The Trail Conference's innovative Trail University program. This program was founded on Bear Mountain at the start of this project and has enabled the Trail Conference to provide free workshops for volunteers seeking to learn both basic and advanced trail building techniques. These workshops have provided for a revival of the masonry skills utilized in the 1930's by the CCC when constructing much of Harriman State Parks roads, walls and buildings.
The first section of the Appalachian Trail relocation was opened on June 5th, 2010 (National Trails Day) and consisted of roughly 700 steps. A second section including an AT loop and nearly 1/2 mile of fully accessible trail on the top of Bear Mountain was oficially opened on June 6th, 2011 (National Trails Day).
There will be continued opportunities to get involved in this historic project through 2017. Those interested in more information regarding Trail U. or volunteering on the project can do so by emailing [email protected].