YORKTOWN, N.Y. – Volunteers and Westchester Land Trust (WLT) employees gathered at Hunter Brook Road early Tuesday morning with chainsaws in hand ready to clear up the hundreds of fallen trees and branches at the nearby preserve.
“We had a lot of damage because of storm Sandy and this is one of the hardest hit preserves that we have,” said David Emerson, WLT’s director of stewardship. “We need to clear these trails so people can go for a hike.”
After Hurricane Sandy hit, northern Westchester’s preserves, reservations and parks took a huge hit as hundreds of trees were knocked over, many obstructing hiking trails. Others hung at precarious angles, presenting a danger if they fall.
But thanks to the WLT’s cadre of stewards and volunteers who have taken to the woods with their saws and sundry tools, the trails are beginning to open again.
“These preserves are open to the public,” Emerson said. “They have trails and in order to keep the trails safe and accessible, we rely very much on volunteers to help us do the work."
Most of the dangerous situations, such as leaning trees, have been handled by professional crews who have the skills and tools to deal with such situations, Emerson said. The volunteers focus mainly on trees that are already on the ground, which can be sawed and removed from the trails.
WLT has 29 properties in Westchester County totaling 625 acres, Emerson said. Nine of its preserves have trails and are open to the public, including the Hunter Brook Preserve, the Hemlock Brook Preserve and the Danner Family Perserve in Yorktown. Five others have no trails but are open to the public nonetheless.
“The trails are fully available; we don’t charge any fees for people to use them,” Emerson said. “But our first obligation is to make sure they’re safe.”
To learn more about the Westchester Land Trust and volunteering opportunities, visit its website.