This story has been updated.
SOUTH ORANGE, N.J. –The South Mountain Reservation volunteers have started to repair damages to the trails and preservation areas caused by Hurricane Sandy, said Dennis Percher, chairman of the board of trustees of the South Mountain Conservancy.
Volunteers over the age of 15 worked with the Reservation’s Chainsaw Gang on Saturday. In addition, with only seven chainsaws on hand, 29 volunteers were able to make temporary repairs to 14 acres right after the storm. Essex County will be responsible for removing trees that are too dangerous for the volunteers to handle on their own. They are meeting again at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday Nov. 24 at the Oakdale Picnic area.
“The trees that exceed our abilities must be removed,” Percher said. “These are trees that are 34 to 36 inches in diameter, leaning on one another.”
The strong winds of Hurricane Sandy toppled hundreds of trees. The county, along with the conservancy, will need to clear 22 miles of damaged hiking trails and 24 to 27 miles of access roads. The conservancy is working on its own to place temporary plastic fencing on 42 regeneration sites where many trees fell. Only about a third of the damaged sites have been cleared of trees.
According to Percher, complete restoration of the trails will take several months. "Nonetheless, we are starting some of our hikes this Friday as the trails are cleared," he said. Interested hikers should check the Consevancy's website, listed below.
Percher estimated that tens of thousands of dollars are needed for the restoration of the fences alone. Repairs on the flower reserves began Sunday.
“This is an extraordinary turnout,” Percher said of Saturday’s work day. “We really appreciate the work (they) will be doing.”
The South Mountain Conservancy helps to preserve, protect and enhance the 2,110-acre South Mountain Reservation in Essex County, New Jersey through education, public service and advice to local government agencies. The conservancy partners with the Essex County Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs and other environmental groups to improve the reservation’s infrastructure and ecology, and enhance its natural beauty and the experience of current and future users.
For more information visit www.somocon.org .
The reporter is participating in a hyperlocal journalism partnership between The Alternative Press and Seton Hall University's Department of Communication & The Arts.