West Almond Trail Projects

Upcoming projects for 2022:

  • Replace bridge on Trail 2/6.
  • Improve wet areas on Trail 3

Trail 4 Improvement Project on the NYSDEC West Almond Trail System

Or Why Trail 4 is Closed

By: Pauline E. Burnes, RLA, Project Liaison

January 17, 2022

The 28 miles of trails at West Almond are considered multi-use, designated specifically for equestrians, hikers, cross country skiing and snowshoeing. This trail system has a beautiful horse campground with straight stall, picnic shelters and water on Stewart Forest Road, and tent camping sites at Palmer’s Pond.

As an equestrian, I enjoy riding these forested trails and have participated in trail clearing from horseback. However, many of the trails are very wet and need drainage improvements and re-routes.

In 2019 I learned of an opportunity to apply for a grant to fund trail improvements on public lands through the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Legacy Funds Design-Access program. I discussed the idea with Theresa Draves, Forester I at the NYSDEC West Almond Forestry office, who selected Trail 4 on the south side of Stewart Forest Road as a good candidate for drainage improvements.

My primary interest was to improve the trail for equestrian use, as muddy, slippery trails are a hazard to horse and rider. The horse can lose shoes in deep mud, pull tendons, and become exhausted which leads to tripping and falling with riders. Extricating a horse (and possibly a rider) from deep mud is a very difficult process and can result in injury to both. Trail drainage improvements provide a more stable trail surface for all users.

Because IMPACT: Friends Improving Allegany County Trails, Inc. had not yet been formed, I approached the Board of Directors of the Cattaraugus/Chautauqua Horse Council, Inc. with the idea of sponsoring the grant application and serving as fiscal manager. This chapter of the larger New York State Horse Council has advocated for trails for many years and accomplished the completion of a 30-mile equestrian/multi-use trail system at Pine Valley and South Hill in Cattaraugus County, New York.

I am grateful for the knowledge, skills, and support of the staff from the NYSDEC West Almond Forestry office. Theresa Draves, DEC Forester I, prepared the design and cost estimate for the Trail 4 drainage improvement project. As a Registered Landscape Architect, I reviewed the design and commented on the plans. Serving as project liaison, I prepared the project bid documents and assisted in the selection of the Contractor to work on the project. I send progress reports to the Community Foundation of Greater Buffalo, as they are the grant administrator. I also coordinate the Contractor’s schedule with DEC who provides construction inspection.

A grant of $49,200 was awarded in May of 2020 for the Trail 4 Improvement Project. This was a huge challenge, as businesses were shutting down due to COVID-19, associated restrictions, and either difficulty in finding materials, workers, or skyrocketing material costs. Due to lack of qualified contractors willing to work within our budget, I requested an extension of the grant to complete the project in 2021.

After advertising the project on NY Contract Reporter, we were able to retain a Contractor that bid on the project at a price we could afford. O’Rourke, Inc. from Owego, New York started the project but was shut down by DEC inspectors in September due to the torrential rains we had this past summer. Storms of greater frequency, intensity, and duration created hazardous trail conditions on wet, clay type soils that are poorly drained.

When the project was shut down due to weather and trail conditions, 22% of Trail 4 improvements were completed. Therefore, another grant extension was submitted, as the project was supposed to be completed by October 2021.  Thankfully, we received a second grant extension, and the Trail 4 Improvement Project is scheduled to be completed during the construction season of 2022 by O’Rourke, Inc.

Geocell applied for greater stability, needs repair due to heavy rains

Mini-excavator on tracks at the trailhead and staging area

Photo credits: Pauline E. Burnes, RLA

Trail 4 on the south side of Stewart Forest Road, the western section of the trail that connects to Trail 6, remains closed until further notice. We are hopeful that the project will be completed as soon as the trails dry up enough to complete culvert installations, stone drains, and improve the trail tread surface. Look for updates on IMPACT’s website and FACEBOOK page as work progresses this summer!

Re-opening of the new, improved Trail 4 at West Almond will be posted on the NYS DEC web site and on IMPACT’s web site and Facebook page.