WHOOPS! HOW IT BEGAN.
Last winter there were some tree falls along the cliffside section of the Long Point Beach trail on Hockamock Head. The tree roots took chunks of the cliff with them, and as a result the trail was undercut. The Town Lighthouse Committee took charge, and asked a trail expert from Maine Coast Heritage Trust to evaluate the trail. His advice was "Close the trail, right away!" We did.
WHAT TO DO?
It was clear that repairing the trail was not a task for amateurs. We needed to move a couple of hundred feet of trail away from the cliff edge, and the terrain was really difficult - steep, uneven and ledgy.
Rachel & Fern conferring on the trail.
Photo © Harbor View Studio (Dale Joyce)Time for more expert advice. Teams from Maine Conservation Corps (MCC) helped build the original Hockamock Head trails, and were the ideal candidates to do the repairs. The Lighthouse Committee applied for a fall trail team to repair the Long Point Beach trail. We applied, they accepted, and Rachel Herr, potential team leader, came out to take a look. Rachel surveyed the area with the Lighthouse Committee's trail boss extraordinaire Fern Burns, and plans were made. Rachel estimated that the project would take a 3 person team 3 weeks.
Help from several sources helped get the trail project off the ground:
- The MCC teams are not for free; the cost is substantial. FOSIL (Friends of the Swan's Island Lighthouse), which provides financial assistance for the Town's lighthouse projects, guaranteed the necessary funds.
- The team needed accommodations. The Methodist Church made the annex available, and the firemen allowed use of the showers at the firehouse.
- The Lighthouse Committee needed a representative on site while the team was working. Fern and husband George Kuck agreed to stay on island through early November to see the project through.
On October 16 the team arrived - Rachel Herr, Nathan Fuller and Will Spangler. Over the next 3 weeks, several other MCC'ers rotated in and out, plus a couple of super volunteers. The team also enjoyed superb community support. Besides Fern and George, there were island volunteers - Lily Ellison, Ben Smith, Stephanie K, Jessica and Allen Harrington - and Ben Thelwell from the University of Maine. In addition:
Bill Banks contributed time and materials - rocks, equipment to move them, and Tim's time for transport.
Terry Towne from Maine Coast Heritage Trust advised and assisted.
Sonny Sprague contributed lobsters for the project close-out lobster dinner.
As team sponsors, we had an obligation to provide some educational opportunities for the team. The Historical Society (Gwen, Dexter and Bev) presented information on the economic and social history of the island.
Informal education: An old engine block found in the woods became Exhibit A for a spontaneous outdoor seminar on the workings of engines, led by Nathan Fuller of the MCC, assisted by Swan's Islander Ben Smith and trail boss Fern Burns (who, among her many talents, is a certified marine diesel mechanic).
EBS contributed materials for the viewing platform.
The Swan's Island Library provided indispensable backup, especially important when the power was out and the team were preparing their final report.
Brummy provided occasional emotional support and a cheerful doggy presence.
Jessica Harrington and Dale Joyce took photos to document progress.
Bill Banks' truck delivering rocks.
Lily Ellison working the come-along
MCC'ers move rocks...
...and that is some hard work!
Photos 3 & 4 - © Harbor View Studio (Dale Joyce)
A big thank you to every volunteer, and to everyone who supported the team, directly and indirectly.
SO WHAT DOES THE NEW TRAIL LOOK LIKE?
While the original plan had been to create a new trail entrance from Harbor Road close to the keeper's house, Fern and Rachel came up with a better plan. As finally built, the new entrance is from the wheelchair accessible trail across from the information kiosk. (Please note - there is no entrance from the road by the keeper's house.) So the Long Point Beach loop is now completely off road. It's also away from the cliff edge and more accessible for less agile hikers.
TAKE A LOOK!
Description of the trail: Close to the end of the wheelchair accessible trail, just before the original stone bench, you bear off to the left, and after about 50 feet you will come to a new observation platform with a wooden bench. Continue down the hill to another stone bench, followed by a flight of granite stairs bearing right and joining the old path along the shore to Long Point Beach and out to the valley. The trail, and especially the stairs, have been built with check steps and french drains, all with an eye to preventing erosion on this steep and exposed slope.
The trail takes shape -- and the work goes on, whatever the weather.
The MCC team did a great job, working hard in fine weather with moderate temperatures the first week, and working just as hard (or harder) through fierce winds, rain and a four day power outage later in the project. They brought enthusiasm, expertise, and great spirit to the project.
Their last night on the island, a lobster dinner was scheduled. No electricity - but the lobsters got done with a propane cooker, and after dinner the team members were treated to a knitting lesson by candlelight. A great end to the project!
Photo © Harbor View Studio (Dale Joyce)