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2007 Spring Work on Snow Shoe Rail Trail Lives up to the Trails Name

Snow Shoe Rail Trail
Snow Shoe Rail Trail

Well it is spring time in Pennsylvania but none would know it judging by the conditions outside my truck cruising west on rt80 near the road mountain cuts east of Bellefonte. Snow squalls created nearly white out conditions gave a sinking feeling to as the how the rest of the day was going to run its course. Breaking out of the mountain pass west of Bellefonte, the road conditions changed 100% in less than a mile to bright sun with rolling clouds of lake effect memories of winter.

Arriving at the Snow Shoe Rail Trail “trail head” around 10; 00am, things were already a buzz with activity.

Looking to hook up with Larry Maze to coordinate the day’s events I soon found myself about 400 yards to the north of the trail head where Larry was directing the removal of beautiful large blocks of granite dating from the 1930’s-1950’s from an old rail-road abandoned approachment. As one, by one, the large one ton or more blocks of granite released their grip on history and tumbled down the escarpment to the valley floor.

The Club backhoe came in and struggled to transport them to their new place in history, to protect and beatify the burgeoning spring Snow Shoe trailhead redesign project funded by a $100,000 grant from the Snowmobile & ATV fund.

Granite to be reused for safety pieces at road crossing's and trail gates.
Granite to be reused for safety pieces at road crossing's and trail gates.

Being the expert at squeaking out every grant dollar spent, Larry came up with the idea to harvest the granite, being the high quality it was also a bonus. These granite pieces will be placed (for safety) at road crossing’s pedestrian crossings, trail gates, & finally all around the Kiosk to provide protection to the Kiosk from vandalism and any accidental collisions from either ATV’s or vehicles. These large pieces of granite will also double as benches for visitors to rest on during their stay on the trail system.

Now, on to my job, the Kiosk, designed by the (National Park Service) for Chena hot Springs Alaska. Acquired into my database during my lengthy trips across this great nation (38 states), this is only one of the many great trail head designs collected to be applied to ATV trail head design in Pa.

Hole auger having a difficult time eating through the ballast size rocky soil.
Hole auger having a difficult time eating through the ballast size rocky soil.

Our job was to sink the seven main posts into the ground three feet to secure the Kiosk to the ground. The job started real slow with a home owner rental hole auger that got stuck at nearly every inch of its deployment due to the ballast size rocky soil. After the first 45 minutes and 12 inches of depth, I was thinking this is never going to work!

Seeing the backhoe running around doing different jobs the idea came to me, we can do this the ugly way too. After marking out all the holes nice and neat and getting everything dead straight it was clear we were going to have to (lay this out) & build this one post at a time.

Moving along with the post that will be the Kiosks.
Moving along with the post that will be the Kiosks.

Going off no print, and just a nice color picture, we had the backhoe dig the second hole while the auger was playing around trying to dig a hole. This first post hole was dug in 30 seconds, we had the first post in the hole and braced plumb and level in about 25 minutes. This formed the basis for “Zero” to measure off of to get to the next post, we knew the layout, just which it was no longer all nice and laid out on the ground.

The backhoe did the second post hole and the second post was centered to the first post forming the front to back “zero” in measurement. Once that was achieved, we set the other two side posts to form a perfect square. While the volunteers back filled and tamped those four posts into solid ground. We laid out the last three posts that would form the structure to hold the information Kiosks themselves, one parallel to the Kiosk in the rear, and one on a 45 degree angle from the front right corner post.

Once the first post was set, it was discovered that, that hole should have contained the double post instead of the just single post. Instead of tearing it out and doing it over again we went to plan C,,,,,,,,, build the entire Kiosk in a mirror image, everything that was “left” is now “right”. And it worked, even better than the original plan as the angled information sign now points straight up into the parking area. I’ll take luck over skill on that one.

Things really started rolling after the second post, and if not for the backhoe we would still be there digging those post holes. Even though it was an ugly way to do it, the tolerances came out for all the posts with in a quarter inch for the entire project, even in a mirror image, from no print, scaled from a pretty picture.

Meanwhile the sign crew worked their way down the trail installing new posts and replacement signs on the trail, increasing the information to the end trail user.

Proving again that PAAtvers can get projects done in bad weather, lack of resources, on time and below budget, & posted to the web in three days my hats off to all the volunteers, the staff of Snow Shoe Rail Trail for logistics on the fly, and getting everybody there for the day.

This was the first of an entire month of work week ends to improve this trail head.

If anyone wants to volunteer for future projects feel free to contact Larry Mazes at Snow Shoe Rail Trail.

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