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Volunteers spend days clearing the county’s multi-use trail of ice storm debris

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SOUTH COLTON — Clancy ran up and down the trail hoping one of the volunteers would toss her one of the large sticks they were clearing from the St. Lawrence County multi-use trail Monday morning.

The yellow Labrador showed nothing but enthusiasm for another cold adventure on the trails with his owner, Debbie A. Christy, St. Lawrence County trails coordinator.

Ms. Christy spent her Christmas weekend on the trail, but it wasn’t a recreational weekend of skiing, snowshoeing or snowmobiling.

The ice storm last week was devastating for many snowmobilers in the area, who were unable to get far on the trail without encountering barricades of brush and trees that had bent and fallen onto the recently opened trail.

Ms. Christy said groups of volunteers began cutting up trees and clearing the brush off the trail Christmas Eve and continued through the holiday weekend.

“I’ve had eight crews going out and about 30 people over a four-day period, and we had smaller crews going out Christmas Eve and Christmas Day,” Ms. Christy said.

The volunteers are mainly snowmobilers, some of the 2,000 members of the 10 snowmobile clubs in the county.

So far, they’ve cleared over 15 miles of the trail in the towns of Clare, DeGrasse, Edwards and Colton, but they’ve got a long way to go.

“Today I’ve been calling around trying to get more volunteers to go out more this week and into the weekend,” Ms. Christy, who is also the president of the St. Lawrence County Snowmobile Association, said. “We have 535 miles of snowmobile trails, and we’ve got to have them all safe for passage before we let our riders out on them.”

She said the snowmobile association volunteered 6,400 hours to maintaining the trails in the county last year.

“It’s a big volunteer operation,” she said.

Charlie W. Schloer, South Colton, was one of the volunteers out cutting up debris Monday morning.

“I just got a new sled this year and have 15 miles on it so far,” he said.

Mr. Schloer said that other volunteers coaxed him into helping out.

Although volunteers are working to get the brush cleaned up, the trail is still more ice than snow and is covered with icicle droppings from the trees, which aren’t ideal conditions for cross-country skiers or snowshoers.

Ms. Christy said that once all the brush is cut up and out of the path, they’ll bring out the “groomers,” like an excavator-shaped machine, that will smooth out the trail.

“We have a blade on the front of the groomer to cut up all the ice and snow and channel it into the drag, which has blades to churn and chop it up and spits it out the back, making a smooth trail,” she said. “So then the skiers, snowshoers and sledders will be able to go on it.”

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