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Higley Flow State Park cleanup near completion 11 weeks after December ice storm

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COLTON — After the Dec. 21 ice storm, Higley Flow State Park resembled more of a war zone after battle than a hiking and cross-country skiing mecca.

Soon after the storm, park officials closed the park to the public until workers could clean up the mess of tree limbs and debris.

“It was closed by the state because of the hazards and the need to clear the trails,” said Thomas L. French, president of Friends of Higley Flow State Park. “The state was very helpful. They brought in certified chain saw operators. They went in during the middle of January until the end of January and they cut down any dangerous hanging limbs.”

Judy A. and Edward A. Fuhr are heavily involved with the annual operations at the state park and have been particularly busy so far this year. The Fuhrs said the cleanup has been a team effort.

“We had over 60 volunteers the first weekend working to get the roads open. The cooperation of the county snow association was very big,” Mrs. Fuhr said. “The association has worked closely with us in terms of the grooming.”

Many volunteers, including the Clarkson and St. Lawrence University cross-country ski teams, also aided the effort, Mr. French said.

While the recent weather has been brutal, it wasn’t nearly as bad as its infamous predecessor — the 1998 ice storm.

“1998 was a much more significant storm. This storm was significant and dangerous branches were hanging down, but as soon as the ice melted off in the middle of January, the hazard was gone,” he said. “The skiing has continued to be remarkably great despite the ice storm in December.”

The camp loop has been cleared and opened for some time. Pine Trail, Overlook and Warm Brook have also been cleared, he said.

After the 1998 storm, clearing of campsites continued into the start of camping season, whereas currently much of the park is in “tiptop shape,” with only a small section that still needs to be groomed, Mrs. Fuhr said.

Crews have worked on the Cedar Trail most recently. Upper Cedar’s grooming is complete and lower Cedar’s maintenance is nearly done.

An important addition to Higley Flow this winter has been the Higley Trails Lodge. The building includes heated bathrooms and a large gathering room and was funded by a $60,000 grant from the North Country Regional Economic Development Council. It was built by the state park’s regional construction crew last summer.

The lodge opened in mid-January after being delayed by the ice storm.

Higley Flow State Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The lodge is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, and on Wednesdays until 8 p.m.

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