Nine Buffalo State students will start their summer rerouting sustainable hiking trails in the Appalachian Mountains. Through the college’s Volunteer Service-Learning Center (VSLC), Alternative Summer Break, eight participants and one site leader—sophomore forensic chemistry major Matt Pothier—will travel to Bear Mountain, New York, May 31-June 7 to volunteer with the New York-New Jersey Trails Conference.
According to Aurora Schunk, VSLC associate, students will reroute a section of the historic trail, while learning about trail preservation and the ecological and social impacts of hiking trails.
“This is really a student-driven experience,” Schunk said. “Students receive volunteer community service hours, and there is a tie-in to educational components.”
Participants pay $150 to covers their meals, transportation, and lodging for the week.
Last year, during Buffalo State’s first Alternative Summer Break, eight students participated in a similar project in Bear Mountain State Park. They worked on the popular Major Welsh Trail, digging out rocks, redirecting water run-off, and removing decaying leaves and loose topsoil to create a more sustainable trail less likely to be damaged in the future by erosion and pedestrian traffic.
“Matt (the site leader) went last year and thought it was such a good experience, he wanted to return to Bear Mountain this summer,” Schunk said, adding that the week isn’t all work. Last summer students also went swimming, hiked, and visited the park’s Trailside Zoo.
The summer project marks the fifth Alternative Break for the 2013-2014 academic year. Students participated in one in the fall, one in the winter, and two during spring break.