WELLS - Lean2Rescue has done it again.
The volunteer group that has repaired 56 lean-tos in the Adirondack Forest Preserve came here at the end of January to finish work on the Mud Lake lean-to on the Northville - Placid Trail.
Lean2Rescue Organizer Paul Delucia, Syracuse, said a huge white pine flattened the lean-to last summer. It is in the Silver Lake Wilderness Area, where no motorized vehicles or tools are allowed.
The Jan. 30 through Feb. 2 trip was the fourth made to work on the lean-to. There will be one more, to upgrade the foundation and stain the wood.
The work began when Delucia and members of the Adirondack Mountain Club hiked in to remove the tree and assess the damage. During subsequent trips the shingles and planks were removed, sorted and stacked.
Sadly, when Delucia returned with Steve Stofelano of Wells and a crew of eight to put the frame back up four of the logs had been burned.
The same thing happened last year when Lean2Rescue restored a lean-to at Spruce Lake in the West Canada Lakes Wilderness Area. A log volunteers carried for many miles was burned before they could return to do the work.
“The front log of a lean-to is called the deacon seat,” Delucia said. “We brought one to Spruce Lake salvaged from another job and someone cut it in half and burned it.
“It speaks volumes of the volunteers that they didn’t get discouraged after moving that log 16 miles to get it there.”
Whether the logs were burned due to ignorance or malice, Delucia hopes people stop doing it once they realize volunteers are repairing the lean-tos. “Once people understand we're outdoorsmen just like them they may be less inclined to burn lean-to logs,” he said.
THE MUD LAKE JOB
Lean2Rescue members, including several women, go to extraordinary lengths to save remote lean-tos.
When they came here they stayed at Wells Community Hall Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights Jan. 31 through Feb. 2. “We had a warm place to stay, Kelly Brenan made the kitchen at the Wells Meal Site available and Steve Stofelano cooked,” Delucia said.
Refurbishing the Mud Lake lean-to required the volunteers to carry over one ton of materials 3.5 miles, 700 feet of that uphill, Delucia said. More than half of the trail was rocks and mud, making it slow going.
“Most people wouldn’t even consider hauling over a ton of material up that hill,” Delucia said, “but Saturday morning we were right back there doing it again. At 3:30 p.m. Saturday we were out of there and the job was done. All the shingles had been hauled out.”
Lean2Rescue did not go it alone. They had a lot of local support.
“The big surprise for me is the amount of local support that showed up was incredible,” Delucia said. “Quite a few volunteers from outside the Adirondack Park plus from the community.”
A LONG, HARD SLOG
Delucia said they started on the trail at 7:15 a.m. Friday and by the time the first group got to the lean-to it was 2 p.m.
“We had to cut 15 trees out of the trail,” he said. “The last two miles of the road are closed during the winter but the local snowmobile club transported our people to the trailhead.
“Last fall we hauled most of the materials across the suspension bridge; we had about another 400 pounds to take across on pulk sleds we pull behind us. We did some work and dragged the old shingles out.”
Thirteen volunteers slogged into Mud Lake Friday and 15 Saturday, including Dave Brenan of Wells. It took over 20 people all together to get the job done.
“Maryellen Stofelano helped by doing a lot of networking with Supervisor Brian Towers,” Delucia said, “and we also had help from Lake Pleasant.”
Delucia said he got to know Town of Lake Pleasant Supervisor Neil McGovern when Lean2Rescue was fixing lean-tos in the Spruce Lake area. McGovern allowed materials for the Mud Lake lean-to to be dropped off at The Inn at Speculator.
IN THE BEGINNING
Lean2Rescue started in 2004 when a group of outdoorsmen took it upon themselves to repair the roof of a lean-to in the St. Regis Canoe Area. They even carried the old shingles six miles out of the woods.
“The roof was leaking,” Delucia said. “Another on same pond was rotted beyond repair and we didn’t want that to happen to this one by waiting for a unit management plan, so we decided we would fix it.”
When they were done Delucia told the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Although DEC could not condone what the group had done, it had them take the 800 pounds of shingles to its Operations Garage to verify they had been removed from the woods.
“An official state work order was issued to create a paper trail to protect me from being accused of littering,” Delucia said. “They were doing us a favor.”
After inspecting the work the DEC asked Lean2Rescue to work with the agency and gave the volunteers workers’ compensation and liability coverage, Delucia said.
The group grew. “The people who fixed the first lean-to had so much fun they told others,” Delucia said. “It was all word of mouth.
“The furthest we’ve ever had anyone come to help was from Osaka, Japan, someone I knew as a child.”
Their next project was in the Five Ponds Wilderness Area. DEC helped by cutting trees from outside the park for Lean2Rescue to use.
“We were paddling logs as far as 11 miles upriver and carting them as far as nine miles on a trail,” Delucia said. “All the lean-tos in the Five Ponds Wilderness were fixed up in two-and-a-half years and we just kept on going.
“By the end of 2008 we had repaired every lean-to in DEC Region 6, over 40, working very closely with the DEC,” Delucia said.
A major reason all the lean-tos in Region 6 have been repaired is the DEC Cranberry Lake Operations Crew. Delucia said Lean2Rescue worked closely with and was inspired by the hard-working group. “We refer to them as our Northern Crew,” he said. “Most in this country could learn a lot about work ethic from this crew.”
With the Mud Lake lean-to fixed the group has now repaired 56 lean-tos. “Our motto is ‘Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers,’” Delucia laughed.
A GOOD PARTNERSHIP
Lean2Rescue started as just a few friends with tools and construction experience, Delucia said, but has grown into much more.
“Working with the DEC has been a very good partnership,” Delucia said. “For instance, you can’t use a chainsaw in a Wilderness area but if you are certified by DEC you can use one between April 1 and May 24.”
DEC will even sometimes make exceptions due to special circumstances, he said, although that is less likely in heavily used areas.
With only one person on its trail crew in Hamilton County DEC needs the help.
Lean2Rescue needs help, too. “The lean-tos will be gone if people don’t step up,” Delucia said.
Lean2Rescue has plenty of volunteers who keep doing more and more, Delucia says, but it needs people to organize the projects. “Our weakness is not volunteers; we don’t have enough organizers.”
HARD ONES DONE
“There are a lot of lean-tos that are not that hard to get to,” Delucia says. “We keep picking the harder ones because we’re hoping if another group ever started they could work on the easier ones.”
For example, Delucia said, in Wild Forest areas volunteers working on a project for the DEC can get special permission to take snowmobiles on foot trails in the winter.
“Clearly, after watching Dave Brenan and Steve Stofelano there are people in the area who are willing to do it. If people were willing to step up and work with the DEC we would help them get started.
“Our focus is mostly outside this area, but local support could change that,” Delucia said. For information go to www.lean2rescue.org/ or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.