The Volunteer and Service-Learning Center recently sponsored a weeklong Alternative Summer Break program allowing students to create a sustainable hiking trail in the Appalachian Mountains.
Eight students, led by Richmond Wills, a junior majoring in psychology, traveled to Bear Mountain State Park to help the New York-New Jersey Trails Conference (NYNJTC) reconstruct and relocate trails. Kristine Assue, Rashard Cunningham, Hiruni Dassanayake. Molly Diamond, Allie Diamond, Amanda Medina, and Matthew Pothier were the other students who participated.
During the trip, the students worked on the popular Major Welsh Trail. They learned trail-building skills and, under the guidance of trail educators and builders, dug out hundreds of rocks, redirected water run-off, and removed duff (decaying leaves and loose topsoil). The resulting trail is more sustainable and will be less damaged by erosion and heavy pedestrian traffic.
“None of the students had participated in trail-building before, but they certainly picked up the tricks of the trade!” said Aurora Schul, an associate with the Volunteer Service-Learning Center who accompanied the group. “Ama Koenigshof, NYNJTC trail builder and educator, said that if it hadn’t been for the great efforts of our students, the project would have had a much slower start.” NYNJTC teams have been working on trail reconstruction on Bear Mountain since 2006.
After the day’s work, the students prepared and cooked meals together. “We reflected on the days’ experience and what they had learned,” said Schul. The purpose of the Alternative Break program is to give students the opportunity to reflect on social issues and to encourage active citizenship through volunteering. Alternative Break trips also give students the opportunity to get to know other students and community members while developing leadership and teamwork skills.
It wasn’t all work. On their day off, students went swimming and hiking. They also visited the park's Trailside Zoo.
“As the Alternative Break leadership team develops, other exciting service opportunities will be available for Buffalo State students,” said Schul. Such opportunities may include community revitalization, disaster relief, education, food scarcity issues, environmental issues, and service to veterans.