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 destination.
Soon after the storm, park officials closed the park to the public until workers could clean up the mess.
It was closed by the state because of the hazards and the need to clear the trails, Friends of Higley Flow State Park President Thomas L. French said. The state was very helpful. They brought in certified chainsaw operators. They went in during the middle of January until the end of January and they cut down any dangerous hanging limbs.
Judy and Ed Fuhr are heavily involved with the annual operations at the state park and have been particularly busy to start 2014. 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. That was very helpful, Mrs. Fuhr said. The association has worked closely with us in terms of the grooming.
We were also very fortunate to have many volunteers including the Clarkson cross-country and St. Lawrence cross-country ski teams, Mr. French added.
This storm has been compared to the devastating ice storm of 1998. Mr. French, though, said that while this recent weather was brutal, it was not nearly as bad as its predecessor.
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. ... At the beginning of the road, the camp loop has been cleared and opened for a while. Since then we have cleared Pine Trail, Overlook and Warmbrook.
This was the second worst storm, but in 1998 we were still clearing the camp sites as camping season had begun. There was just a mishmash of trees everywhere, Mrs. Fuhr added. A large portion of it is back in tip top shape. There is still a small section of the trail that needs to be groomed.
The Cedar Trail has been worked on most recently, with Upper Cedars grooming already complete and Lower Cedar maintenance 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 parks regional construction crew last summer. The storm delayed the opening of the lodge.
Higley Flow State Park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and the lodge is open from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., except on Wednesdays when its open until 8 p.m.