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Turkey Path reopened at local state park

PHOTO PROVIDED Standing on a section of the stairs on the Turkey Path are the five members of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps. The steep slope of the trail is evident in this photo.

At 4 p.m. on Sept. 18, the Turkey Path was opened to the public for the first time since last Thanksgiving at Leonard Harrison State Park.

This popular out-and-back hiking trail is on a steep slope which descends 800 feet to the bottom of the gorge where Pine Creek flows and bikers, walkers, hikers and runners can be found on the rail trail.

The Turkey Path starts near the entrance to the overlook on the east rim of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon at Leonard Harrison State Park, 10.7 miles from Wellsboro. This trail is described as combining “stunning views with several outstanding waterfalls.”

Closed each November due to ice buildup in the winter months, the Turkey Path normally would have opened this past April. That didn’t happen.

In January, it was discovered that a large, old growth white pine had fallen. The white pine and its massive root ball took down three small hemlocks and caused major damage to wood structures on the Turkey Path. The falling trees undermined a platform walkway, completely destroyed the upper waterfall viewing platform, and the steps that connected the upper portion of the trail to its lower end.

Repair work was delayed by statewide COVID-19 guidelines, including a reduced workforce. The park office did not open until mid-May.

Platinum Tree Service LLC was awarded the contract to remove the trees. Only two tree services had submitted bids. The dangerous work was done in early July by partners Jason Webster and David Perrins, both of Wellsboro and Joe Wilson of Covington with assistance from Jeffery Fitzwater of Columbia Cross Roads.

After assessing two quotes for the development of a reopening plan and overall evaluation of the Turkey Path, park staff selected Peter S. Jensen and Associates LLC of Washington, Vermont. A consultant skilled in advanced trail rehabilitation, Jensen visited the area in mid-July to assess the damage. He then submitted a written proposal and design.

Tim Morey served as the park’s project manager, securing supplies and materials and directing work details for the rebuilding of the Turkey Path platforms and stairs.

Jensen spent two days in August training the Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps crew members in the skills they needed to do the work. Among those skills were interpretation of drawings; how to effectively use salvaged materials; how to efficiently cut and install timbers using rebar and timber screws; how to use timber cribbing to widen the old trail for the waterfall viewing platform; and construction of the foundation for the new stairway.

The five-member crew included: leader Andrew Haraschak, 29, Williamsport and members, Nate Lyons, 21, Forksville; Michael Sarno, 22, Towanda; Dylan Peters, 21, Mill Hall; and Hunter Gardner, 22, Montgomery.

Based in Williamsport, this crew worked four eight-hour days a week for five weeks, from Aug. 10 through Sept. 10 salvaging materials, demolishing the rest of the damaged platform, decking and stairs, and constructing a crib wall to retain the soils on the steep slope and to widen a section of trail for the new waterfall viewing platform they built. They also constructed a new base platform, a long set of steps, a new middle platform and upper steps to link to the crib wall and the viewing platform.

All of the work was done on a very steep slope and required excavation of tons of soil and rock at different locations. More than 200 feet of rebar was used and many six-foot long pins had to be driven into bedrock to secure the timber.

The Pennsylvania Outdoor Corps offers work experience, job training, and environmental educational opportunities to young people who complete recreation and conservation projects on Pennsylvania’s public lands. It is run by the Student Conservation Association and financially supported by DCNR and the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Reemployment Program, along with private contributions made through the Pennsylvania Parks and Forests Foundation.

Last week, park staff repaired railings, replaced posts and railings that were failing along the Turkey Path, installed a new crib retaining wall to help secure the trail for upcoming winters and bench cut a new section of trail into the hillside around a wet area. This work would normally have been done in April but was delayed due to COVID-19.

For more information about the Turkey Path, call the Leonard Harrison park office at 570-724-3061.

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