Albany Mountain Trail Issue

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DougBates

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New posting on Alltrails, quote:

Eric Rathbun

Hi my name is Eric. I was the trail maintainer for Albany Mountain for 9 years. I had placed cairns near the summit where it was not obvious where the trail was. I also had cairns that went out to the viewpoint passed the summit. I even had a sign at the summit at one point along with a larger summit cairn marking the top. This has all been removed. When I asked the forest service why they couldn't give me an answer for everything but did say the cairns out to the ledges were removed because it was not an official part of the trail and therefore hikers should not be encouraged to go out to the ledges despite the exceptional view. I objected and expressed concerns that this would be confusing to hikers especially not having the summit marked but to no avail; therefore, I have resigned as volunteer trail maintainer. Recent posts have validated my concerns. If you have any concerns or questions on why the summit is no longer marked or why cairns no longer lead you out to the ledges where there are panoramic views please contact the White Mountains National Forest. (603) 536-6100.


https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/maine/albany-mountain-trail
 
It is consistent with their policy - signage and cairns are only for resource protection and in case of navigation confusion. That trail dead ends, so no navigation confusion. Not sure about resource protection. That could go either way IMO (which of course doesn't matter at all to the USFS)...

Tim
 
Yeah, getting a trail made official is a big hurdle. Markings are for official trails, same problem with Owls Head. This is completely consistent with USFS policy. People will still find the ledges.
 
I have heard the view spur was done in cooperation with a prior Forest Service employee to reduce vegetation damage from multiple herd paths.

The spur is described in the White Mountain Guide, so redliners tend to consider this a legit trail.

It is a real shame to see the Forest Service forcing out a 9-year volunteer.
 
I am very sad to hear this news. Eric's trailwork has made the approach from the north one of the most well built & maintained trails in the WMNF. Seems to me that a more reasonable approach from the WMNF (communication?) could have saved the relationship with the maintainer while at the same time working to keep the traditional goals for the WMNF in place. With all the crowd sourced trail guides in use, the spur will live on forever. The only thing truly lost in this situation is the relationship with the trail builder/maintainer.

There are some private landowners here in southwestern Maine that are slowly building a nice network of trails for public use; sounds like a place for an disgruntled trail maintainer to put their skills to good use; the WMNF does have some competition
 
Yeah, getting a trail made official is a big hurdle. Markings are for official trails, same problem with Owls Head. This is completely consistent with USFS policy. People will still find the ledges.

Yes, they will still find the ledges...while trampling all over the place looking for them instead of following an obvious path. In the Adirondack's, they eventually began to "mark" some of the herd paths to the "trail-less" summits due to the damage being done by aspiring 46rs trying to find the summit. The one thing that is consistent with USFS policy is it's inconsistency. And yes, I realize that the USFS is not in control in the Adirondack Park.
 
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The spur is described in the White Mountain Guide, so redliners tend to consider this a legit trail.
So is the Owls Head path. It doesn't make it an official trail. The description of the Albany Mountain trail in my (older) WMG makes it clear that it's not an official trail, not sure if newer editions have different wording.

It is a real shame to see the Forest Service forcing out a 9-year volunteer.
It's a shame that a volunteer is leaving. We'll have to disagree on who is to blame.
 
"Mount Albany Spur" is listed in the 30th edition, complete with an index entry. This is not the ledge spur, but rather the summit spur. It goes on to say

The best views on the moutain are from the southwest ledges, reached by a well-defined path marked by cairns, easy to follow for experienced hikers. From the ledge where the blazed trail ends, this path leads south 100 yd. across ledges to the true summit, marked by a larger cairn. Here the path turns right (west) and descends then swings back to the south and slabs along the west side of the ridge with minor ups and downs, crossing several ledges with views west. It ends at an open ledge with wide views south and west, 0.3 miles from the end of the blazed trail.

Tim
 
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The exact detail that BHSF referenced for the views from the Southwest summit ledges from the 30th Ed WMG is also in the latest (11th ed) of the Maine Mountain Guide. This view ledge will live on....
 
About 20 years ago I was invited to a meeting with a group that wanted to get a couple of new trails built in the WMNF. This was on private land that the group had control of which was being sold to the WMNF. The transaction was in process awaiting funding so there was definitely time pressure. Carl Demrow and his partner in a firm that consulted and built trails were asked to participate. Carl was the former head of trails for AMC and definitely knew the process for new trail building. After some discussion of the goals, Carl's short answer was the group had better get the trails listed as existing in the paperwork prior to the WMNF getting title. The approach used was to go through records for the area and come up with two historical trails that existed in the general area and list them as in need of upgrade and relocation. If these trails had to be developed under the WMNF, his estimate was a minimum of five years assuming there was political support due to the numerous studies that needed to be done and the funding required in the WMNF budget to do them. The net result was the quick approach was done "restoring" two effectively new trails. This was a major addition to the NF and I expect the local FS employees knew what was going on but figured the approach gave them cover. I expect this process has gotten longer in the intervening 15 years. Given the fairly obvious long term trend for the FS to abandon recreational improvements I expect the WMNF have inventoried formal trails and remaining improvements on WMNF land to prevent "trail creep".

Just because things are out of compliance does not typically mean a FS strike force will rush in and deal with an issue. They have limited staff and resources and I expect various FS managers have different approaches to prioritizing work. My guess is somewhat like the Owls Head path battles of the past that this path removal on Albany indicates a manager with control over that district has probably been replaced or a new directive has come from a higher level to change priorities. I an unsure if the long thread on the battle of Owls head remains on VFTT but I do remember after months of back and forth between hikers remarking the path and hanging summit signs and the FS removing them, that a self professed FS employee chastised the hiking public that the task of enforcing the rules regarding the path were eating up a lot of their time could be best used elsewhere. I think the general consensus of the replies was "perhaps you may want to give up and spend your time on something more important". Since then there has been an uneasy truce with the FS mostly making occasional missions to remove summit signs and cairns.

BTW, if you look at the large conservation land activity in the region of late, WMNF land transactions are pretty minimal. I think the various organizations realize how bound up the FS is with bureaucracy and the current approach is to do conservation easements managed by non governmental bodies funded by various government programs. In the case of this land transaction a portion of larger land sale was sold to the WMNF as it was somewhat non strategic to the groups efforts and helped pay for the overall purchase price.
 
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Thanks, that was interesting. What are the trails that were "restored"
 
It is a real shame to see the Forest Service forcing out a 9-year volunteer.

? The maintainer resigned after disagreeing with the WMNF's policy. David explained the policy so I see nothing remarkable here. I remember the Owl's Head controversy from years ago. Same deal, as was pointed out.
 
After speaking with an individual with first hand knowledge of the situation, I'm even more concerned about what's going on.

Firstly, to summarize the view spur issue, apparently the trail maintainer discussed this with the Forest Service many years ago, and the Forest Service recommended that the trail maintainer mark a single path to the viewpoint with cairns, with the maintainer did to the Forest Service's approval. This summer, a Forest Service employee removed those cairns. Vexing to see a sudden 180 degree change and to see the volunteer labor discarded.

Secondly, I am told the trail maintainer and the Forest Service spent multiple years scoping out a slight relocation on the trail (I think this may be in the gully area on the northern approach). The Forest Service sent their specialists, the relo was marked and GPSed, and the maintainer was given the greenlight to complete the project for them. I'm not sure when this was completed (I haven't hiked the mountain since 2016), but I think it was a few years ago. I am told the Forest Service was satisfied with the relo and the work the maintainer did for them. When the Forest Service employee told the trail maintainer about the removal of the cairns, they also scolded the trail maintainer, apparently stating the volunteer should not have worked on it (that it should have only been worked by the Forest Service paid crew). Another 180 degree change with little regard for the maintainer who was previously commended for this very work.

I don't know why the Forest Service has suddenly changed course, but I find this situation to be very troubling.
 
I don't know why the Forest Service has suddenly changed course, but I find this situation to be very troubling.
Not sure who has been at the helm during this time and or if there has been a change in leadership. A lot trickles down from the top when it comes to the decision making process as far as the USFS is concerned.
 
Not to bump a nearly year old thread, but an update on this ... In short, USFS has closed this spur trail and have asked us to remove it from future WMGs. I can't speak for the Maine Mtn. Guide, that's up to a different editor. If anyone happens to find their way to the ledges that's ok, it just won't be mentioned in the guide anymore.
 
Not to bump a nearly year old thread, but an update on this ... In short, USFS has closed this spur trail and have asked us to remove it from future WMGs.

I visited Albany last fall for the first time in a few years. The decomissioning of the unified view spur has created environmental damage. Here's an example of how the cairns were "scattered:"
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Now that there is not a unified path to the view, the issue previous Forest Service employees had addressed has returned: multiple herd paths forming, as well as dead-ends from being getting lost, causing further environmental damage.

If you are concerned about the damage, one may consider contacting the WMNF Andro District, Senator Susan Collins, Senator Angus King, and Congressman Jared Golden, requesting the reversal of this detrimental decision.
 

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The decomissioning of the unified view spur has created environmental damage.

I would argue that people ignoring that they're causing environmental damage cause environmental damage, not a closure in and of itself...
 

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