This story appeared in the October 17, 2017 edition of the Cortland Standard. To become a subscriber, email us, or call us at (607) 756-5665. Back issues available by request.
The Cortland High School cross-country team’s trail course is being reopened, perhaps by next week, through a project by a home improvement store chain.
A crew from the Lowe’s store on Route 281 in Cortlandville, is spending this week on the high school property rebuilding an old footbridge and clearing about a 3-mile trail loop, as part of an annual community give-back project known as Lowe’s Heroes.
Store Manager Aaron Letourneau watched a crew clearing away cattails bordering the old footbridge Monday morning, and said the work will return the trails to their beautiful state. If it’s not ready for the team to use by next week, then certainly by the spring season.
The trails haven’t been run on for more than five years, said Cortland High School Athletic Director Tim Wagoner, mostly because the deteriorating footbridge is unsafe. Instead, the team runs on roads for practice and at the Cortland Waterworks on Broadway for home meets.
That led to the network of trails being neglected. Until now.
“I want the kids to run on it because it’s right here at the school and they can use it, not only for the cross-country teams but also for outdoor physical education and I’m sure other departments can use it as well,” Wagoner said. “It’s a beautiful trail and connected to our school so why wouldn’t we be able to use it.”
Letourneau said because the store has many employees with ties to Cortland, there are many volunteers. About 40 people are broken into four teams: a bridge team, a planting team, a painting team and a trail team.
Sales specialist Mark Coon was heading the bridge team because of his background in the U.S. Army, where, as a combat engineer, he both tore down and built bridges.
He took a break from clearing away brush Monday morning to discuss his strategy with Letourneau. Because the logs supporting the existing footbridge are so waterlogged they would require heavy machinery to pull out, Coon said, he would instead leave the existing bridge in as a platform for the new bridge. He was preparing to straddle that bridge, constructing a wider and more stable structure on top of it.
The new bridge would be 6 feet wide and about 56 feet long when complete.
Nathan Wingard, a pro sales service specialist at Lowe’s who is himself a Cortland High School graduate, said he came up with the idea for the store’s project by talking to his mother, who worked for the Cortland School district for 37 years. When she mentioned the cross-country trail needed work, Wingard knew it was the right project.
“It seems nobody ever gives back to the older kids, everyone always does stuff for the younger kids,” Wingard said.
He said in his six years with Lowe’s, he has participated in every Heroes project except last year’s, in which the store helped the Ithaca Lowe’s build a new playground in Dryden.
“This one is kind of all ours, it’s something we can take pride in,” Wingard said.