Shovels crashed into a pile of rocks, which 11 workers then spread out Thursday morning off the Lime Hollow Nature Center’s Lehigh Valley Trail in Cortlandville.
The group, mostly teenagers employed by the center through Cortland Works Career Center, have helped clear out trash from more than 100 acres of land this summer to make way for a 1.2-mile trail that runs around its marl ponds, Executive Director Glenn Reisweber said.
A marl pond is a temporary pond that disappears as the water level recedes, according to SUNY Cortland’s department of biological sciences. They are marked by high levels of calcium carbonate, which both makes the water basic and sediments on the bottom of the ponds a whitish color.
The work included removing trash — including 178 tires — that had been accumulating for three or four decades, he said.
Reisweber said that he thinks about 90% of the 106 acres — which the town of Cortlandville owns but Lime Hollow maintains — has been cleared of trash. Work clearing it ended earlier this week.
“It is beautiful,” he said. “We were able to mass our resources and focus our entire efforts.”
Around the start of the coronavirus’s pandemic in March, Lime Hollow Nature Center worked to create what was termed the COVID Conservation Corps., a group of counselors and Lime Hollow employees who would clear trails and do other maintenance work like plant trees, said Julie Barclay, a member of the center’s board of directors.
When summer came around, center officials were not sure if they could host annual camps, and those employed to be camp counselors helped with this work.
“It was just a way for Lime Hollow to manage,” she said. “Lime Hollow just really wanted to support their staff.”
Once the center got the OK from the state to have its summer camps, the counselors shifted away from trail and maintenance work to lead groups of kids, Barclay said.
Workers from the Cortland Works Career Center then came in and began their work. This included Kai Hokanson, who will be a senior at Manlius Pebble High School in DeWitt.
Hokanson, who has served as the lead engineer for the group as part of his senior project to help Lime Hollow with maintenance and erosion work, said the area had been “more or less cleared” of trash.
“There’s definitely a lot less trash,” he said. Hokanson supervised the other workers Thursday as they filled in a ditch and put rocks alongside the embankment to prevent erosion.
He said that there may be some more small projects as the group finishes its final week Aug. 28.