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Long IslandSuffolk

Volunteers sought by Greenbelt trail group

Tom Casey, Vice President of the Long Island

Tom Casey, Vice President of the Long Island Greenbelt Trail, leads a group on three-mile hike on unmarked paths that may become part of a new north-south trail in Yaphank. (Sept. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

Help wanted: People to maintain Long Island's hiking trails. No pay, and opportunities for cuts and bruises and picking up insect bites, but plenty of fresh air and exercise.

The nonprofit Long Island Greenbelt Trail Conference isn't really putting out ads like this for more volunteers to maintain the 150-mile Island trail network. But it does need more bodies.

Parks agencies in the past had been able to do a lot of trail maintenance. But "lately they are so understaffed and overworked" because of budget cuts that volunteers have been required to do almost all the work, said Nancy Manfredonia, former president of the conference and organizer of an event Sunday at the Trails Information Center in Manorville to acknowledge those who volunteer and try to find more people to pitch in.

"We've logged over a half-million hours of volunteer work" over the 34-year life of the organization, Manfredonia said. "We want people to be able to enjoy their hiking experience" so overgrown trails have to be kept wide enough that hikers don't have to worry about ticks and Lyme disease.

While the organization has 1,200 members and draws many guests on its hikes, it has only about 50 trail maintainers. "We probably need 200 to do a thorough job," Manfredonia said.

Being a trail volunteer "only entails a love of the outdoors and the ability to clip back the vegetation," she said.

Nancy Duffrin of Shoreham, a trail maintainer for more than 15 years, leads a crew of about 25 volunteers who spend three hours on Mondays sprucing up the western portion of the 125-mile Paumanok Path, which runs from Rocky Point to Montauk Point.

The retired Stony Brook University administrator said the group uses a brush mower, a regular lawn mower, loppers, hedge trimmers and bow saws. "We've learned how to protect against ticks pretty well" by using a spray on their clothes, she said.

Janet Hann of Westhampton has been volunteering for four years and helps Duffrin manage the Monday group. The part-time employee at the Westhampton Free Library said she volunteers because "I believe in giving back. It's more enjoyable hiking on the trail that's been maintained."

Bill Raftery of East Islip, an electronics manufacturing firm employee and volunteer since the mid-1990s, uses an ax to clear fallen trees on the Nassau-Suffolk Trail in Cold Spring Harbor State Park.

"It's good exercise and I get thanks from everybody who uses the trail," he said. The only downside: "a couple of blisters."

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