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BETA, volunteers help expand Lake Placid Elementary School trail system

June 14, 2019
By ANDY FLYNN - Editor ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - They went into the woods with shovels and rakes.

At the Lake Placid Elementary on Sunday, June 2, volunteers toting gardening tools gathered at the eastern treeline. The threat of rain lingered. The grass below their feet was damp, and the rich brown dirt that in piles around the perimeter of the yard was moist, easily giving way when a black dog pulled at the soil with its paws.

When school counselor DeAnna Brown put out a call for help to prepare new sections of the school's outdoor trail system, despite the looming possibility of stormy weather, more than 25 volunteers showed up for duty.

Article Photos

Lake Placid Elementary School student Luca Damico, 8, and Keene Central School student Lucas Brown, 8, work on the trails at LPES Sunday, June 2.
(News photo — Elizabeth Izzo)

For the most part - save for a few scattered raindrops - the weather held out.


Expanding the trail

It was last year that the school learned as a result of a land survey that it owned more woodland than administrators had previously thought, according to Brown. It was decided that a small, underutilized trail loop would be expanded into a winding, interconnected system of nature trails that weave around the grounds of the school's property line.

With the help of a local volunteer trail maintenance organization, the Barkeater Trails Alliance (BETA), they were able to make that vision a reality, according to Brown.

This year, that same collaboration resurfaced when the BETA partnered with the school to expand its trail network for a second time, with help from the Lake Placid Outing Club and Lake Placid Rental.

A volunteer from BETA brought an excavator onto the school property and prepped the new sections, which run primarily behind the school's playground and adjacent to an existing trail section at the east end of the soccer field.

"This trail is a great way to connect the community, both in a physical and metaphorical sense," said Colin Loher, a BETA volunteer.

Though the new trail sections were plowed, volunteers were still needed to rid the trail of any roots and to scatter displaced soil.

Students from kindergarten to grade 6, parents - and three dogs - participated during the school's trail cleanup day.

Among the volunteers who cleaned the trails was third-grade teacher Patricia Damp, who said she was looking forward to continuing to incorporate the trails in her lessons.

"(Kids') focus is almost more when they're outside," Damp said. "The fresh air - they're in their element more. It's a change of scenery, a change of pace. The kids love it."

Though the trails have proven especially useful for science class - they allow students to see nature up close and study wildlife tracks - their versatility is endless, she said.

"We've actually done math lessons outside, which was pretty fun. We've used them for group reads, hiking, observing (wildlife) or cross-country skiing. You can use them in so many ways. It's just great.

"It's surprising, there's a lot of kids who live here that've never been on a hike. They go home and there's a lot of screen time," she said. "To be able to do this in our backyard is pretty extraordinary."

Luca Damico and Lucas Brown, both 8 years old, also volunteered for the trail cleanup day. Brown attends the Keene Central School, and Damico attends the Lake Placid Elementary School.

Even though they go to different schools, the boys each use the LPES trail system for mountain biking.

Wielding two metal garden hoes nearly taller than themselves, the two students said they're happy to see the trail system extended - though Damico said he had different possibilities in mind for what Brown calls the "nature-based learning" trail.

"We could be making this into a bike training course," he said. "Which would be much better."



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