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Over 50 people help ready trails for winter at Higley Flow State Park in Colton
Tuesday, November 17, 2015 - 5:58 am

COLTON -- Over 50 people turned out recently at the Trail Day hosted at Higley Flow State Park by the Friends of Higley Flow State Park to prepare the trails for the winter season.

All ski trails, over 10 miles, were inspected, small debris removed, and any larger issues reported to the staff of the park.

Participants included students from the St. Lawrence and Clarkson University ski teams.

The Clarkson team also hosted a practice once the work was done and volunteers in the Trail Day were able to witness the students practicing with their Roller Skis.

One highlight of the day was the marking and final clearing for a new quarter-mile trail behind the Higley Flow Lodge. This new flat loop will now be the easiest trail at the park especially designed with kids and beginners in mind.

The Beaver Dam Ski Trail, an ungroomed expert trail, has two major enhancements – a new, wider, rustic bridge that was installed by park staff over the summer, and improvements in the dam itself that should allow for easier transit for skiers and snowshoers.

Volunteers spread woodchips and fill over rutted parts of the trail improve the overall condition of the trail.

New lighting at the enlarged parking lot is one of the final items connected with the new Higley Trails Lodge. This will improve accessibility for evening events at the Park.

The Friends of Higley Flow will be again be hosting evening skiing at the park on Tuesday and Thursday evenings beginning in December, conditions permitting. More information will be forthcoming.

11/3/15: A Raddison canoe was found Sunday morning by the Gowings on the island in front of their house. It's now on their beach near Big Rock in the little cove.  If you are missing or know anyone who is missing their canoe, you can call Gary Gowing at 212-8266 or Lorraine Gowing at 212-8293.

New Signs Go Up, Rope Swings Come Down

After a recent accident, where a 40 yr. old man broke his leg, the Park has removed at least two rope swings.  These rope swings, while popular, were not erected with the permission of the Park.  At about the same time, these new signs appeared at Old Beach, a popular gathering place for boaters looking to rest and cool off on the hot summer days.  The signs replace older ones that simply warned: "no swimming", and now it's apparently against the rules to even beach your boat at that location.

It will be interesting to see how this is enforced and if warnings or fines result for violators.

Higley Ski Festival embraces kids’ participation, new lodge

Mark S. Chmielewicz, Clinton, competes in the Higley Hustle freestyle race Sunday at the Higley Flow State Park in South Colton.

COLTON — Dividing the tree line, a snow-covered, track-dashed trail winding through the woods of Higley Flow State Park was the remains of the success of the 20th annual Higley Hustle Ski Festival.

The two-day event, which began Saturday with its family day, was part of Colton’s 17th annual Winterfest, ending Sunday with a 10K and 5K classic cross-county ski race, a kids race and a 5K freestyle cross-country race.

Standing at a crossroads of trails, in the silent Sunday afternoon sun, David I. Trithart waited for the two lone participants in the last race of the festival to cross the finish line.

“I think cross-country skiing should be widely popular in the north country,” Mr. Trithart said, checking the stopwatch. “We have a lot of people that just like to come out and challenge themselves to a 10K that they know they are not going win, and they laugh all the way around the course. The more serious skiers don’t waste their breath laughing.”

Across from the finish line, through another small trail that meanders through the state park, a new lodge stands. Race coordinator Judy A. Fuhr, who has been putting the race together with her husband, Edward A., for all 20 years, said the lodge is one of the two biggest changes she has seen throughout the years.

“The lodge is the single biggest change because before, older folks used to come up, park their car and go out and head home. Now people can come and get warm and go back out,” Mrs. Fuhr said. “Also, families come with little ones, and we have a smaller track for the kids. Plus, a warm bathroom helps.”

The lodge came from money raised by the Friends of Higley Flow State Park and the labor was provided by the maintenance department of the Thousand Island State Park Commission, Mrs. Fuhr said.

“This year, family day, on Saturday, was extremely successful,” Mrs. Fuhr said. “Sunday the numbers were a little down, but there were more kids, and that is a plus.”

These days, with video games and online gaming, Mrs. Fuhr said, it is both great and important to see young people in a more active environment.

“We went through a period some years ago where there were a lot of kids attending who were a part of ski clubs, but that seemed to fizzle out,” Mrs. Fuhr said. “We are now starting to see a rebirth of that again, so the lodge really helps.”

Mr. Trithart said that over the years of his participating in the festival, he found the increase in children getting involved to be a plus.

“We have had kids come out of this event throughout the years who have gone on to larger, statewide events, so it is great that we have had more kids because it means that we will have more coming throughout the years,” he said.

Suddenly a transmission of a man’s voice over Mr. Trithart’s walkie-talkie sliced into the silence of the woods, alerting him to the first of the two racers making his way to the finish line, and, in the distance, Mark S. Chmielewicz of Clinton pushed his way to the finish.

Following a series of deep breaths and with his face bitten red by the cold January air, Dr. Chmielewicz, who has been racing seriously for almost nine years, said this was his first time skiing at Higley and he was impressed.

“I can say, for Nordic skiing, the conditions are fantastic; this is exceptional for a state park with challenging terrain,” he said. “For ski trails, I think this is a jewel not too many people know about.”