The New Jersey Green Team of the Student Conservation Association, a national organization whose mission is to build the next generation of conservation leaders, showed off its summer's work to the Hunterdon County Board of Freeholders at Tuesday's meeting.
John Trontis, director of the Hunterdon County Parks and Recreation Department, commended the team for its efforts.
"They created something new from scratch," Trontis said. "They put in thousands of hours of work for this county, creating the most beautiful trails, and I thank them."
The Green Team is two crews of 10 high school-age students, one college-age apprentice and two trained crew leaders. They work eight hours daily for six weeks, with 80 percent of their time in the parks and 20 percent in environmental education.
At Point Mountain Reservation, the crew built a trail leading to the point, installing rock stairs leading up the mountain along the ridge. In the North Section, they built a summit trail and a connector trail.
"You can now do a 12-mile hike straight across Point Mountain," crew leader Jon Regan said. "The only machines we used were teenagers, and they can do incredible things."
The crew built more than 8,800 feet of new trail in Cushetunk Mountain Nature Preserve, including rock and timber stairs.
At Teetertown Preserve, they designed and built a geology trail and another trail to Crystal Springs Meadow.
At Miquin Woods, they completed a mile of new trail as part of an effort to open the woods to the public.
Trontis said the crew even took it upon themselves to obtain a $10,000 grant from DoSomething.org for a side project - hiking more than two miles a day to rebuild two large switchbacks on the steep Musconetcong Gorge Preserve Trail and setting more than 30 rock stairs.
Regan said that the Hunterdon crew had the highest return rate of any crew in the country. Zach Heyman of High Bridge and Doug Klein of Union (Hunterdon), gave up all four high school summers to the crew.
"I had no interest in the environment at all," said Heyman, who joined because his best friends signed up. "But after the first summer, it was so gratifying to me I couldn't wait until the next year."
Heyman said that he recently hiked a trail he had just helped build.
"I saw so many mountain bikers and hikers on the trail," Heyman said. "I had no idea how many people would be into these trails we built."