Hurricane Sandy rolled in on October 29th, 2012, just two days after I returned home to Matawan, New Jersey. I had been in California, serving with an SCA leader crew in Sierra National Forest. As soon as the storm subsided, I emailed my contacts at SCA, requesting assistance for the local cleanup effort. My own efforts began just five minutes from my house, at Cheesequake State Park. I knew the site well, not just because I grew up nearby, but from having led an SCA high school crew there this past summer. The superintendent there gave me a saw and had me clear the trails I’ve spent my whole life running on. I also spent some time volunteering at Rainbow Family of Living Light soup kitchens in Union Beach, a neighboring town that was hit hard by the storm. When the SCA got back to me, I eagerly accepted their invitation to lead a sawyer crew in a two-week effort to restore several nearby state parks.
The first park on the list was Allaire State Park, a hidden gem right on the Jersey shore. When my crew flew in on December 5, we headed straight for the coast. This crack team of conservation diehards consisted of Dan Solmon, Leah Cantor, Alex Terry, Jennica Tamler, and, of course, myself. We had years of chainsaw experience between us, and good thing, because the mangled park provided plenty of opportunities to put it to good use. We dove in immediately, buzzing away through cold and rain to clear downed trees from trails frequented by bikers, hikers, and horsemen.
In our first day of working we managed to clear an entire campground, removing dozens of downed trees and converting them to mulch. Dan spoke for all of us when he said “It was nice to see people using the campsite again after we finished cleaning up the grounds.”
Unfortunately, some downed trees were too dangerously situated for us to remove, and we had to leave them behind. Safety was a constant concern, but we did our best to complete a nearly impossible task. Leah Cantor said of the situation, “After seeing the way my hometown was devastated by the hurricane, I felt completely defeated. The strength of Mother Nature shocked me, but I knew I had to get out here to help pick up and rebuild.”
Everyone on the team is grateful to SCA for providing us with this opportunity. Not only do we get to serve the land and the people who use it, but we get to learn and grow as a team, strengthening our bonds to each other, to the planet, and of course, to our chainsaws. Stay tuned for reports on our efforts at Cheesequake State Park, Hunterdon County Parks, and Stokes State Forest. We will recover from Sandy!